Test Drive

2018 Chevrolet Tahoe Test Drive Review: The False Negative

Complete with random acts of small-blockery.

On the spectrum of products you won’t find endorsed by insipid Instagram people living their best chic metropolitan lives is a small-block, body-on-frame, hot-rod Chevrolet painted in Police-spec white. Better yet, go ahead and pull up a list of “Best City Cars” and you’ll find suggestions for little thimbles like the BMW i3, some variation of a Mini, maybe even a shopping cart sized Smart ForTwo. Every now and then someone boldly proclaims a high strung hatchback like the AMG GLA 45 or Audi RS3 as the new king of the concrete jungle.

It’s a common trope spouted by all your favorite automotive websites: “In big cities, it’s better to have something small so you can be mobile, and nimble” writes a man who lives 45 minutes outside the city but sometimes ventures in for tacos and gluten-free bread. Balls, I’m here to tell you that provided you can handle it, bigger is always better. This is the 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe RST, a great white shark of a commuter truck capable of consuming just about anything on the street in a single gulp of gasoline. In GM-speak RST stands for Rally Sport Truck and it’s an option available on top-shelf trimmed Tahoes and Suburbans.

Baseline RST trucks are given a street performance appearance package offering blacked out badging, a darkened grille, black mirror caps and roof rails, along with a set of unique 22-inch wheels. The RST pack will run you some $2,600 and retains the Tahoe’s baseline performance metrics of 355 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque extracted from the standard 5.3-liter V8 paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. However, on Premier-level trucks ticking the RST box it also uncorks the ability to opt for the Performance Pack which adds GM’s uppity 6.2-liter small-block V8 that kicks out 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of heavy metal.

Along with the torquey brute under the hood, there’s also the company’s new 10L80 10-speed automatic, a shorter 3.23:1 axle ratio, and new performance calibrated Magnetic Ride Control dampers. You can finish the beefcake look with an optional set of flaming red Brembo brakes, and a Borla performance exhaust which are both actually installed as dealer extras instead of coming equipped as factory fresh kit. Unfortunately, my Tahoe had none of that, arriving with the RST appearance package and an anonymous Summit White paint job, leaving me to make due with the smaller of the two engines. If you didn’t know, the all-aluminum 5.3-liter V8 is also a small-block.

Consider that the 5.3-liter EcoTec V8 is less than 20 percent down on power to the bigger 6.2 and has already proven itself to be more than capable of motivating the Tahoe and its siblings. The torque curve from the 5.3 actually apes its bigger brother, and delivers a whopping 80-percent of its available torque from below 2,000 rpm, meaning it leaps out of the hole with the slightest nudge of your toe. The two engines actually feel the same in terms of driveability, with the larger engine simply delivering terminal speed with more immediacy. The Tahoe is based on GM’s atavistic K2XX platform which it shares with brothers Silverado and Suburban, along with corporate cousins from both GMC and Cadillac.

The Tahoe swaps out the Silverado’s more agricultural rear leaf spring set up in favor of a smoother, coil-sprung setup in each corner. Thankfully, Premier trim trucks come standard with MagneRide anyways, so although we were missing the performance tweaked dampers underneath us, the Tahoe had still been gifted with a perverse level of athleticism for a vehicle of its size. Even with just the comfort-tuned version of MagneRide installed the Tahoe’s elephantine DNA is effectively neutralized. Improvements to the truck’s ability to isolate the body from major impacts have helped calm the quivering ripples that rip through big body-on-frame SUVs when they encounter uneven or rough road surfaces when traveling at a higher rate of speed.

Body motions are also kept in check by rapid adjustments to compression and rebound as the magnetorheological fluid tenses and releases, offering a more composed ride. When hustling it feels more balanced and far less tippy than normal, although you can still feel the constant presence of the high center-of-gravity threatening to kill you should you even think about pushing the six-thousand-pound monster anywhere near “the edge”. The back axle still gets choppy when dealing with broken pavement mid-corner, and the rear end still squats when you smash the throttle at any speed, but that’s just something inherent to a truck of this type. Regardless of its dynamics, on the open road, people literally leap out of your way.

A reaction that's either a result of its size, or the Police-spec white scared them into thinking we were on official business. In town, the Tahoe swallows road imperfections like curbs and speed bumps as if they’re pieces of candy, almost floating along on a wave of torque indifferent to the small hatchbacks chirping their horns in displeasure at your bigness. Despite the size, it’s surprisingly compliant in tight spaces; so long as you can handle the dimensions it’s happy to bash through graffitied downtown alleyways, aided by its relatively tight turning radius,army of external sensors, and easy steering feel. The Tahoe’s cabin is comfortable, expansive, and well laid out.

The tester featured black leather wrapped seats, along with leather on the heated steering wheel, plus heated and cooled 12-way power adjustable front seats, and heated second-row captain’s chairs. Being a Premier trim truck meant mine came standard with a 10-speaker Bose audio system, and Chevrolet’s very good 8.0-inch MyLink touchscreen infotainment which brings navigation, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and 4G LTE connectivity with Wi-Fi. At this level, the Tahoe offers a variety of high-tech safety and assist features like forward-collision alert, lane-keeping assist, lane-change with blind-zone alert, rear-traffic alert, and automated emergency braking.

Thanks to noise canceling technology, the Tahoe is also absurdly quiet at cruising speeds, adaptive cruise control is an available option but it was not equipped. Even without adaptive cruise and the optional performance upgrades, this Tahoe Premier RST still rung in at a steep $69,125 after destination charges. Because of its heavy cost of entry, deplorable fuel bill, and gargantuan size, the Tahoe obviously isn’t going to be for everybody. Especially if you have your heart set on something like a Mercedes for the sake of social currency. But you’ve read this far, and if you are reading this then it’s probably for you.

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Chevrolet Tahoe
Starting MSRP
$48,510
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