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2018 Chevrolet Tahoe Test Drive Review
People are willing to spend tens of thousands of extra dollars on a 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe because they think they need one. The reality, however, is that they simply want one.
Don’t try to rationalize the purchase of a 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe. The less expensive Chevy Traverse is better at hauling people and cargo than a Tahoe, and other full-size SUVs can tow more trailer weight than a Tahoe. That means you’re most likely buying this heavy Chevy for its styling and V8 engine burble. In that case, may I recommend the upgrade to the Tahoe RST with the RST 6.2L Performance Package?
Look and Feel
When Chevrolet last redesigned the Tahoe for the 2015 model year, it wanted its full-size, body-on-frame SUV to look completely different from the Silverado pickup truck on which it was based.
But in the process of giving the Tahoe a clean, tailored appearance, Chevrolet effectively downsized the big sport-ute’s interior.
In fact, the 2015 Tahoe was smaller inside than the much less expensive Chevrolet Traverse, let alone many of its direct competitors.
That hasn’t stopped people from buying the Tahoe, though. It is the best-selling vehicle in its class. With the Tahoe, its long-wheelbase sibling the Suburban, the cousins at GMC known as Yukon and Yukon XL, and an affluent relative named Cadillac Escalade, General Motors utterly dominates full-size SUV sales in America.
Attractive styling is one reason for that. All of ‘em are good looking, inside and out, and show no traces of the pickup trucks with which they share their platforms and powertrains.
My test Tahoe was especially appealing, thanks to its Premier trim and optional RST (Rally Sport Truck) Package. Equipped with giant 22-inch wheels, black Chevy bowtie badges, and Tungsten Metallic paint, it had a look that shouted, "Don't mess with this truck."
Chevy also decked the sample vehicle out with the RST 6.2L Performance Package, which shoves a 420-horsepower, 6.2-liter V8 engine under the hood, along with a 10-speed automatic transmission, a sport-tuned adaptive damping suspension, and other performance upgrades. In addition to this, the company installed a performance front braking system and a sport exhaust system.
In short, my test SUV was equipped to go as fast as a Tahoe can. These upgrades, plus a Sun, Entertainment and Destinations Package, a head-up display, and a handful of other options brought the price tag to $79,524, including a destination charge of $1,245.
Fire up the Tahoe RST’s available 6.2-liter V8, and a delightful rumble emanates from the optional Borla exhaust system’s dual outlets. The sound is undeniably addictive, as is the bigger 6.2-liter’s power and performance. This is a quick SUV when you want it to be, but dipping deep into the throttle comes with a cost.
Thanks in part to the engine’s cylinder deactivation system, which allows it to run in 4-cylinder mode when you’re cruising and coasting, I averaged 17 mpg on my test loop. And that’s exactly what the EPA thinks I should have gotten. But Chevrolet recommends premium fuel for this engine. Considering its 26-gallon tank, this takes a big bite out of the family budget.
There is a 5.3-liter V8 that makes 355 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque, paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission, but the bigger 6.2-liter V8 is paired with a brilliant 10-speed automatic transmission. Often times, transmissions with this many speeds demonstrate irritatingly fast upshifts, delayed downshifts, and occasional confusion about how best to respond to throttle input. Not this one. In fact, it shifts so perfectly, so intuitively, and so transparently, that I didn’t even notice it.
The RST sport-tuned suspension and 45-series tires take a significant toll on ride quality, and despite the adaptive damping suspension included in the RST 6.2L Performance Package, driving this Tahoe on some sections of my test loop was like riding a bucking bronco.
Of course, the benefit to this suspension is remarkably good handling. Something this big and heavy shouldn’t rip around corners like the Tahoe RST can. Steering is heavy, though, and in my opinion, unnecessarily so. It contributes to fatigue.
Braking is stout, as might be expected given the performance braking system upgrade. It was sunny on testing day, but temperatures were in the low 70s, which might be one reason why the RST's brakes withstood abuse so well, executing a panic stop with no trouble at all.
Another upgrade with the RST 6.2L Performance Package is a trailer brake controller, which underscores one of the Tahoe’s primary reasons for existence. As equipped, my test SUV could handle up to 8,100 pounds of trailer, if I decided I needed that capability.
Form and Function
The other primary reason for the Tahoe’s existence is to carry lots of people or lots of cargo.
Up front, my test vehicle had exceptionally comfortable seats. They offered 12-way power adjustment and were heated, ventilated, and wrapped in supple leather. Additionally, the spots where I wanted to rest my arms and elbows were soft.
In the second row, my test vehicle had captain’s chairs. These, on the other hand, were not particularly comfortable. I found them to be mounted a little low, and their bottom cushions felt a little mushy. Space for legs and feet was nothing to brag about, either, and the seats didn’t slide back for extra room.
That brings me to the third-row seat, which is uncomfortable for any adult. It offers no thigh support. It offers nowhere to put your feet. Raising the head restraints is a pain in the you-know-what. This location is useful for children only, and even then, they’re going to complain that they can’t see anything.
Here’s the problem: The Tahoe is built on a Silverado pickup truck platform and uses what is called a solid rear axle suspension design, which forces the floor to be higher than it is in, say, a Ford Expedition or Toyota Sequoia, each of which use independent rear suspension designs.
That higher floor compromises third-row space and comfort, as well as cargo space. In fact, I think the Chevy Traverse is far more comfortable when it comes to the third row of seats, and—by the numbers—it is definitely more commodious. Pop the Tahoe Premier’s power liftgate, and you’ll see what I mean.
Older Tahoes used to have removable third-row seats. But that’s a hassle, and they proved popular with thieves. That’s why newer Tahoes have folding third-row seats. But because of that solid rear axle suspension design, when the seats are folded, the only way to create a level load floor is to raise it.
The result is a disappointing 15.3 cubic feet of space behind the third-row seat, 51.7 cubic feet behind the second-row seats, and 94.7 cubic feet behind the front seats.
The more affordable and efficient Traverse easily bests the Tahoe when it comes to carrying cargo. And that means the only reason to pay so much more money for a Tahoe is for its extra 3,600 pounds of trailer towing capacity. Or simply because you think it looks cool and sounds great with its powerful V8.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
The Chevy Tahoe is not a high-tech vehicle. And I like it like that. With this SUV, you get useful technology that you can actually use, but none of the junk that lots of modern vehicles are loaded with as car companies prepare themselves for the future.
For example, the MyLink infotainment system may be on the way out, as Chevrolet switches to an improved next-generation setup, but it's one of my favorites in terms of features and the user experience, and it's still present here in the Tahoe. It’s got Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It’s got OnStar subscription services with a Wi-Fi hotspot. It’s got knobs and buttons for accessing primary functions. And it’s got colorful graphics, large menu tiles, and smartphone-style screen functionality.
In the Tahoe, MyLink performs a neat trick. You can power the display up to reveal a hidden cubby bin complete with a USB port. That way, you can hide smaller valuables behind the screen when you’re away from the SUV.
My test vehicle also had a comprehensive 8-inch driver information center within the gauge cluster and a head-up display that conveyed all kinds of useful information. My kids enjoyed the rear-seat entertainment system, but when the screen is deployed from the headliner, it completely blocks visibility through the rear-view mirror to the rear of the vehicle. You can also get powered tablet holders for this SUV, a nod to modern entertainment requirements.
I will say that the Tahoe RST deserves better than a 10-speaker Bose surround sound system. Something that looks this good and sounds this aggressive ought to deliver a high-fidelity audio experience.
Lots of Tahoes are purchased by people who really need a minivan, but who just can’t bring themselves to drive one. What this means is that Tahoes are used to transport families. And if you’re like me, making sure you protect your family to the best of your ability is at the top of your to-do list.
For starters, the Tahoe weighs a minimum of 5,356 pounds, with a 4-wheel-drive system adding almost 300 more pounds. That’ll crush any Corolla that gets in the way.
I've already noted how the RST Package helps the Tahoe corner, but you still don’t want to swerve hard in this thing. That’s because the Tahoe gets a mediocre 3-star rating for rollover resistance from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In other NHTSA crash tests, the Tahoe gets 5-star ratings all around. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has not tested a Tahoe.
If you want to avoid an accident in the first place, Chevrolet provides all Tahoe buyers with access to blind-spot monitoring, forward-collision warning, low-speed automatic emergency braking, and lane-keeping assist systems, to name a few. Chevy reserves adaptive cruise control with high-speed automatic emergency braking for Premier trim, but you can’t get it with the bigger 6.2-liter V8.
Teen Driver technology is also available through Chevy’s impressive MyLink infotainment system. It spits out driving report cards after your kid has borrowed the SUV. MyLink’s OnStar subscription services, when active, supply automatic collision notification, SOS emergency calling, and other appealing extra-cost features.
If you’ve got a baby, you’ll love the Rear Seat Reminder system. If you open one of the rear doors before driving the Tahoe, when you arrive at your destination, it will remind you that someone important might be in the back seat.
The funny thing about the Rear Seat Reminder is that, even after a moment of irritation because the Tahoe is sounding an alarm as you prepare to exit the SUV, you'll realize this system is for the best—even if you’re not carrying a child or pet with you. The fuzzies are warm with this one.
The base price for a 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe LS with rear-wheel drive is $47,500 (not including the $1,295 destination charge). Based on CarGurus data as this review is written, the dealer discount in my region is $7,250 for the base trim and $8,500 for a top-trim Premier with 4WD.
That certainly helps to take the edge off the Tahoe’s inflated price tag, but a fully loaded Chevy Traverse High Country with all the option boxes checked is still more affordable than a discounted Tahoe Premier.
And that means there isn’t much value to be found here, unless you’re going to tow a lot of weight.
I get asked about the Tahoe on a regular basis. From family friends to parents at my daughters’ school, I’m asked if a Tahoe or a Suburban is a smart choice.
When I ask why they want one, they tell me it’s to carry their kids, their kids’ friends, and all their stuff.
When I suggest a minivan, they wrinkle their noses.
When I suggest a big crossover, like a Chevy Traverse or a Volkswagen Atlas, they tell me they need more space.
When I explain that the only reason to get a Tahoe or Suburban is for towing lots of weight, they look at me in utter disbelief.
The thing is, this car has a very specific image, and many shoppers want a Chevy Tahoe because of how it looks, how it makes them look, and how the V8 engine sounds. And for many, these things are worth thousands of extra dollars in both purchase price and fuel costs.
Christian Wardlaw has nearly two decades of experience reviewing cars, and has served in editorial leadership roles with Edmunds, Autobytel, and J.D. Power and Associates. Chris prefers to focus on the cars people actually buy rather than the cars about which people dream, and emphasizes the importance of fuel economy and safety as much as how much fun a car is to drive. Chris is married to an automotive journalist, is the father of four daughters, and lives in Southern California.
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2018 Chevrolet Tahoe Top Comparisons
Users ranked 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe against other cars which they drove/owned. Each ranking was based on 9 categories. Here is the summary of top rankings.
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