Impressions From the Road
In our past experience, we’ve found the ride quality of the more mainstream (non-RST) models to be cushy but confident. It feels especially solid in a straight line, depending on your setup; in fact, each of the special editions (Texas, Custom, Midnight and RST) have unique shock absorbers designed specifically to provide a distinctive personality, delivering a wide bandwidth of capability for each Tahoe. We found the RST model not very well-equipped for the towing we did through the mountainous Tonto National Forest, where its low-profile tires and rear suspension felt choppy and a bit stiff (partly due to a load-leveling rear suspension that stiffened under excessive trailer tongue weight). The RST package also doesn’t allow for better axle gearing to help with trailers at the heavier end of the 8,400-pound maximum towing limit (8,100 with 4WD).
Still, we should note that the low-end torque of the 6.2-liter V-8 made those relatively minor issues less important; we barely noticed the 3,500-pound camper trailer behind us when merging into traffic or climbing steep grades. The tow/haul mode on the transmission and integrated trailer brake controller (we had ours set at 5.5) made the towing experience worry-free. That said, we’d still like to see Chevy create a better set of towing mirrors for those who will do more towing.
Despite its inclusion of sophisticated computer-controlled Magnetic Ride Control shock absorbers, the RST edition felt jittery, especially when the Tahoe was empty, producing a low-frequency vibration from the suspension when driving on what looked like a smooth road. We never felt it with passengers or a heavier load inside. We don’t recall feeling that same sense in our gut with the standard coil-spring suspensions, either.
As for the new 10-speed transmission, we found it smart, deliberate and eventually anticipatory when it came to proper up- and downshifting both on grades and when highway cruising. Even on steeper grades, it held lower gears and quickly downshifted with a tap on the brakes (we love smart grade-braking logic). However, if we had to pick a nit, it would be that you can’t see what gear the transmission is in unless you lock the column down into “M” mode and manually thumb-shift. Our judges preferred the Expedition’s execution of this GM/Ford joint-venture transmission, from its gear indicator to its driving modes.
Chevy’s interior strategy is a bit different from the new Ford Expedition’s. Where the Expedition simply duplicated many of the popular F-150 pickup truck’s interior details, the Tahoe has a more organic, curvy design language compared with its Silverado 1500 counterpart. Of the two, however, it’s the Tahoe’s interior that’s in need of upgraded materials, a cleaner overall dash and center console design, and improved fit and finish. The Premier trim level (the most expensive one) offers a nice leather-and-wood package that gives the big SUV a very polished feel — and a pricey smell — but LS and LT models still look plasticky. That said, our favorite features across the lineup are the hidden one-touch storage bin behind the touchscreen and the cavernous center console.
Second-row seating is quite comfortable. Our favorite setup was the seven-seat version with an aisle between the captain’s chairs, giving third-row passengers freer passage. The cramped third row is in stark contrast to the Expedition’s third row, which is commodious even for adults thanks to an independent rear suspension whose axle shafts pass through holes in the frame.
Chevy offers up to seven USB ports and six power outlets — including three 110-volt three-prong outlets — throughout the Tahoe, allowing every passenger to have some kind of charging station.
More Special Editions
Of special note for the 2018 model year are the Tahoe Custom Edition and Custom Midnight Edition packages available on the LS trim. While adding 18-inch aluminum wheels, a chrome accented grille and all-season tires, the Custom Edition deletes the third row, so it cuts $495 from the Tahoe’s price. The same is true of the Custom Midnight Edition, which also deletes the third row and adds more features: The Midnight’s black paint and interior, 18-inch black wheels, all-terrain tires, blackout grille, black side steps and black Bow Tie in the grille deliver a more rugged and stylish monochromatic look.
The final new-for-2018 special edition is the RST 6.2L Performance Package, available on the top-trim Premier, which we tested. (The cosmetic RST package comes on the LT and Premier.) Not surprisingly, this is the most expensive Tahoe you can buy, due in large part to its heavy-breathing 6.2-liter V-8, all-new 10-speed automatic and Magnetic Ride Control shock absorbers with load-leveling. The RST also includes 22-inch wheels and low-profile 285/45R22 Bridgestone Dueler H/L Alenza street tires, as well as a high-capacity air cleaner on the V-8 air intake and interior noise-cancellation technology. Add an available dealer-installed high-performance Borla exhaust and optional Brembo front brakes, rear entertainment system, moonroof, 8-inch head-up display and all-weather floormats, and our tester listed for $78,950.
Unfathomably expensive, you might say? Maybe not when you consider how much sport-fun you get for that price. In fact, the Ford Expedition in our Full-Size SUV Challenge was just a few thousand less, and it wasn’t even a top-of-the-line version. It had nowhere near the monster rumble and thrust of the RST we drove. Yes, this Tahoe finished a close third overall when tested against the Expedition, Armada and Sequoia, but much of our reviewers’ criticism focused on the more one-dimensional aspect of the Tahoe’s RST 6.2L Performance Package — fun when doing autocross, but not so great all-around.
More Safety in All Trims
All Tahoes get a backup camera and a tire pressure monitor that includes a tire fill alert that chirps when proper tire pressure is reached. Forward collision warning with low-speed automatic braking, automatic high beams and lane keep assist are standard on LT and Premier trims, and on the LS you can get them if you add the Enhanced Driver Alert Package. Side Blind Zone Alert with Lane Change Alert and rear cross-traffic alert are standard on the Premier and optional on the LT.
If you haven’t explored full-size SUVs, you may be surprised to learn that buyers are paying full-size luxury sedan prices for more technology, more size and more safety equipment. Higher transaction prices and lower mileage will clearly give some buyers pause, but there are things Tahoes and similar SUVs can do that three-row crossovers cannot — like hauling and towing both a large clan and a lot of cargo simultaneously. If you know you need a large vehicle, the Tahoe offers almost any flavor you like.
Make sure you know what you need and what you’re getting into. If you spend the money for an RST edition, know you’ll be giving up a few things to get it.
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