Chevrolet Tahoe RST — Roomy, comfortable, capable

Photos by Dan Scanlan

By Dan Scanlan

(February 5, 2023) It’s a ruby red chunk of a truck, a near-luxury 3-row SUV — real SUV, not crossover — that has three rows of seats and can tow up to 8,100 pounds of trailer. Yet it’s as quiet as can be on a long trip to dinner with five on board. Borrowing the Silverado’s bold face for 2021 saw a respectable 106,000 sold, over the last-generation 2020’s 88,000 and close to its almost record-breaking halcyon days in 2018 and 2019. And on a rainy weekend’s travel between two states and three different events, it did its job as a truck, bus and commuter.

Born in 1992 as a full size pickup truck-based people hauler, the Tahoe is just two years into its sixth generation with a distinctive look that unfortunately appears to share its roof and doors with its GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade sister ships — oh the shame, the shame. That said, it’s a nice shape to share, so let’s start with that face.

The RST is the raciest version of the Tahoe, so it gets the gloss black treatment some folks equate to sporty — here, it looks good. Slim LED headlights ride above curved LED DRLs that end in lower side aero intakes that move air over front wheels to help wind flow. A black bar splits slim upper and big lower grilles, ending with a bumper that edges into those side blades. A lower slit intake gets a gloss black trim strip. It’s a rounded-yet-blunt face that looks aggressive yet smooth, and works well under the broad sternum-high expanse of hood.

 The Tahoe is a tall truck, and the running boards and interior A-pillar grab handles helped everyone get into its dark gray cabin – except the driver, who only has the flip-down handle overhead. I used the hefty leather-wrapped steering wheel to ascend into a nicely firm and very comfortable bucket seat mounted just high enough for a commanding view while driving. Both front seats get heat, while the driver has power adjustments and twin memory presets.

It's all dark gray with red stitching on seat bolsters, padded dashboard and center console framing, which helps the familiar GM plastic and controls nearby, all nicely assembled. Good news — Tahoe and Yukon don’t share interior design. But they share a very interesting transmission control. It’s a set of buttons on the dash center to the left of the new 10.2-inch center touchscreen.

You don’t push to select Drive, Reverse or Neutral — you hook a finger and pull up. Odd it seems at first, but you will never accidentally tap them. Odder still is the Low gear push button at the bottom, with manual up- and downshift buttons athwart it. That’s initially awkward, the buttons seeming small for a gloved hand, but I got used to them soon.

That steering wheel gets neat red stitching plus buttons for phone, voice command, cruise and gauge display in front — thumbwheels for speed set and map menus - and audio in back. They are the same as the Yukon, and look a bit GM parts bin. You have a configurable digital gauge package with four designs, from classic 140-mph speedometer and 6,000-rpm tach with information inside and in between, to progressively simpler ones that end with just a big digital speedo dead center in the Clean design.

The new, wider 10.2-inch center touchscreen offers navigation, phone, audio, climate control, WiFi and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, all arrangeable on swipe-able screens like a smartphone. The 9-speaker Bose system was OK.

There’s a very usable 25.5cubic feet of space behind the last row, with a very shallow storage slot under the carpeted floor. Second- and third-row seatbacks can be dropped for up to a truly flat 122.9 cubic foot space. The rear power hatch rises hands-free, although it is a fairly high load floor.

 There’s a familiar and much-loved engine under that tall hood — a cast aluminum 6.2-liter V-8 with 420-horsepower, 460 pound-feet of torque, 10-speed transmission and rear-wheel or four-wheel-drive varieties. The auto-stop/start was pretty seamless at stops, and we averaged an indicated 14 mpg in mostly highway driving.

Our Tahoe launches hard off the line in Normal mode in rear-wheel-drive, getting to 60 mph in a quick 6.1 seconds. Sport quickens throttle response and shifts as it firms up steering and suspension, quick downshifts to access rpm for passing power as needed. It was faster to launch, hitting 60 mph in 5.9 seconds with a subdued V-8 snarl from those four big exhaust tips.

Power steering was direct in Sport, a responsive feel with a tight turning radius for such a large truck. The disc brakes were solid, with a good bite high on the pedal, nice stopping power with some nose dive, and a bit of ABS chatter at full shove. We had no brake fade after repeated hard use. The Tahoe was fairly quiet at highway speed, some wind noise around the side mirrors.

On a deeply-rutted sand trail with some nice bumps, we set Tahoe’s Off-road drive mode and 4-wheel-drive high. The ride was comfortable but not springy, easily absorbing bumps at higher speeds without any head toss. Tahoe structure was stiff and squeak-free, 4-wheel-drive easily plowing through deep ruts. Off-road mode seriously backed off throttle input so you don’t spin wheels and dig in — this Tahoe can work in the dirt, its four-wheel-drive with a limited slip differential.

For safety, automatic emergency and front pedestrian braking, forward collision alert, auto-high beam and a gently insistent lane-keep assist that goes almost hands-free guiding the Tahoe inside a lane, with lane departure warning.

A base rear-wheel-drive Tahoe LS with the 5.3-liter V-8 starts at $58,995. Our Tahoe RST 4-wheel-drive started at $64,000 with lots we had standards except: $3,820 Sport Performance option with Magnetic Ride, 6.2-liter V-8 and that quad exhaust; $1,995 rear video system; $1,500 moonroof; and $495 Radiant Red paint, for a final $73,605.

If you need a real SUV that doesn’t gobble up a driveway but handles a family, the 2023 Tahoe is an excellent option.