While the futures of the Chevrolet Tahoe (and its GMC Yukon cousin) have long been in doubt, General Motors' recent investments in its Arlington, Texas, assembly plant have confirmed that these big utility vehicles will live on for at least another generation.
Now, our intrepid spy has just nabbed a couple of Tahoes testing in Michigan ahead of the trucks' expected unveiling during the 2012-13 auto show season.
From the photos, we can see that the Tahoe's two-box basic shape will remain in order to properly differentiate the Tahoe from the slightly smaller Traverse crossover (and its Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia cousins). Some of these prototypes appear to actually be GMCs, even though they're all wearing bowtie-capped wheels. The extra grille chrome and fake ovals seen in some photos are apparently there to make casual onlookers think that these prototypes are Ford Expeditions.
The white Tahoe could have the Z71 off road appearance package on it given its more aggressive tires, although it does appear to lack flared fenders.
The Tahoe is set to continue riding on a full ladder frame, which, combined with a new line of V8 engines, should provide it with the the kind of heavy load towing capacity many customers demand. Underneath, the frame is expected to be a modified version of the beefed up 2014 Chevrolet Silverado's underpinnings. Unlike the Expedition, which uses an independent rear suspension, the Tahoe return with a solid rear axle. This should help Chevrolet keep costs low while improving towing durability - a key selling point for vehicles in this class. Unfortunately, this move probably means that a stowing third row of seats will not be part of the Tahoe's package since the rear differential requires plenty of clearance.
Powering the 2014 Tahoe should be a new Gen V small-block V8 expected to displace the same 5.3-liters as the outgoing engine. Power and fuel economy should rise, but a fuel-sipping eight-speed automatic is likely to be a delayed introduction item (a six-speed unit will be offered initially). Rumors about a model with GM's eAssist mild-hybrid system persist, but an updated version of the Tahoe's current full hybrid system capable of up to 24 mpg seems like a safer bet given that its costs can be better amortized by the Tahoe's relatively high price.
Inside, the Tahoe will get an all-new interior and a number of more premium features including a wide array of radar-based technologies not currently available. Look for a full host of features ranging from adaptive cruise control to blind spot monitors to be offered on the 2014 Tahoe as GM seeks to move the model slightly more upmarket.
At the earliest, the SUVs might debut at November's Los Angeles Auto Show, but we wouldn't be surprised if GM holds them back to another show in early 2013. Regardless, production is slated to begin in October of 2013 in Arlington.
Check back soon for additional updates.