With so much hype looming over Chevrolet's 2007 Tahoewe couldn't wait to get our dirty hands on The General's latest and greatest platform. The last-generation Tahoe was a formidable SUV with good power, a useable tow rating, and a friendly and familiar interior. Was this new model really the cat's meow? After two weeks and two different Tahoe models, one very distinct opinion arose from nearly 1,700 miles of driving.

A quick glance at the all-new Tahoe reveals a chiseled and angular exterior with a prominent one-piece grille and bumper, larger one-piece headlights, and a seriously raked windshield. Out back, the lines converge and create a classy and simple looking rear profile. The wheelwells are more squared and make the 20-inch factory wheels look small. Seamless is one word we used to describe the new body, even if that does mean the absence of a prominent body line.

Once the doors are opened, the real magic takes place. A completely revamped interior welcomes you refreshingly as if to say, "Sorry you had to deal with my older brethren for so long." A smooth, one-piece dash now lays flat from pillar to pillar and is as accommodating to the passenger as it is to the driver. New gauges, new switches, and a much more ergonomic and modern center stack of radio and HVAC controls are more appealing than previous generations. Fake wood trim is a nice attempt to add elegance but falls short in the quality-of-materials department. Our two testers had the six-disc, MP3-player audio system that was adequate but didn't compel us to drop to our audiophile knees. Getting a feel for both trim levels, one tester had comfortable cloth seats, whereas our latest tester had leather-trimmed seats that were surprisingly supportive and comfortable. Seat height was an issue for some of our larger and taller drivers, as a preferred driving position sometimes eluded the testers.

One firm application of the accelerator and we were again reminded that this was the new 2007 Tahoe. Equipped with an updated 5.3L V-8 with 320 hp and 340 lb-ft of torque, the power didn't come up to speed until 3,600 rpm, where the freer-flowing intake runners and manifolds seem to fill the new heads with enough combustion to get the 5,700-pound 4WD moving. In the previous generations, low-end torque moved the Tahoe off the line quicker, but with the new 5.3L, top-end is where the fun really starts. Equipped with the older four-speed transmission, the updated six-speed found in the Escalade and Yukon Denali would really wake up this fullsize SUV. Both testers came equipped with Active Fuel Management that shuts off four cylinders when not accelerating. Although, at a stoplight the V-8 stays in V-8 mode and swaps back and forth when cruising without any real obtrusion. (You can tell how many cylinders the engine is running by watching one of the vehicle's displays.) Rated at 7,700 pounds of towing, the Tahoe can pull most loads fairly easily. An odd intake noise was prevalent on both vehicles upon acceleration, as if the intake baffles aren't precisely positioned.

The new Tahoe offers a much quieter driving experience, thanks to more insulation and an aggressively raked windshield, and other aerodynamic improvements that minimize wind noise and contribute to greater fuel efficiency. Steering is nimble and the ride can best be described as supple. Off-road, the Tahoe proved worthy of the trails we threw its way and easily waded through a shallow stream and mud pit. Serious rocks required the removal of traction control and with the coilover-shock front and multi-link suspension in the rear, the ride didn't beat us around the cabin.

Is the Tahoe worth the hype? Yes. Chevy definitely did its homework and wants to see every family who can afford 14.1 mpg driving one. A much more civilized, comfortable, and attractive package that is already a staple in American automotive history is now available for $40,850 and ready for your daily driving or customizing pleasure.

2007 Chevrolet Tahoe LT 4WD
Price (as tested)
$40,850 without destination

Engine
5.7L V-8 Vortec 5300

Horsepower
320@5,300 rpm SAE

Torque (lb-ft)
340@4,200 rpm SAE

Transmission
4-speed automatic

Suspension
Independent with coilovers (f), Five-link with coils(r)

Brakes
4-wheel disc, 4-wheel ABS, traction control, stability control

Wheelbase
116 in

Turning (curb-to-curb)
39.04 ft

Height
77 in

Width
79 in

Approach Angle
17 deg

Departure Angle
21.9 deg

Curb Weight
5,537 lbs

GVWR
7,100 lbs

Max Trailer Weight
7,700 lbs

Payload
1,763 lbs

Interior Cargo
108.9 cu ft (behind 1st row, 2nd row folded, no 3rd row), 60.3 cu ft (behind 2nd row, no 3rd row), 16.9 cu ft (behind 3rd row)

Seating
2/3/3

MPG
16/22 (EPA)
14.1 (as tested)

After Ford redesigned its Explorer for the 2005 model year, it was inevitable that a new permutation of the Sport Trac would not be far behind. That's why we never saw a 2006 Sport Trac; Ford was putting the final touches on its '07 redesign. Recently we had a chance to drive the new Sport Trac for a day in Laguna Beach, California, putting about 100 miles on the vehicle, both on-road and off-road.

We tested the new Explorer late last year as part of our 2006 "SUV of the Year" evaluation. (You'll find that story in Issue 1, 2006.) The redesigned Ford Explorer is a strong all-around SUV that presents a noticeable evolution from its previous generations in the areas of quieter interior, nicer plastics and fabrics inside, firmer handling, stronger frame, and more power (all areas that Ford was shooting to improve in). And the new Sport Trac, being a version of the Explorer, certainly reflects well on the improvements made to that SUV and adds the utility of the abbreviated cargo bed.

The Sport Trac comes in two models: XLT and Limited. The versions we drove also had 4WD Low, which was very useful on the off-road course that Ford had set up. This wasn't a particularly technical course, but something more akin to what you might find on a ranch with a lot of unimproved and ill-maintained roads winding through the hillsides. In the dirt, the 4WD and traction control system on the Sport Trac tackled loose rock and clay on a steep upward slope pretty well. Downhill, the Sport Trac crept at a manageable pace when in 4WD and first gear. And the low-friction rack-and-pinion power steering turned the vehicle on its midsized-pickup wheelbase of 130.6 inches with respectable nimbleness. On the highway, the Sport Trac shares the same road manners as the Explorer SUV - in that it is more maneuverable than its size would suggest, it doesn't roll much through a hard turn, the V-8 accelerates reassuringly, and the cab is quiet enough to allow a civilized conversation. We didn't like the way that the gauges were recessed into the instrument panel, which shaded them and made them harder to see, especially when driving in the contrasting light/dark of twilight. These gauges (tachometer and speedo) were very large, which helped, but the relatively tiny fuel gauge embedded in the tachometer was harder to discern.

The exterior of the Sport Trac resembles the previous generation but has a bolder treatment, particularly with its updated grille and other design elements. Pat Schiavone spearheaded the design effort (as well as the redesign of the F-150 a few years ago), and he said that Ford wanted to infuse the Sport Trac with American styling, which, in this case, we suppose means an assertive, go-anywhere, roll-your-sleeves-up-and-get-on-with-it demeanor.

Interestingly, Ford says that the Sport Trac's competitor in the market is the Honda Ridgeline. Maybe it's because they are both niche players in an arena not quite truck or SUV but certainly not car. The Ridgeline was a truck built to keep Honda fans in the family when they decide to buy a truck. It's a good effort that diverges from the traditional pickup truck. In fact, many truck customers were probably not comfortable enough to park the Ridgeline in the "truck" category in their own minds until it started winning "Truck of the Year" accolades from Motor Trend and the North American International Auto Show and thusly had its identity reaffirmed. The Ridgeline's urbane styling and unibody construction, among other factors, give it very car-like manners with some truck/SUV utility. The Sport Trac, however, is unabashedly truck/SUV-like, from its F-150-inspired body-on-frame construction to its 4.6L V-8 (new for the Sport Trac, a 4.0L V-6 is also available), with the driving refinements built into the new Explorer.

Let's do a quick utility comparison between the Sport Trac and Ridgeline. We've already talked about the driving experience we had with the Ridgeline in Issue 2. The Sport Trac cranks out 292 hp and 300 lb-ft from the V-8, and 210 hp and 254 torque from the V-6. The Ford has a curb weight of 4,516 to 4,793 (depending on drive and engine) while the Ridgeline weighs 4,494. The Sport Trac tows 6,640 pounds (6,800 with the 2WD version) with the V-8, and 5,310 and 5,140, respectively, with the V-6. The Ridgeline pulls 5,000 pounds with its higher-revving 247hp and 245-lb-ft V-6. The Sport Trac model we reviewed had a useful, optional tri-fold tonneau that can be folded back incrementally or removed, optional bed extender, and small storage compartments in the bed, as compared to the cooler-sized trunk in the Ridgeline's bed. The Ford's bed volume is a little larger than the Honda's, most significantly in regards to width (11 inches difference); and the interior cargo room, with 2nd-row seats folded, is 44.4 cubic inches, compared to the Ridgeline's 41.4. Reading these specs you can tell that Ford certainly had the Ridgeline in its sights. We almost get the impression that both automakers got it wrong, that the Ridgeline should be classified an SUV and the Sport Trac a truck. While a sibling to America's leading around-town utility vehicle (the Explorer SUV), the Sport Trac could probably work next to its F-150 cousin out on the range just fine.

2007 Ford Explorer Sport Track
Price (as tested)
$34,840 without destination

Engine
4.6L V-8

Horsepower
292@5,750 rpm SAE

Torque (lb-ft)
300@3,950 rpm SAE

Transmission
6-speed automatic

Suspension
Independent short- & long-arm with coilovers (f), independent trailing blade short-& long-arm with coilovers (r)

Brakes
4-wheel disc, 4-wheel ABS, traction control, stability control

Wheelbase
130.5 in

Turning (Curb-to-Curb)
36.8 ft

Height
72.5 in

Width
73.7 in

Approach Angle
28.7 deg

Departure Angle
17.2 deg

Curb Weight
4,793 lbs

Max Trailer Weight
6,640 lbs

Payload
1,350 lbs

Interior Cargo
108.9 cu ft (behind 1st row, 2nd row folded, no 3rd row), 60.3 cu ft (behind 2nd row, no 3rd row), 16.9 cu ft (behind 3rd row)

Seating
2/3

MPG
14/20 EPA

Long Term Update
2006 Dodge Ram 1500 SLT Mega Cab 4X4Our 2006 Dodge Ram Mega Cab 1500 has officially developed i ts own unique quirks. After driving the Mega Cab 1500 during our 2006 "Truck of the Year" evaluation late last year, when it was a brand new press loaner, the fresh Mega Cab was just that: fresh. Fast-forward about five months and 16,000 miles, and our Mega Cab 1500 long-term loaner is not so fresh anymore. And after putting about 4,000 more miles on it in six weeks myself, the Dodge felt comfortable enough to loosen up.

Driving manners haven't changed in this truck, as the Ram is still just as large and in charge as always, with a stiff rear suspension setup that was designed for towing, not freeway driving. Under the re-sculpted hood, the 5.7L Hemi V-8 provides plenty of power; and despite the extra weight of the cab, 345 hp still motivates the 1500 with ease. Braking the big rig does take some heightened awareness of traffic, since the Mega Cab's calipers and rotors don't like to slow that much forward-moving mass quickly. Parking the Dodge is always interesting, as the wheelbase is oversized for compact spaces and requires more of that awareness I mentioned as you navigate through crowded parking lots. Inside the cab is where the magic lies, with the largest interior space on the planet that makes men feel like boys and boys feel like little babies.

It was here, inside the Mega Cab, where the quirks began to rear their ugly head. One staffer, whose name will remain anonymous, mistook the navigation scroll knob for the volume control for the radio and after several hard cranks, the knob decided to give up the good fight. Without a navigation control knob (it is also the clock program knob), the navigation was very much limited. We later found out that these head units were actually on back order because of similar incidences in other Dodge products. Shortly after the new replacement called the Mega Cab home, the CD-changer inside the new head unit broke and it was back to McPeek Dodge in Anaheim for another swap. Apparently, when the audio/navigation unit begins to act up, the disease spreads to other areas.

After the Dodge's 15,000-mile servicing at McPeek Dodge (thanks, Mike) we realized other parts on the Mega Cab needed replacing. A recall required the replacement of the rear propeller shaft, which Dodge didn't expect to break despite so much extra cab above the unit. Besides these two mishaps, the rear power-sliding window also stuck on occasions, providing moments of worry that rain would seep into the interior. A harsh pull to the right let on that the alignment was off, but the Mega Cab was happily centered after a fully computerized correction.

All in all, these inconveniences didn't cost anything out of our pockets, as each dilemma was covered under the warranty. However, having less than 20,000 miles on a truck and replacing these parts is a little odd, creating a little uncertainty on what we will have to replace later.

This is the third installment of our long-term coverage of the Dodge Mega Cab 1500. Miles to date are 20,770 and miles clocked during this update were 4,133.