Road Test: rugged, roomy Chevy Tahoe SUV

For those who need a rugged vehicle capable

For those who need a rugged vehicle capable of hauling lots of cargo (up to 108.9 cubic feet), up to nine people, and/or towing up to 8,500 pounds, the Tahoe is a great choice. (Credit: Handout)

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The Chevrolet Tahoe continues to be the most-popular full-size SUV on the market. It's also among the top large SUVs based on reviews, test drives and safety and reliability data.

For those who need a rugged vehicle capable of hauling lots of cargo (up to 108.9 cubic feet), up to nine people, and/or towing up to 8,500 pounds, the Tahoe is a great choice.

Prices for the 2013 Tahoe start at $39,080. Three trims are available, all offered with either rear- or all-wheel drive. There is even a gasoline-electric hybrid model.

The Tahoe is powered by a 5.3-liter V-8 with 320 horsepower. A fuel-saving six-speed automatic transmission is standard on all models.

The interior is also quieter at highway speeds, thanks to the lower engine speed. The Tahoe Hybrid, using GM's patented two-mode hybrid system, delivers a 33 percent improvement in fuel economy in city driving.

New for 2013, GM added powertrain grade braking in the Tahoe's normal transmission mode. It uses engine torque to help slow the vehicle on descents, reducing brake wear. We experienced a few long grades on our trip, but we hardly noticed as the system did its job.

My tester also had a backup camera system and side blind- zone alert, both very handy in a large vehicle.

There are roof-mounted side air bags with rollover protection for the first two rows of seats. The driver and front passenger also have seat-mounted side air bags as well as standard front bags. Other safety features include electronic stability control with traction control, and four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes.

My Tahoe LTZ was configured for seven passengers, comfortably seating four passengers in the bucket seats in the first and second rows. Bench seats holding up to three passengers each are available in all three rows. Cargo space behind the third row is limited, but with the third-row seats folded and flipped, there was room for plenty of luggage or groceries.

The test-drive LTZ had a power lift gate, with a separate power lift window, which opened wide and high for easy loading without opening the entire tailgate.

The four seats in the first two rows were heated (standard on all models), and the front two seats were cooled. Both came in handy for our long trip -- cooling for the driver and heat/lumbar support for the tired front passenger.

All Tahoes come with OnStar Directions and Connections with automatic crash response and turn-by-turn navigation. My tester also had an audio system with integrated navigation.

2013 CHEVROLET TAHOE

Base price: $39,080

Price as tested: $56,555

Engine: 5.3-liter V-8

Power: 320 horsepower

EPA fuel rating: 15 mph city, 21 mpg highway

Cargo capacity: 108.9 cubic feet

Towing capacity: 8,500 pounds

Length: 202 inches

Width: 79 inches

Height: 76.9 inches

Bottom line: An old-fashioned SUV with modern touches

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