More room, screens, and a diesel enhance the fifth-generation Tahoe
If the current Chevrolet Tahoe, offered in three trim levels, is a bestseller in the full-size SUV segment, then a new generation that is bigger, better-equipped, more dynamic to drive, and comes in six distinct flavors should be a slam dunk.
General Motors has lifted the veil from the 2021 Chevy Tahoe at an event in Detroit, in the stadium that is home to the Detroit Red Wings NHL hockey team and the Detroit Pistons NBA basketball team. This is the fifth generation of the Tahoe, a bestseller that accounts for one in four sales in the full-size SUV segment.
And for this generation, Chevy doubles the number of trim levels. The LS, LT, and Premier models continue. But RST, which was a special edition in the past, becomes its own trim level. And Z71, which used to be an off-road package, also becomes a full-fledged trim level. High Country, awash in brown leather, becomes the new top-end trim level.
Pricing has not been released but we expect the base model to remain competitive while the expanded lineup provides greater bandwidth to fetch higher prices at the top of the lineup.
Tahoe is the big SUV for those who tend to carry four people regularly, instead of six, and use all the rear space for cargo. While it has grown for the 2021 model year, the Tahoe is still a tight vehicle compared with the new 2021 Chevrolet Suburban, which is 15 inches longer.
To break up what is undeniably a large vehicle, and keep it from looking too slabby, there is a strong character line down the side, trim designed to look like the greenhouse is larger than it is, and a lot of different faces with a grille for each trim level. GM says it has no plans to go retro with its big SUVs, which means you can rule out the possibility of a two-door variant or front bench seat.
The wheelbase of the Tahoe grew by 4.9 inches to 120.9 inches and overall length increased 6.7 inches to 210.7 inches. Like the 2021 Suburban, the Tahoe replaces the old rear live axle with a new multilink independent rear suspension. The upshot: 40 percent more third-row legroom and a whopping 66 percent more cargo room behind the third row, giving it best-in-class dimensions, Chevy says. By comparison, the 2020 Ford Expedition has 25 percent less cargo room behind the third row. The longer wheelbase also allowed for a larger rear door to make it easier to get in and out.
Third-row passengers also get an additional 10 inches of legroom and the second-row seat now slides 5.6 inches to make it easier to crawl your way to the back row.
Top trims have heated seats even in the second row, climate controls and USB and power outlets to go with the big screens that can be ordered for these rear passengers. Up front the screens are also bigger and more numerous, including a 15-inch head-up display. Materials are an improvement over the Chevy pickups.
The standard base engine on the LS, LT, Z71, RST, and Premier models is the 355-hp, 383-lb-ft 5.3-liter V-8. The 420-hp, 460-lb-ft 6.2-liter V-8 is standard on High Country. Both carryover engines have replaced the active fuel management system of the outgoing model with Dynamic Fuel Management technology that can shut down all cylinders and use more than 12 modes of cylinder deactivation. The engines also have automatic start-stop.
New under the hood is an optional Duramax 3.0-liter I-6 turbodiesel that is available on all but the Z71. It generates 277 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque. It becomes a club of one: GM is alone in offering a diesel in a full-size SUV in the U.S. EPA fuel efficiency figures are not out yet, but this is the engine that will post the most attractive figures and could achieve some of the segment’s highest fuel economy ratings.
The architecture is flexible enough to accommodate electric motors and batteries in the future if GM wants a hybrid powertrain. But that would not be in the first model year. GM is expected to add pure electric SUVs as well as pickups in the future, but they would be on a totally different, dedicated architecture for battery electric vehicles. The bespoke electric platform will yield an electric pickup in the fall of 2021, said CEO Mary Barra. Our expectation is an electric SUV comes later than that.
A Max Trailering package is designed to make it easier to see the hitch and then improve the trailering experience while monitoring tire pressure and temperatures and adding a blind zone alert. A label on the driver’s side door jamb will help calculate the vehicle’s exact capacities.
The SUVs have 30 safety and convenience technologies, including standard automatic emergency braking, automatic headlight control, and more. The nine different camera views make it possible to add rear pedestrian alert, forward collision alert, rear park assist, and hitch guidance for trailering.