2021 Chevrolet Tahoe 4WD RST
5.3-liter V8 (355hp @ 5600 rpm, 383 lb/ft @ 4100 rpm)
Ten-speed automatic transmission, four-wheel drive
16 city / 20 highway / 18 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
20.3 (observed mileage, MPG)
14.8 city / 11.8 highway / 13.5 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base Price: $61,395 US / $71,398 CAN
As Tested: $68,485 US / $79,668
Prices include $1295 destination charge in the United States and $2,000 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.
Let me indulge in a bit of inside baseball for a moment. Those of us who make (at least something resembling) a living talking about cars tend to read a good bit of our colleagues’ work – and then discuss it at length via whatever channel we have at our disposal. Indeed, that’s what has made TTAC great over the years – we’ve brought light upon those who are clearly in this field for the perks.
At times, you get the feeling that some of these people don’t even like cars. It’s like sending a vegan to rank the best barbecue joints in North Carolina.
Anyhow, we who live most of our lives online have clucked our tongues lately at a number of automotive journalists trying to bring shame upon both the makers and buyers of modern trucks and SUVs, much like this 2020 Chevrolet Tahoe. These pearl-clutching writers have willfully ignored the strides that have been made in these markets over the past few years. Shame, really, because this latest Tahoe is a genuinely great SUV.
The most notable styling change is certainly the grille, which brings the big SUV in line with the Silverado. Here on the RST trim, it looks reasonably good to my eyes – somewhat less awkward than on the pickup. Some might balk at the styling on the offroad-inspired Z71 trim – the lower bumper is more rakish to give a marginally better approach angle, but to me looks like the face of a dog with a severe overbite.
The rest of the truck is styled rather conventionally, with a distinctive character line front to rear sharply dividing greenhouse from the dirty parts. The tailgate trim immediately below the rear hatch glass is a bit unusual, but I’m sure we will grow to accept it with time. It’s not the most egregious styling affectation ever applied to a passenger vehicle by a long shot.
The big news is that General Motors has finally graced its large body-on-frame SUVs with independent rear suspension. My God, what a difference it makes. While I never found previous generations of Tahoes particularly difficult to drive, the oscillations of the old live axle when encountering mid-corner bumps could be a bit disconcerting when trying to hustle.
No longer. On a family taco run to rural Ohio (don’t ask) we wandered well off the typical state highways onto some narrow country lanes. Twisty, hilly, uneven, oddly crowned chipseal is a test for any vehicle – especially when the forty-four ounce Diet Coke your wife ordered with her tacos suddenly encourages you to navigate those lanes at unprintable speeds lest you need to spend an inordinate amount of time detailing the car before it goes back to the fleet. No, I wasn’t drifting or doing anything seriously stupid, but driving briskly – and the Tahoe was planted at all times and at all speeds. Mind you – this RST trim doesn’t offer Chevrolet’s excellent Magnetic Ride Control, which would manage road imperfections even better than the standard damping here. Bravo, Chevrolet, for making a three-row, nearly three-ton (plus four Tonns) SUV do a two-step admirably.
Ably assisting this big rig in the cha-cha is the 5.3-liter V8, paired to a ten-speed automatic. While “everyone” says the 355hp engine is anemic compared to the 6.2-liter, 420hp engine available in higher trims, I was never found wanting for shove. I’m sure if I were towing regularly, I’d wish for the bigger engine – but I’m sure this will do the job nicely for most people. Shifts were quick and smooth both up and down the ‘box. The push-and-pull button shifter on the dash next to the touchscreen is a little weird when coming from column or console shifters, but it gets easier with time.
That independent rear suspension pays off in another place – interior room. The third row of seating, while not stretch-out comfortable for taller folks, gives plenty of room for most. My kids, for example, were quite happy back there, though the optional captains’ chairs in the second row were preferred. Those chairs were nearly as comfy as those up front – if it weren’t for capacity concerns for both bladder and fuel tank, I’d be perfectly happy sitting there all day long.
Chevrolet has been doing good things with their infotainment systems of late – the 10.2” screen here is no exception. It’s not perfect – the screen very occasionally lags behind a button push – but it’s intuitive and noticeably clear. Wireless capabilities for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (included in the $2,490 Rear Media and Nav Package) was a surprise to me, but they worked quite well. That rear media includes a pair of seatback-mounted 12.6” screens – my kids quickly downloaded the Miracast app and mirrored their phone screens to catch up on whatever quick-bake Netflix teen drama they’ve latched onto this week. A center-mounted HDMI port and 120V outlet nearly had the girls unhooking the Xbox from the living room screen for an afternoon of in-car Sims 4, but I nixed that plan.
One of the recent stories about trucks that have twisted some knickers is a review of the Tahoe’s Cadillac stablemate, the Escalade. Functionally identical in dimensions to this Tahoe, this reviewer decided that the tall grille height was “dangerously huge,” even posing a child in front of it to evoke Helen Lovejoy-levels of impending youth disaster.
Yes, I’m sure there are blind spots. And if you have a habit of driving in places where children literally materialize from the road surface as if they’re a dot on your old Nokia’s game of Snake, then you might consider an old VW Microbus to ensure you have maximum frontal vision. But if you’re a responsible driver at all, you will be cognizant of your peripheral vision and your environment. Driving quickly through the country among recently-harvested fields with vision all around? You can drive quickly. Through the city with wall-to-wall parked cars? Might want to slow it down lest a child run out.
Another journalist, in a review of another truck, decided to add to the pedestrian-killing narrative by taking automakers to task for – let me check my notes – building vehicles that people want. If consumers demand something, any business that wants to remain in business will use their resources to offer a product these consumers will buy. That’s called capitalism, and while wishing for socialism and a planned economy where everyone will need to enter a lottery to buy bread and — maybe someday after waiting for years — an electric-powered Trabant might be the ideal, we aren’t there yet. Right now, we have freedom of choice, and people who can afford to do so are choosing trucks and SUVs.
It’s just that some people like trucks. Yes, they do. But you know what’s more insidious than that? The truck position held by these journalists doesn’t have anything to do with public safety. It’s just that they don’t like people who do like trucks. They don’t like people.
Yes, I just riffed on a great line from The West Wing. Sorry. I’m just tired of the tribalism in this country. I can’t do anything about the politics. I can, however, talk about personal transportation – and for the people who need to move both many people and lots of stuff, the 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe is a choice with few peers. Sure, many people can manage their typical transportation needs with a decades-old Corolla. Many other people, however, do indeed need something bigger and more capable. Who am I to tell them what they can and cannot buy?
[Images: © 2020 Chris Tonn]