My recent weeklong test of the Chevrolet Tahoe LT Z71 Midnight Edition was actually kind of fun.
Not just because the Tahoe is a great SUV, especially for a family, although it most-certainly is. And not just because it looked so cool with its jet-black exterior and blacked wheels and body trim.
It was because where I live, it also looks just like a police car. The cops drive black Tahoes with black wheels, and they’re quite official-looking. Apparently my Tahoe looked enough like some of the ones the area’s gendarmes drive that I was instilling fear in the drivers around me on the highway. Almost nobody dared even to pass me.
The only minus was that other traffic would bunch up around me on the freeway so I couldn’t pass anyone else, either, which got to be a bit annoying at times. Beyond that, there really wasn’t anything to dislike about the Tahoe LT.
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The Tahoe and its siblings, the GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade, got their last complete makeover for 2015, and the Midnight Edition package was added a year later. It’s also available on the Chevrolet Silverado Crew Cab pickup, which is almost the same vehicle underneath as the Tahoe – it just has the cargo area turned into an open truck bed. The Silverado Midnight Edition has much the same look as the Tahoe, with the same black wheels and trim.
All of these big SUVs are assembled at the General Motors Arlington plant, and because of the lower gasoline prices we’ve been enjoying most of the past three years, they’re helping to drive up sales for GM. They’re boosting profits, as well, because they typically net a lot more money per unit to the automaker than its less-expensive cars and crossovers do.
Our Tahoe tester was the four-wheel-drive version of the LT trim level, with a base price of $55,455 (plus $1,295 freight) before adding the Z71Midnight Edition Package ($2,630). That brought the 18-inch black-painted aluminum wheels, blackwall Duratec tires, black tubular assist steps, black roof rack, recovery hooks, underbody skid plates, fog lights, front and rear parking assist, 3.42 rear axle ratio, Autotrac active two-speed transfer case, hill-descent control, front and rear black Chevy bowties, Z71 grille decals, high-capacity air cleaner and Z71 rubber floor mats.
The vehicle also came with a black interior and two more packages: Sun, Entertainment, Destination ($3,210), with power sunroof, MyLink audio/navigation with eight-inch color touch screen, and rear-seat entertainment; and Luxury ($2,995), which added passive entry with remote keyless start, heated second-row 60/40 split bench seat with power release, third-row 60/40 split bench seat with power fold, power tilt/telescopic steering column, heated steering wheel, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-change alert with side blind-zone alert, power/heated outside mirrors with turn signals, hands-free power liftgate, and wireless charging.
All of this raised the Tahoe Z71 LT Midnight Edition’s total price to $65,085, including freight, options and a $500 discount on the Sun/Entertainment/Destinations package (2017 prices).
Although our tester was the 2017 model, the Midnight Edition returns for 2018 in the same configuration.
Our Tahoe was powered by a 5.3-liter Ecotec3 V-8 engine with 355 horsepower and 383 foot-pounds of torque. It was paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, although Chevrolet now offers a 10-speed automatic with the Tahoe’s optional 6.2-liter V-8.
With its three rows of seats, the Tahoe can carry up to eight passengers. The cargo area behind the third row is 15.3 cubic feet, about the size of a trunk in a midsize sedan. With the third row folded, it expands to 51.7 cubic feet; or with both rear seats folded, there is 94.7 cubic feet of cargo space.
For 2018, Tahoe base prices begin at $48,745 (plus $1,295 freight) for the base two-wheel-drive LS model.
The Tahoe is available with rear- or four-wheel drive at all trim levels. There is a rotary dial on the dash to the left of the steering column that has setting for 2WD, Automatic, 4WD High or 4WD Low. That means there is a low-range setting for serious off-road driving, although not many people would put such an expensive vehicle into such a situation.
This newest Tahoe features a quieter cabin, smoother performance and more-efficient powertrain than the previous generation, EPA ratings for our four-wheel-drive Z71 were 16 mpg city/22 highway/18 combined. During our test, with about a 60-40 mix of highway-city driving, were actually averaged nearly 19 mpg.
The Tahoe isn’t as quiet at highway speeds as its Escalade sibling, though, as my middle-row passengers had a hard time carrying on a conversation with me in the driver’s seat at highway speeds without me having to raise my voice. Or maybe they’re just hard of hearing.
There are numerous subtle exterior changes, including a new grille. But the redesigned model is clearly recognizable as a Yukon, although as with its siblings, it’s boxier and less-rounded than the previous model.
Most of the week, I had adult passengers in the second row, and a teenager in the third row. All of them found the ride comfortable. Also available are dual bucket seats for the middle that would have cut the vehicle’s passenger capacity down to seven.
Among standard exterior features were Intellibeam headlights and rain-sensing wipers.
Inside, we had heated leather front bucket seats that were quite comfortable, with power adjustment for driver and passenger. There were power-adjustable pedals, with memory for the driver’s seat and the pedals. An auto-dimming rearview mirror was standard, along with tri-zone automatic climate control, universal garage/gate opener, and Bose premium audio.
There was plenty of power from the 5.3-liter engine, and with the four-wheel drive, my Tahoe could tow trailers weighing up to 8,400 pounds (8,600 with two-wheel drive).
To help boost fuel economy, the engine has technologies such as direct fuel injection, cylinder deactivation during highway cruising, continuously variable valve timing and an advanced combustion system.
Among other suspension and mechanical features are a coil-over-shock front suspension, five-link/coil-spring rear suspension, a wider rear track, electric power steering, and standard automatic-locking rear differential.
Included on all models is a four-wheel antilock disc-brake system featuring GM’s Duralife brake rotors, designed to last twice as long as conventional rotors.
For connectivity, the Tahoe features a 4G LTE Hot Spot (built-in Wi-Fi) that’s active when the ignition is on, allowing everyone in the vehicle to connect to the Web. Our vehicle also had GM’s OnStar system and satellite radio.
We had dual USB ports and a 12-volt power outlet in front, where there is a small open cubby perfect for portable devices. There were two more USB ports, an auxiliary input and another 12-volt outlet inside the center console, which also doubled as an armrest for the driver and front passenger.
In the center console are dual cupholders. Middle-row passengers had a cupholder and bottle holder in each door, while third-row passengers had two cupholders in the tops of the wheel arches.
There were seatback pockets on the front seats, accessible to the middle row, and there were also air conditioning controls, a 115-volt AC outlet, and a 12-volt outlet for the rear passengers.
Safety features include front and rear automatic braking, which uses radar and ultrasonic sensors to help avoid low-speed collisions; as well as GM’s Safety Alert Seat, which vibrates under the driver to warn about potential crash threats. A backup-camera system was also included on our tester.
The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1994. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @gchambers3.
2017-18 Chevrolet Tahoe LT Z71 Midnight edition 4WD
The package: Full-size, eight-passenger, five-door, four-wheel-drive, V-8 powered, off-road equipped sport utility vehicle.
Highlights: The Tahoe, redesigned for 2015, is a sturdy family hauler with lots of power, a smooth ride, and a long list of standard and optional convenience and safety features.
Negatives: Can get quite pricey with options.
Engine: 5.3-liter V-8.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
Power/torque: 355 HP./383 foot-pounds.
Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock.
Length: 203.9 inches.
Curb weight: 5,631 pounds.
Cargo capacity: 15.3 cubic feet (behind third row); 51.7 cubic feet (behind second row, third row folded).
Electronic stability control: Standard.
Side air bags: Front seat-mounted, three-row side curtain.
Towing capacity: 8,400 pounds.
EPA fuel economy: 16 mpg city/22 highway/18 combined.
Fuel capacity/type: 26 gallons/unleaded regular.
Base prices: $60,085 plus $1,295 freight (LT Z71 Midnight).
Price as tested: $65,085, with freight and options (2017 model).
Major competitors: Ford Expedition, Nissan Armada.
On the Road rating: 9.3 (of a possible 10).
Prices shown are manufacturer’s suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.