In mid-January I was dragged on a family reunion trip to Keystone, Colorado. Normally this would be fun. A cabin. Whiskey. Snowboarding. This trip, however, was planned smack dab in the middle of fiscal year planning, review, and promotion cycles at
$dayJob. I wanted to make this trip slightly more enjoyable, so I hopped on Turo to look for a family snow hauler. A Porsche Cayenne came up as well as a Jeep Renegade. The former was a car we had looked in to as a used SUV given their massive depreciation curves and the latter has been on my radar as a tow vehicle for the racecar. In the end, given the length of our stay I just couldn’t justify the price differential between getting a car I thought would be fun and the deal my brother-in-law got on CostcoTravel.com. So we booked a “Chevy Tahoe or equivalent”, another car that could pass for something we would actually own.
We showed up at Denver International Airport and slogged two kids, two snowboards, and a family of four’s luggage for a week. We somehow got everything to the rental shuttle curb and watched as shuttle after shuttle went by except for the Budget shuttle. If there’s one thing I have learned in life, it’s that you will never ever have a pleasant rental car experience from a discount brand. This day was no different.
After a half hour wait for the shuttle we showed up to a dirty facility. We had been packed in like sardines so getting off felt like freedom, only to be trapped by the fact that this specific Budget had all of their express kiosks down. I soon found out why. After we had confirmed the car we waited another 10 minutes for the rental to be turned, staring in to the abyss at the Dodge Challengers that still had their horrible yellow splitter guards still installed. The Tahoe showed up at the pickup area soaking wet with snow storm streaks but I was just glad we were finally hitting the road. My wife took one look inside and started chewing out the attendant at the condition of the interior. Crumbs, coffee stains, you name it. They brought us some cleaning wipes for us to wipe down the interior ourselves and we set out for Keystone.
There are two ways in to Keystone from Denver. You can take I-70 and backtrack a bit on Highway 6 on a wide open divided highway. Or you can choose to come directly down the eastern end of Highway 6 which is a twisty 2-lane road with steep dropoffs. In a snowstorm you might choose to backtrack. If you’re an idiot following Waze you take the road less traveled. The Tahoe drives like a boat. This is important to the characteristics of the car because it is a great vehicle to tow a boat. It has gobs of American V8 torque and its massive tire sidewalls aide in the marshmallow like ride and handling. Don’t get me wrong. This is how an American full-sized SUV should drive, but it certainly isn’t meant for back roads.
All that considered, the Tahoe took on this challenge fabulously. Not once did the car feel out of control on these icy mountain roads. It took a careful touch, but even through thick snow and the darkest of night it felt like the Tahoe was going to carry us to safety. It also did so in relative comfort. The interior quality is still very low brow GM, but it feels like you’re in the oughts and not the 90s. It took a matter of minutes to figure out how to get to the Apple CarPlay interface, but once there it was simple to use. Just make sure you set it and forget it so you don’t have to navigate through the labyrinth of confusing labels in the in-car entertainment system. In fact we nearly made it in to the cabin before disaster struck.
Orange juice. Everywhere. My primary complaint on the Tahoe I thought at first was a fluke. After our mountain road journey ended, I popped open the hatch to have a gallon of OJ slam to the ground and burst on to my boots. I figured this was my fault for not being careful until we went in to town the next evening and my son’s jacket followed the same trajectory and fell in to the salty street. There is something about the slope or lip of the rear cargo area in the Tahoe that lends itself to you getting yelled at by your wife. The Tahoe features a flip up hatch window which I find to be the preferred method of accessing things, but the load height just barely works for your average Asian-American dad.
Over the course of the following week the Tahoe was our steady steed to Keystone and Breckenridge key resorts. I felt less bad about throwing sleds and snow gear in the back than I do with our luxury SUV at home which makes it a great outdoorsy car. As we brought the car back through another storm in to Denver my wife turned to me and said, “this car isn’t so bad.” I consider that to be the highest regard one could give after calling Budget corporate to give them an earful about the cleanliness of their rentals.
If you’re towing a Corvette racecar you should probably do so in a GM product, and the Tahoe’s 8,600 towing capacity means you could load a racecar on to an aluminum trailer and still feel like there’s not much back there. At the end of our trip I was pretty confident that I could bring home a Chevy Silverado or a GMC Sierra without too much hassle from the family and that the Tahoe should also be seriously considered as a replacement for the family SUV. It’s a work horse that you won’t mind putting to work, with all the creature comforts that an American family might expect. Just make sure you buy a cargo net.
daily automotive addiction.