Not the high-performance Tahoe we were hoping for, but nice to look at.
The Chevrolet Tahoe, as a whole, has been one of the brand's most successful vehicles. The big three-row is a sales machine, and a very common option for fleet services like police, fire, and more. And the 2021 Tahoe feels like much of the same good thing; it's big and stylish, relatively nice to drive, and offers a ton of interior space. But the RST model specifically, the version that we tested, sort of misses the mark in our opinion.
While Chevrolet never truly positioned the RST as the Tahoe's go-fast variant – it's more of a lukewarm mid-range option, in line with the company's other RS models – the previous version at least offered the more powerful 6.2-liter V8 to go with its aggressive looks. The 2021 Tahoe RST, meanwhile, loses the optional engine and opts solely for visuals this time around. And to its credit, this version does look cool with blacked-out elements in the grille and on the trunk lid, plus a handful of 22-inch wheel options. But it's still a relatively pricey proposition for something that doesn’t feel as special.
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The 2021 Chevy Tahoe looks much bolder than its predecessor ever did. The front end features slim LED headlights with aggressively kinked LED accents that wrap seamlessly around a large center grille. On the RST model we tested that grille gets a murdered-out treatment, swapping faux chrome found on other trims with gloss black everything. The RST model also offers about a half-dozen 22-inch wheel options specific to this trim and carries the blacked-out features to the rear with gloss black accents and smoked light fixtures. All told, the Tahoe RST looks very tough.
Unfortunately, there's not as much to celebrate inside the Tahoe’s cabin. The layout itself is clean, with a tablet-style 10.2-inch touchscreen adorning the center dash, and various buttons and dials displayed neatly below that. But the RST model limits you to jet black leather with barely noticeable red stitching on the steering wheel, dash, and elsewhere. It’s fine, but relatively basic. And we can’t shake the button style shifter to the left of the center screen – it looks and feels awkward.
Placing your rump on the leather seats is a very pleasant experience. The black cowhide doesn't look all that interesting, but it is very high-quality stuff. The seats are supple and supportive, with power adjustability and a memory function courtesy of the $2,820 Luxury package. The Luxury package also adds a power-adjustable and heated steering wheel, second-row heated seats, heated power side mirrors, and a bit more.
Of course, the Tahoe has a ton of interior space given its size. The 42.3 inches of front headroom and 44.5 inches of front legroom are some of the largest figures in the class. By comparison, the Tahoe bests alternatives like the Ford Expedition (42.0 / 43.9 inches) and Nissan Armada (40.9 / 41.9 inches) by a good bit. The 44.5 inches of legroom in the second row are also class-leading, as are the third row's 34.9 inches. What's more, the third row is relatively easy to access thanks to the quick-folding captain's chairs.
One thing we wish the RST model had, though, is the optional Magnetic Ride Control that Chevy offers on other versions of the Tahoe. We're not saying that the RST rides harsh; the new independent rear suspension certainly helps the quality, which is notably improved over its predecessor's live rear axle. But based on previous tests, we know that Magnetic Ride Control is the superior setup – too bad you can't get it as an option here.
Apart from the standard 10.2-inch screen, which is larger than what you get in some other Chevy models, the Tahoe's tech should look familiar. The very same operating system from trucks like the Silverado and SUVs like the Blazer carries over, and that’s a good thing. The home screen is well laid out with crisp, clear and color-coordinated icons. There's even baked-in navigation, and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as part of the $2,490 Rear Media and Navigation package. All in all, it's a clean, easy operating system to use.
But it's the second row where you want to be if you tech is your forte. That same Rear Media and Navigation package we mentioned adds two 12.6-inch touchscreens to the front seatbacks so that second-row passengers have access to things like USB video and audio, HDMI inputs (think: video games), and the ability to input navigation functions – which shows up on the front touchscreen for the driver to ultimately approve or deny.
The Tahoe RST comes with a standard 5.3-liter V8 good for 355 horsepower and 338 pound-feet. This is a fine engine with lots of low-end torque and more than enough power to move the large SUV with ease, paired to a seamless 10-speed automatic transmission. But this engine, while powerful and responsive, doesn’t feel all that special. This is essentially the same 5.3-liter V8 from year’s past and still bears a harsh truck-like character. We still long for last generation's 6.2-liter engine, or even the turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six diesel from the Silverado (which we'd actually recommend over the base 5.3-liter).
As the “sportiest” Tahoe of the group, the RST model does get a mechanical limited-slip differential alongside this generation's new independent rear suspension setup and traditional coil-over shocks. The steering is responsive and well-weighted, which means you can fling the three-row into a corner with some confidence. And body roll is there, as you'd expect, but it's way less offensive than Tahoe's of years past; the Tahoe RST feels pretty planted for a truck-based three-row.
Notably, the Chevrolet Tahoe is on our list of the Best SUVs for Towing.
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Basic safety equipment like a front-collision warning with automatic emergency braking below 50 miles per hour and a following distance indicator that shows you the gap time in seconds between your vehicle and the car you’re following. But if you want more active equipment, it'll cost you $2,820 as part of the Luxury package, which adds blind-spot monitoring, front and rear parking assist, rear cross-traffic alert, and lane-keep assist with a lane-departure warning. And all of those systems work well, as intended.
But it's the parking features – like front and rear assist, rear cross-traffic alert, and most importantly, a 360-degree high-definition camera – that we appreciate having on the Tahoe most. Parking this large SUV is much easier with those features.
At 16 miles per gallon city, 20 highway, and 18 combined, the Chevy Tahoe RST achieves above-average fuel economy for the class. The Tahoe bests the Nissan Armada (15 combined) and the Toyota Sequoia (14 combined), with only the Ford Expedition being the more efficient option (19 combined).
But if it’s fuel economy you’re truly after, opt for the Tahoe Diesel. With the 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline-six equipped, the Tahoe achieves 20 mpg city, 26 highway, and an impressive 22 combined.
The Chevy Tahoe RST is essentially a gussied up LT, and with rear-wheel drive it starts at $57,100 (or $3,300 more than a base LT). Adding four-wheel drive, like on our tester, adds $3,000 to the asking price, bringing the cost of our Tahoe RST to $60,100. But our car features $7,090 worth of options, totaling $68,485 after destination and handling fees.
The two most expensive options include the $2,280 Luxury package and the $2,490 Rear Media and Navigation package. Other less-expensive options include the Max Trailering package ($565), the Cherry Red paint job ($495), the captain’s chairs with the quick-folding power release function ($370), and the power sliding center console with a center drawer ($350).
There aren’t many three rows that compete directly with the Tahoe RST, but we’d consider the Ford Expedition, Nissan Armada, and Toyota Sequoia its nearest competitors. And really only the Sequoia has a spicier TRD Sport option. By comparison, the base Expedition starts at $49,995, the Armada now starts at $48,500 for 2021, and the Sequoia costs $50,100 – or $52,815 for the TRD Sport model.
Tahoe Competitor Reviews:
Gallery: 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe RST: Review
2021 Chevrolet Tahoe RST