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2017 Ford Explorer vs. 2017 Chevrolet Tahoe

2017 Ford Explorer
2017 Chevrolet Tahoe

We all appear to love crossovers and SUVs again these days, so it's little wonder we're now confronted with so much choice when it comes time to buy a new one. Of course, it wasn't too long ago when vehicles the size of the Ford Explorer and Chevy Tahoe were always truck-based body-on-frame affairs, but now the lines between large crossovers and traditional SUVs is definitely beginning to blur. In fact, the Explorer was a ladder-frame construction itself until the 2011 model year when it was reinvented as a full-size unibody crossover. So, let's do a 2017 Ford Explorer vs. 2017 Chevrolet Tahoe comparison to see whether the modern approach of the Ford or the retro ideology of the Chevy is the better buy today.

Styling

Despite being built on a more traditional platform, the Tahoe certainly isn't as retro in its appearance as some of its rivals. It does have a somewhat upright stance that hints at its truck heritage, but the overall design of the exterior does a good job of presenting a contemporary feel for something that isn't particularly contemporary at all. If the Tahoe was going up against any one of a number of its main rivals here there'd be little to choose between them as far as styling is concerned. Unfortunately for the Chevy, in this case it's going head-to-head with the Ford Explorer and that means there really is a clear winner in the styling stakes, and it's definitely not the Tahoe. There's nothing particularly revolutionary about the Explorer exterior styling from the side or the back, but the face of the Ford is entirely 21st century. The grill and headlights are purposefully reminiscent of the Edge and Escape, and that on its own is enough to make the Explorer the more attractive proposition in this important regard.

Engines

Of course engines are important in any vehicle, but when you're going to be carrying this many people, carrying as much cargo as you can get in one of these or towing something, the right powerplant is especially vital. And when it comes to choice, the Explorer is the clear winner as it offers more engine options than the Tahoe. In fact, the Tahoe doesn't offer a choice as it's a take-it or leave-it situation with just the one powerplant for all trims. That engine is a decent one though as it's a 5.3-liter EcoTec V-8 developing 355 horsepower and 383 lb.-ft. of torque that's sent to the rear or all four wheel through a six speed automatic transmission.

But if you like a choice of engines the Explorer is definitely the way to go as there are three different powerplants to select from. The standard unit in the base Explorer and the XLT is a 3.5-liter V-6 developing 290 horsepower and 255 lb.-ft. of torque. Standard in the mid-level Limited and optional in the Explorer and XLT models is a 2.3-liter EcoBoost inline-four, and this one gives the Ford 280 horsepower and 310 lb.-ft. of torque to play with. Step up to the Sport or Platinum trims and then you get the sensational 3.5-liter V-6 EcoBoost and all-wheel drive standard, and that means putting 365 horsepower and 350 lb.-ft. of torque at your disposal. If the exterior styling makes the Explorer seem like the more modern choice, it's the same story and then some when it comes to engines.

Fuel Economy

It won’t come as too much of a shock that the Ford Explorer is also better on gas than the Chevy Tahoe, as the Ford's engines are all smaller displacements than the Chevy's V-8. The most powerful unit in the Ford with its standard all-wheel drive gets the same ratings of 16 mpg in the city, 22 mpg on the highway and 18 mpg combined as the all-wheel drive Tahoe, but the other engine and drivetrain combinations in the Ford are all more frugal.

Value for money

The Tahoe is a bit bigger than the Explorer and bigger often means more expensive, but it doesn't necessarily follow that less expensive is always better value. However, in this case it does. Unless you need to transport nine people or you're planning to tow something serious on a regular basis, the Explorer can pretty much do anything the Tahoe can do. But you also get more standard features and equipment on the whole with the Explorer, so it does start to make you wonder how Chevy can justify the monumental difference in price between the Tahoe and the Explorer. The Ford starts at an MSRP of just $31,660, while the least expensive Tahoe you can buy has an MSRP of $47,215.

Conclusion

At the extremes of passenger carrying and trailer towing there's a place for the Tahoe the Ford Explorer can't quite cover, but we're talking the real extremes here and the Ford does everything else at least as well and often better than the Chevy. If you're absolutely determined to have an old-school SUV with a decidedly retro V-8 that's fine, but you're going to have to pay quite a price for it with the Tahoe. Instead, save yourself more than $15k buy getting an Explorer and dip into the savings now and again to hire a pickup for the odd extreme job when it arises, and you'll definitely be glad you did.