First Drive: 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe

Ride quality is probably the most substantial improvement to the new Tahoe.
Ride quality is probably the most substantial improvement to the new Tahoe.

by Adi Desai | September 17, 2020


TORONTO, ONTARIO – Here it is, the all new and fully 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe. The Tahoe and its siblings, the Suburban, GMC Yukon, and Cadillac Escalade, are bar none the best long-distance full-size haulers out there. While stiff competition from Ford tries to keep up, General Motors seems to somehow maintain the top position in this segment. The previous generation models, introduced in 2014 and showing their age now, have somehow still stayed on our top pick list for those shopping in the full-size SUV space.

The Tahoe is Chevrolet’s short-wheelbase example, on the same body-on-frame platform as the rest of them. Extend the wheelbase and it becomes the spacious Suburban, one of the oldest nameplates in the automotive landscape. This latest generation looks like an evolution of the previous one, but it’s new from the ground up, and there are some substantial updates that change the game. The biggest one is a new independent rear suspension, which minimizes the truck-like ride the old vehicle was known to exhibit.

Ride quality is probably the most substantial improvement to the new Tahoe, and our Z71 test vehicle rode like a cloud. A four-corner air suspension system is also new and equipped here, which is height adjustable goes even further to coddle occupants over road imperfections or even on gravel surfaces. My daily driver happens to be last year’s model, a Yukon Denali with the Magnetic Ride Control, and the difference is truly night and day. While the outgoing truck does ride like, well, a truck, the 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe doesn’t feel any more harsh than a current BMW X5 (reviewed here), and the ride is a step up from the Lexus GX 460.

The trim walk is a bit different this year too, with the Z71 and RST packages now given their own trim levels. The Z71 tested here gets off-road kit, air suspension, adaptive dampers and a unique front end, and the RST gets performance goodies. Topping the range is a new High Country, which comes with the 6.2-liter V8 as standard fare and all of the luxury available in the Tahoe. Pricing starts at $59,798 for the base LS, with the Z71 starting at $68,698. The top-dog High Country starts at $80,898, and has a few packages and options that can take the price close to $100,000.

Three engine choices are available for the new Tahoe, and two will be familiar to those who have spent any time in the previous iteration. Chevrolet has kept around the 5.3-liter V8 in just about every trim, and it’s good for 355 horsepower at 5,600RPM and 383 lb-ft. of torque at 4,100RPM. Spend a bit more for a higher trim and you get a 6.2-liter V8 with 420 horsepower and oodles of torque. The third engine is a new “LM2” turbodiesel engine, displacing 3.0-liters from an inline six-cylinder and pushing 277 horsepower and 460 lb-ft. of torque. We’ve sampled this engine in the Silverado (reviewed here) and it’s both buttery smooth and efficient.

But, as in previous years, those who do a ton of highway driving won’t need to worry about efficiency. While these trucks aren’t exactly hybrids in the city, I regularly see 9.5L/100km highway in my 6.2-liter Yukon, and there’s no reason for the 2021 models to be any worse. Our pre-production mule was likely not broken in, but we still saw 11.0L/100km in highway driving. The two-speed transfer case can be forced to run in 2WD mode if 4WD isn’t necessary, which is a benefit. GM’s new Dynamic Fuel Management system can deactivate cylinders in up to 17 different patterns and permutations, ensuring efficiency is maximized for the specific driving habits in use.

The new Tahoe has grown in size over the model it replaces, but not enough so to encroach on the extended wheelbase Suburban’s territory. That said, the Suburban has grown, too. The biggest advantage to this growth is an increase in cargo capacity behind the third row, which was always a weakness. Now, it’s up to 722-liters behind the third row, and if this is power-folded flat, the number swells to 2,056-liters. Legroom in the third row now has 10 inches more than before. Third row occupants will also find it much easier to get in and out, thanks to cleverly folding second row seats, which are now far more adjustable and comfortable than they used to be.

GM has also pulled out all the stops on the interior of the Tahoe. The design is much more modern and fresh, ditching the classic traditionalism. The clunky column shifter is gone and replaced with push-buttons (these will take some getting used to), and a 10.2-inch touchscreen houses all of the connectivity expected. Not only are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard, there’s no need to plug your phone in to access either one. The instrument cluster is easy to read and has a plethora of on-board information, as well.

All of the safety bits including adaptive cruise control, a myriad of cameras to help with parking, lane keep assist, and collision alert are on board. It’s worth mentioning while some features come standard, that most of the active safety features are part of optional packages. In an age where base model subcompacts from Honda, Toyota and Kia, it’s a bit irritating to see GM’s flagship haulers still charging extra. 4WD trucks with the 5.3-liter can tow 7,700 pounds, and 6.2-liter models can do 7,600. Adding the Max Trailering Package to any of these will add 500 pounds, respectively.

So, since last year’s models were still the gold standard for the full-size SUV segment, the redesigned 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe takes steps to push that envelope even more. The new truck offers more capability than ever before, with more advanced technology and best of all, a significantly more comfortable ride. The traditional naturally aspirated V8s are a better bet on reliability than the boosted V6s in Ford’s Expedition (reviewed here), and if it were our money being spent in this market, it would be given to the General.

See Also:

2020 Chevrolet Suburban Premier RST

2019 Lincoln Navigator Reserve L

2020 Toyota Sequoia TRD Pro

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About Adi Desai


Adi has been living his childhood dream ever since he launched Magazine in 2012. He's also an award-winning pianist, so if you can't find him behind the wheel or tinkering on one of his many toys, he's either binging The Office or playing his baby grand piano.

Current Toys: '07 V8 Vantage 6MT, '97 550 Maranello, '91 Diablo, '91 911 Carrera, '04 S2000, '00 M5, '90 Camry AllTrac, '09 LS 460 AWD, '24 LC 500 Performance


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