GM’s new full-size SUVs are part evolution, part revolution.
Pricing starts at $56,498 in Canada, $50,295 in the US.
This is the best Tahoe yet.
The current contrasts and parallels in the automotive industry today are symbiotic. General Motors is an excellent example where they are actively developing and promoting their EV technologies alongside introducing all-new full-size SUVs powered by V8 petrol engines. The fact is that profits are generated by the sales of the new 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe and the like fuel EV development.
This is why money-makers like the Tahoe need to be good. And the new 2021 Tahoe is extremely good. Despite any reservations anyone may have about the actual need for something this big, the reality is that North American consumers are ready and willing to spend huge sums of money in order to get an equally huge vehicle in return.
GM’s GMC Yukon, Yukon XL, Chevrolet Suburban, and Tahoe have time and again demonstrated to the favorites in the segment with a 25% share and that’s certainly not about to change in the near future. GM has simply evolved what was already great about the trucks and revolutionized what was wrong. The truck’s new full-size architecture has enabled engineers and designers to deliver what is, with little doubt, the best large SUV available.
Of the handful of gripes that were associated with the previous Tahoe, trunk space and rear seating arrangements were the most common. For 2021, GM has reconfigured the third row where it finally folds flat into the floor instead of on top of the trunk’s load surface. With gains of approximately 5 inches in wheelbase length and 6.7 inches overall, the Tahoe’s cargo and passenger volume ratings have dramatically increased.
The third row, now realistically useable by an adult, now offers 10 inches more legroom. And when in use, the cargo volume behind it has grown by 66%. When stowed, boot space is simply enormous at 2,056 litres, or 72.6 cubic feet. To put in perspective, the total cargo area has increased by a whopping 30% over the outgoing model.
Second-row occupants are now entitled to sliding seats for extra comfort. Speaking of comfort, the integrated child-seat hooks in the second row are some of the most easily accessible I’ve ever encountered. Truly, rear passengers and gear have never been better treated in a full-size GM truck.
Up front, driver and passenger are privy to plenty of space, as expected. The dashboard is evolutionary with the exception of the standard 10.2-inch with Chevy’s infotainment system. The instrument panel includes a 4.2-inch display in lower trims while higher models offer an 8-inch display. Also evolutionary are the dashboard’s ergonomics which are better than acceptable but in GM tradition, presentation is extremely plain.
This could be considered the theme throughout the cabin where fit and finish are fine, as are the materials. The tested unit was a pre-production model but it looked about 99.9% production-ready to me. Despite this, it’s important to note that generally speaking, what I saw is still a step up from the new Ford SUVs I’ve recently driven.
Between the comfortable multi-adjustable front seats, in my tester, was a power-operated center console lockable storage box which has only one flaw in my opinion: should my 4-year old have found the control button, he would have burnt out the motor.
Simply put, these GM full-size trucks have always been attractive, always. No matter the decade, generation, colour, or size, these GM SUVs has all stood the test of time and the new 2021 trucks will also.
The extra length adds to the Tahoe’s visual presence and power. The creases are subtle, purposeful, and even elegant. Now typically I would severely criticize the front Silverado-inspired grille but I find that I cannot. Due to its extra layers, curved sides, and better proportions, it actually works on the Tahoe. On this point, I need to specify that the fascia looked good on the tested Z71. From images provided by GM, trims with horizontal bars in the grille ruin the style. This leaves the base LS and the RST’s blacked-out lines to help.
The Tahoe‘s Z71 package is visually the best suited to the SUV, in my opinion. The unique bumpers with skid plate for improved approach angles, cool 20-inch wheels with all-terrain tires, black badges, and accents set all luxury-truck pretensions aside and put ruggedness in the forefront.
The 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe’s new structure now incorporates a four-corner Air Ride Adaptive Suspension as standard, which enables total wheel travel of 4 inches or 50 mm. When mated with the optional Magnetic Ride Control dampers, the Tahoe’s ride becomes near luxury-truck-like. The previous generation truck’s on-road behaviour was quite refined but the new one includes an extra layer of damping that increases passenger comfort levels.
The chassis components also provide better than expected handling for such a heavy SUV. Steering is weighty but precise and I enjoy the stopping power and pedal response from the Tahoe’s huge 4-wheel ventilated disc brakes. Best of all is the serenity that reigns supreme onboard.
Said serenity is occasionally disturbed by the standard 5.3-litre V8’s roar when the throttle pedal drops. Although the 6.2-litre V8 is more powerful and the soon-to-be-available Duramax diesel V6 will be quite frugal, the 5.3-litre is the nobler engine. It has proven to be reliable and efficient and now that it is mated to the 10-speed automatic transmission, its 355 horsepower, and 383 lb.-ft. of torque have never been put to better use.
The slightest amount of throttle input sees the transmission drop a gear or two, resulting in smooth and progressive acceleration. Should you need to pass in a hurry, the transmission will, without hesitation, kick-down numerous cogs and send the Tahoe forward in a hurry.
At the GMC Yukon reveal event earlier this year, I experienced the AWD system’s efficacy. Its electronically controlled limited-slip rear differential and an active center differential never failed to get us moving forward. The Z71 includes a two-speed transfer case and Hill Descent Control, should the going get tougher in your world.
Priced to move
The 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe (and its siblings) overlap various midsize SUVs, from both mainstream and luxury brands. Priced from the mid-$50k in Canada, the Tahoe is well endowed and capable of taking all tasks thrown at it head-on. The Z71 starts at $68,698 in Canada ($59,200) included a few options including the Off-Road package for a grand total of just shy of $79,000.
And no, it’s not perfect. If you are concerned about the fuel consumption, there’s little hope anyone can average better 15L/100km or 15.6 mpg.