Kelley Blue Book Best Buys of 2016: Full-Size SUV

By Editors on November 12, 2015 2:54 PM

2016 Chevrolet Tahoe

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America's family workhorse hauls home its second Best Buy Award in as many years.

The competitors in the Full-Size SUV Category are all good vehicles that will offer your family years of comfortable and versatile service. That's why we nominated each of them in the first place. But when it came time to choosing one vehicle as the Best Buy in the category making the pick was simple. The Chevrolet Tahoe isn't just the sales leader in the segment; it is also obvious after our extensive evaluation that it is the vehicle that has benefited most from years of development including four distinct "generations." In comparison to the Tahoe, the other two nominees offer interesting features, significant strengths and certain advantages, but each seems due for a new generation. In the end the Tahoe's unique combination of style, comfort economy and value again found it placed at the head of the class.

As its sales leadership might imply, the Chevy Tahoe hits every important nail for full-size SUV buyers right on the head. Chevy execs and product planners have obviously grasped that when consumers pay luxury-vehicle prices for a big sport-utility vehicle, they expect a luxury experience. And that's exactly what the Tahoe offers. Available in three trim levels, the interior and exterior executions range from handsome to sumptuous. Ride quality and interior quiet are on a par with the best luxury sedans, and our testers were impressed with both exterior and interior design. Additionally, the Tahoe's modern, easy-to-understand MyLink infotainment systems, intuitive heating/ventilation controls and its upscale dash, seats and console set it apart from its already-good competitors. As one of our testers wrote, "Among the new surprise-and-delight features are the wireless phone charger, color head-up display and haptic warnings on the park distance control that vibrated the seat."

While the Tahoe can make hundreds of vacation miles disappear into the rear-view mirror without a whimper, it's also at-home doing domestic chores like picking up carpools at middle school and grabbing the dry-cleaning. Though the Tahoe is obviously truck-based, sharing platform and powertrains with the well-regarded Silverado pickup truck, you don't need to have forearms like a stevedore to maneuver it around town. Its steering features a nice level of power assist, and the magnetic ride-control suspension gives it both a supple ride and remarkably sharp handling. Physics suggests that a vehicle this big just shouldn't be able to handle this well...but it does. And while parking some full-size SUVs can feel like docking a supertanker, the Tahoe's good backup camera system ably assisted by both audible and haptic signals make parking a relative cinch.

Versatility should be a large SUV's strong suit, and the Tahoe doesn't disappoint. This generation is the first of the Tahoes to have a power-folding third row, and while the mechanism does take up some space that otherwise could have gone to cargo, we think the ease-of-use is more than worth the tradeoff. Frankly, the Tahoe's third-row isn't the roomiest in the competition, but it proved adequate for three on short jaunts (two is more realistic for longer journeys.) Behind comfy front seats are two very good second-row options -- a full three-across bench or two captain's chairs that can power-fold to ease entry to the rear.

Versatility extends to ease of use, and on this score we were impressed with the legible instruments housed in a clean, upscale layout. Temperature, navigation and audio controls are also big, intuitive and legible. Bluetooth setup was a breeze, and music streaming proved very good with a great deal of device integration even in Bluetooth mode.

We've gotten this far in the report without mentioning powertrain, and that is likely because the Tahoe's 5.3-liter V8 engine is so seamless. Backed ably by a six-speed automatic transmission, the V8 delivers 355 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque. It also uses the magic of Active Cylinder Management to run on four cylinders when the load is light, as in highway cruising. This enables the Tahoe to deliver EPA-rated fuel economy of 16 mpg in the city and 23 on the highway in two-wheel drive versions. (Four-wheel drive drops the mpg by one in each category.)

The Chevy Tahoe can get up there in price, but it delivers value at every level and its pricing is in line with other vehicles in the segment. We think it does everything a family vehicle should do. It offers good interior space, and that space is very flexible with folding and collapsing rear rows.

More 2016 Chevrolet Tahoe

If you have more questions or just want to know more, read our 2016 Chevrolet Tahoe full review. If you're ready to start looking at the numbers, build and price your own Tahoe to unlock this week's Fair Purchase Price, 5-Year Cost to Own and more.


2016 Full-Size SUV Best Buy Finalists

None of our annual Best Buys is the best choice for every buyer, and that applies to the Full-Size SUV category as much as any other. The Ford Expedition and Toyota Sequoia have a variety of strengths relative to the Tahoe, and each is worth a spot on a smart shopper's shortlist.

2016 Ford Expedition

2016 Ford Expedition

Evolutionary Improvements

While the 2016 Ford Expedition is admittedly not as contemporary as the Chevy Tahoe, we were impressed with how well it goes about its business as a full-size SUV. Most impressive was the 3.5-liter V6 EcoBoost engine, which edged the Chevy's V8 as the most satisfying powerplant on some of our scorecards. While General Motors has favored cylinder-deactivation to achieve full-economy targets, Ford has gone to a combination of direct injection and turbocharging, and the result is notable.

Ford has also filled the Expedition with many of the latest electronic advances, including good connectivity via Sync/MyFord Touch. We think the execution is a bit less user-friendly than Chevy's solution, but it works. Another plus are the power-deploying running boards that make getting in and out less of a climb.

Build and price your own 2016 Ford Expedition

2016 Toyota Sequoia

2016 Toyota Sequoia

Ready for a Big Jump

The Toyota Sequoia is a good truck, but we can't help expecting next year's 2017 version to be a big step forward. The current 2016 Toyota Sequoia does offer good interior space, and that space is very flexible with folding and collapsing rear rows. As one of our testers wrote, "The Sequoia had the most comfortable second and third rows in class, a huge center console that could swallow a boatload of stuff, nice graphics on the instrumentation and a fairly straightforward presentation of controls." At the same time the Sequoia's interior might be more at home in a truck, versus the upscale luxury people-and-toy-haulers full-size SUVs have become.

We expect the Sequoia to offer great reliability, and it remains a resale value standout.

Build and price your own 2016 Toyota Sequoia

More 2016 Best Buys