Something to keep in mind is that there are two very different RST packages.
There are armchair critics on the Internet that tout, and firmly believe that General Motors’ full-size body-on-frame SUVs are dinosaurs. The reality is that even with more and more buyers buying soft-roader crossovers, there is a very large and dedicated market for these large truck-based SUVs. Last year, Chevrolet began to offer a more performance-oriented version of the Tahoe, dubbed the “RST”. This is my personal ideal configuration, a 2019 Chevrolet Tahoe RST Premier with all of the bells and whistles.
The RST moniker stands for “Rally Sport Truck”, which may confuse some into thinking this is some sort of competitor to the fire-breathing Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT (reviewed here). It isn’t, but this Tahoe is a thoroughly excellent SUV on its own. Visually, it gets very few differentiators from the standard model. The badging is all black, along with the mirror caps, body mouldings and roof rails. There is a gloss black sport grille with a body coloured surround, replacing the chrome-accented one on other trim levels. Finally, the RST also gets gloss black 22” aluminum wheels, which were wearing Bridgestone Blizzak winter tires on our test vehicle.
Something to keep in mind is that there are two very different RST packages, and only one of them contains the necessary goodies. The RST 6.2L Performance Edition is what upgrades the motor to the beastly mill under the hood of our test car, while the standard “RST Edition” is solely an appearance package. The latter retains the 5.3L V8 as the regular Tahoe, while the Performance Edition packs the 6.2L direct-injected V8 mated to a silky smooth 10-speed automatic.
Output from the 6.2L is 420 horsepower at 5,600RPM and 460 lb-ft. of torque at 4,100RPM. It’s a brute and easily one of my favourite engines available in any segment right now. Power delivery is creamy smooth and is complemented by the intoxicating yet refined engine note only a V8 can deliver. While rivals like the Ford Expedition (reviewed here) are transitioning to boosted V6s, the road manners of a traditional naturally aspirated V8 are undeniable. Power is more immediate, and the Tahoe pulls hard right from a standstill with confidence.
General Motors’ 10-speed automatic was actually co-developed with Ford, and has now made itself popular throughout both lineups. Tuning has improved significantly, and while there is a manual shift mode available, buyers will see no reason to ever use it. The Active Fuel Management (AFM) system is able to disable four of the cylinders when cruising at steady speeds or coasting, and it helps significantly to combat the V8’s thirst for fuel. We averaged 13.7L/100km in combined driving over the course of our test, and highway runs were seeing as little as 10.5L/100km with ease.
The Tahoe RST is equipped with a two-speed Autotrac transfer case, and the ability to leave the four-wheel-drive system in 2WD mode when its full capabilities are not needed. It can perform the shift on the fly, and there is also an “Auto” mode that leaves it in rear-drive mode until slip is detected. In the snowy winter conditions of our test, the Tahoe handled anything thrown at it with grace and poise, never needing to stop for any more than a refuel or seven.
One of the biggest challenges with body-on-frame SUVs is ride quality, and standard versions the Tahoe and Yukon have suffered from this. It’s not that the ride is poor, but it can be too truck-like for many. GM’s Magnetic Ride Control is in play here, and it does a great job cleaning up imperfections and keeping things composed. The adaptive system in this application is sport-tuned, so definitely on the firmer side, but not thrashy by any means. When comparing to the Expedition or even its own GM siblings, the short-wheelbase on the Tahoe works well with the suspension to keep the ride well sorted.
Where the Tahoe does show its age is in the cabin. It remains a nice place to spend time, especially in the Cocoa/Mahogany colour scheme equipped here, but simplicity is the name of the game. The instrument cluster shows its age with older GM fonts, and the large and clunky column shifter feels right out of 1998. The infotainment screen offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, and I handily prefer the Tahoe’s application to Cadillac’s clunky “CUE” interface in the Escalade (reviewed here).
Quality is there, though at $85,000, we would have liked to see fewer plastics visible in the cabin. The Expedition does a better job of feeling modern, though the forthcoming redesign for the Tahoe will likely improve things here. The third row can be power folded at the touch of a button, and upscale features like heated and ventilated seats, a heated steering wheel, and GM’s 4G-LTE Wifi hotspot are welcomed.
Space is plentiful, and one of the biggest reasons buyers will gravitate into this segment. The second row captain’s chairs equipped here are reasonably comfortable and there is plenty of headroom across all three rows. Cargo capacity behind the third row is a measly 433L, though this increases to 2681L with the third row folded flat. Those who need more space behind the seats will want to opt for the long-wheelbase Suburban or the GMC Yukon XL. In RST guise, the Tahoe is rated to tow just 8,100 pounds, which is down significantly from the Expedition’s 9,200 number.
The top-trim Tahoe Premier starts at $74,700 before taxes and fees. The RST 6.2L Performance Edition costs an extra $3,495 on top of the $3,095 for the RST appearance package. The Performance Package adds the aforementioned 6.2L engine, 10-speed automatic, and two-speed transfer case. Our test vehicle was also equipped with a power sunroof ($1,325) and eight-inch digital instrument cluster ($995). Lastly, Chevrolet wants an extra $350 for the Cocoa/Mahogany leather, bringing the total to $84,060.
It’s hard to knock the 2019 Chevrolet Tahoe RST Premier’s overall capability and versatility. This SUV is large and in charge, and does its level best to remain practical enough for daily use and capable for just about anything in any sort of weather. The platform is showing its age, but the all-new Silverado (reviewed here) and Sierra trucks are now on the market, so it’s only a matter of months before the redesigned SUV family shows its face. Even as it sits, the Tahoe’s back-to-basics V8 and road manners allow it to remain a benchmark, and it would be my pick over the newer and more feature-packed Expedition.