Chevrolet Tahoe — Bigger and better

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

It's been more than a quarter century since the Chevrolet Tahoe entered the marketplace, a full-sized truck-based rear-drive sport utility vehicle that became an instant hit along with its GMC Yukon sibling. The Tahoe is still very much alive in our new age of car-based crossovers — and the all-new 2021 Tahoe should insure that it will continue as one of the best-selling SUVs on the U.S market.

The Tahoe has been completely remade with fresh styling, increased exterior and interior dimensions, more third-row passenger space due in part to the a new independent rear suspension, upgraded infotainment and safety technology, and a new diesel engine option.

The Tahoe carries an attractive version of the new-look Chevrolet front end with pinched-in standard LED headlights with a bar running through the middle of the grille carrying the Bowtie emblem. The Tahoe has crisp lines with a traditional big SUV boxy, upright stance. With the exception of the grille treatment — which has grown on us, but has been the subject of some criticism — the new look should appeal to the Chevy faithful. Inside, the overall dashboard design is modern and more premium-looking than before. And gone is the standard column shifter, replaced by pull (not push) buttons.

Buyers can select from one of six trim levels: LS, LT, RST, Z71, Premier, and High Country. There are three engines options, nine exterior color options, and the choice of 18-, 20-, and 22-inch wheels.

We found the Tahoe a comfortable and welcoming with just-right performance from the standard 3.5-liter V-8. The interior is pleasingly quiet with excellent seats that come with enough adjustments to get a good driving position. The Tahoe demonstrated good parking-lot and city-street maneuverability for a big rig. If you simply like to drive big this might be just the ticket. If you need room for several passengers or you haul a lot of stuff or you tow large weekend toys this definitely is the ticket with up to an 8,400-pound towing capacity.

An already big truck has grown in size for 2021 with overall length up 6.7 inches to 210.7 with a 4.9-inch longer wheelbase. This translates into a whopping 26 more cubic feet of cargo capacity with seats folded and 10 more cubic feet of storage behind the third row measured at 25.5 cubic feet.  But if you really want big, then look to the Tahoe's big brother, the Suburban, which has also grown and now stretches out 225.7 inches with 144.7 cubic feet of cargo-carrying ability.

The standard engine mated to a 10-speed automatic is energetic. It will move the Tahoe from 0-to-60 in a tick or two over 7 seconds with the ability to tow big things. Same as last year, the 5.3-liter V-8 is rated at 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque. If more power is needed, the Tahoe can be outfitted with a 6.2-liter V-8 making 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. New to the lineup is a 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder diesel engine with 277 hp and 460 pound-feet of torque.

The 5.3 is an outstanding engine that has stood the test of time. But don't look for fuel efficiency with an EPA rating of 16 mpg city, 20 highway and 18 combined on regular gas in both rear-wheel and all-wheel drive. For the best mileage, the diesel engine is rated at 21, 28 and 24 in rear-wheel drive and 20, 26 and 22 in all-wheel drive. The 6.2-liter is by far the most expensive to operate requiring premium gas with a 15/20/17 rating in two-wheel drive.

The Tahoe is spacious inside with adult-like room for all three rows. The previously cramped third row adds 10 more inches of legroom, and the second-row seats can now slide fore and aft providing more seating flexibility. Chevrolet has done a commendably job with easy-to-use switchgear. Every model comes with a 10.2-inch touchscreen that includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a Wi-Fi hotspot. A good-sounding nine-speaker Bose audio system with SiriusXM capability and leather upholstery are standard in all but the base LS trim.

Chevrolet has safety covered with standard forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking, and available features such as blindspot monitoring with cross-traffic alert and lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist.

The Tahoe has become an expensive vehicle with a starting price of $50,295 for the base LS. Even on the LS, options are plentiful and can run up the bottom line. The best bet for a good combination of features for the least price are the LT or the RST with base prices of $55,095 and $59,690 respectively including destination charge. The diesel engine is available for $995 in both trim levels. The Tahoe tops out with High Country at $70,690 including destination charge with the 6.2-liter V-8.

Our RST test vehicle with all-wheel drive and several options including the $2,820 luxury package and $2,490 rear media and navigation package carried a bottom line of $68,135.  

2021 Chevrolet Tahoe


Base price: $50,295; as driven, $68,135
Engine: 5.3-liter V-8
Horsepower: 355 @ 5,600 rpm
Torque: 383 pound-feet @ 4,100 rpm
Drive: all-wheel
Seating: 2/2/3
Wheelbase: 120.9 inches
Length: 210.7 inches
Curb weight: 5,661 pounds
Turning circle: 39.7 feet
Towing capacity: 8,400 pounds
Luggage capacity: 25.5 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 122.9 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 28 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 16 city, 20 highway, 18 combined
Also consider: Ford Expedition, Nissan Armada, GMC Yukon

The Good
• Roomy interior
• Adult-friendly third row
• Quiet interior
• Easy-to-use touchscreen

The Bad
• High price of admission

The Ugly
• Hope gas prices remain low