Ultimate Guide To Overlanding In A Tahoe

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The Chevrolet Tahoe has earned a solid reputation over the last decade. It is one of the top choices in the full-size SUV segment. Much of that praise is for its on-road capability. We are going to look at how the Tahoe does off road, whether as an overlander with a roof top tent or just driving the back roads to a great trailhead or campsite.


Why the Tahoe?

Chevy Tahoe on a highway

First of all, why Tahoe? Before getting into the add-ons and Tahoe tips, why choose this vehicle for your adventuring in the first place?

Well, they are BIG. Very big. If you have a family of four or more, or plan to pack a lot of gear, then this has to be a serious contender. Most models are up there within the top 3 of their year when it comes to space.

They are also well priced. Chevy Tahoes have always been a budget friendly choice. That doesn't meant compromise on quality and comfort, but it does mean that you as the owner can choose where to spend on nice-to-haves.

Second-hand Tahoes are surprisingly reasonable too, and with their bullet proof 5.3l V8 and 6.3l V8 you can often get up to 300,000 miles before old age sets in.

Lastly, just look at them. The newer models come with cleaner lines and we-mean-business grills, and the older models that look as tough and comfortable as your favorite hiking boots.


Planning an overland or adventure trip in a Tahoe

Off Road Trail

Chevrolet have spent the last decade refining the Tahoe constantly. Newer models now come with more than enough to get you where you need to go without modification.

Overlanding in most older model Tahoes is also possible without the need for modification. But where is the fun in that? If you are looking at a 2018 or older model, here are a few modifications you may want to consider.


Suspension

Chevy Tahoe Suspension

Only in 2019 and forward did the Tahoe start coming fitted with the independent suspension that the likes of the Porsche Cayenne and Infinity QX56 have had for a while. Before that, Chevy stuck with their rather lumpy solid suspension.

If you are looking at an older model and plan to do some serious off-roading, consider replacing the hollow stabilizer bar with a solid one. Also look at raising the suspension if rocky roads form part of your plan. The Tahoe comes with 8 inches clearance as standard, enough for some mild bumps. Much better is to add a few more inches and increase your options.


Tires

Now this can make a big difference to your comfort and capability when overlanding in a Tahoe. If you are not sure which type of terrain is going to dominate your travel its best to go for a tire that caters to each.

Snow requires a tread that can provide real traction. But these tires also tend to create a lot of road noise. If you aren’t living and driving in these conditions daily, it’s better to go for a tire that gives some traction as well as on-road performance.

Tip: pay attention to whether the sidewall of the tires you are looking at is reinforced. Quite often, damage to tires can be caused by side impact. BF Goodrich’s All Terrain range is the gold standard in this department.


Engines

What do you want to do with your Tahoe? Climb mountains? Tow the Titanic? Outpace the opposition? All of the above?

The basic 5.3l V8 (355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque) will get you and your load just about anywhere you want to go and seldom feels overstretched.

That said, the 6.2l V8 serves up 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque, giving more speed as well as more muscle. You won't lag behind the competition in any way, on the highway or off road.

The 3.0L turbodiesel inline-six achieves 277 horsepower and the 460 pound-feet of torque kicks in quickly. It's a great climber and best for towing trailers at the heavy end of the spectrum.

Both of the gasoline 2024 Tahoes have average fuel economy in the large SUV class. The turbodiesel has significantly better fuel efficiency.


Using your space wisely

The Tahoe gifts you more space than most SUVs, but space remains a precious resource on an overlanding mission.

Now this will depend on how many people you have in the vehicle. If it’s just you and your partner in crime, and you have a roof top tent, you should have enough space for your luggage, and all your camping gear for a long trip.

If you are taking the whole family and using all three rows of seats, you may want to consider investing in some roof racks and a storage box. With 3 rows up front, there is shockingly little space left in the back.

Tip: An underutilized space in Tahoe models before the 2019 suspension changes is the rear underfloor compartments. Three cavities each big enough to be respectable drawers.


Comfort

Chevy Tahoe Interior

When you're planning to spend hours or days bouncing around the landscape, the comfort of your ride is of critical importance.

The Tahoe has earned a reputation for coming with more features than many of its competitors. In most models you can look forward to automatic seats with plush leather cushioning. These leather seats hold their shape well even in old age.

Chevy also introduced keyless entry in the Tahoe before many others. This came with personalized driver seat settings. No more adjusting the seat back after your partner has taken it out.

Headroom is also a blessing in most models of Tahoe. Those that come with a skylight have slightly less than the solid tops do, but both offer a sense of roominess that tall drivers will appreciate.


Which generation of Tahoe is best for Overlanding?

If money is no object, the latest models are naturally the winners. The lessons taught by each generation that came before them have been taken to heart. 2020+ models include the latest media technology, 8100 pounds of towing capacity, and a ride that feels effortless.

For those not worried about having the latest and greatest, we recommend the 2008 to 2014 era. 2008 was the year all the modern safety measures were put in place. It is also the point where the Tahoe mastered the flat-folding third row of seats and self-levelling suspension.

It is still possible to get a Tahoe from this era with under 100,000 miles on the clock, and at a fraction of what the newer models cost. Another big plus if you buy this vintage is that you avoid the jaw-dropping depreciation phase of new models!


Snags to spot in second-hand Tahoes

Aside from the general wear and tear issues that stalk all old cars, Tahoe has a short list of specific issues. Older models tend to develop soft brakes, leaving drivers needing to really pump hard to bring the bulky beast to a halt.

The 5.3-liter V8’s have been known to develop a shudder when starting up, so be sure to test drive from cold to pick that up. They also can develop a thirst for oil, which if not monitored carefully can have expensive knock-on consequences.

Inside the cabin, be sure to look for warping plastic and expired rubber seals. A leaky sunroof is never fun! Look out for faulty electrical sensors that tell you something is wrong when it isn't. These are a small problem but can be a real pain to face every time the vehicle starts up.


The last word

If you are wanting to dip your toe into overlanding, Tahoe is a great way to go. They all index well against the competition on the price scale. They all can deliver the off roading capability that a novice overlander is looking for. And they still function as a spacious, smooth ride for your daily run.


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  • Chad

    Have a 2002 Chevy Tahoe Overland vehicle. Have invested almost $30k on it over the last 5 or so years. Just know that in the Overland market that a Tahoe will never be as supported with as many off the shelf products as that of other brands such as any Toyota or Jeep. So prepare to get creative if you go this route.


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