While the crossover craze is in full effect across the automotive industry, large SUVs aren’t going anywhere either. They’re still selling. Fuel economy be damned, the full-size SUV market, like the full-size pickup truck segment, is dominated by big vehicles, with tons of space and lots of functionality.
Enter my tester for the week – the 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe. The Tahoe is one of the dominant domestic names within this segment. It’s common for recreational vehicle owners to own an SUV like the Tahoe. Many opt for this over a truck as it affords them more of a family vehicle than a pickup does. And certainly, there’s plenty of merit for these big SUVs. For 2018 the Tahoe has some nice improvements, too.
There’s a new 6.2-liter V8 engine and an outstanding 10-speed transmission, while there’s also a smaller 5.3-liter V8 engine with a six-speed transmission. My tester had this new powertrain; it’s much improved over the smaller one that only makes 355 horsepower. For a vehicle that weights in excess of 5,600 pounds, the Tahoe needs as much power as possible and this bigger, better engine provides that to the tune of 420 hp.
The Tahoe boasts a smooth ride thanks to Magnetic Ride Control which adjusts the shocks based upon road conditions. But, like all SUVs, the Tahoe drives like a truck, not a car. So, handling is good, but it’s certainly not agile. Nor is it great in small spaces and parking garages. Two-wheel drive is standard, but come on – you bought the Tahoe for a reason, so get the four-wheel drive as it’s fully capable for towing and weekend projects.
The Tahoe’s size is both its best asset and biggest detraction. The size means it can handle big loads, with a maximum towing capacity of 8,400 pounds. And the maximum cargo room is outstanding, too, with 94.7 cubic feet with all seats folded. Although, behind the third row, there’s only 15.3 cubic feet of cargo area. In fact, the entire third row is on the small side, so only smaller passengers should be asked to sit back there.
My big question all along for most of these of big SUVs is about the small amount of third-row area. To me, a minivan still trumps these when it comes to actual passenger area, but a minivan can’t pull a boat or RV.
The Tahoe’s interior is solid and nice. Similar to how pickup trucks have gotten to the point of being luxurious, so too have big SUVs, and the Tahoe is no exception.
The interior has soft touch points and comfortable leather seats.
The Tahoe is an eight-passenger vehicle, but again, there are restrictions to how comfortable some of those eight might be. The front seats are heated and cooled, and the leather-wrapped steering wheel is heated, which really knocks the chill off in the mornings.
The Tahoe has plenty of technology including an 8-inch touchscreen that uses Chevy’s MyLink system. This is one of my favorite infotainment systems as it’s intuitive and integrates easily with smartphones through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There’s a 4G LTE WIFI hotspot (by subscription) and in-app customized apps.
The Tahoe has all the technology a family could want. My tester had a rear-seat entertainment system which made this the ultimate family vehicle (take that, minivans).
The Tahoe is loaded with safety features like forward collision alert, low-speed forward collision braking, lane departure warning and blind-spot monitoring. All these give you peace of mind that this big vehicle will keep your family safe on the road. The Brembo brake package offers further peace of mind.
Chevy keeps things simple by offering only three trims, but with a slew of options and packages to help customize Tahoe. The 2WD LS trim starts at $47,500, while the LT trim has a starting price of $52,600. Meanwhile my tester, the top-of-the-line Premier trim, comes with a hefty price tag. My tester had starting price of $65,130. With options and packages added, the final MSRP was a staggering $78,450.
This is ultimately the big issue with these behemoth SUVs: They come with equally big price tags.
My Tahoe had an EPA rating of 14 mpg/city and 22 mpg/highway. In a week’s worth of normal driving, I averaged about 17 mpg. This is on par for the segment, and does outpace some pickup trucks which can’t get over 15 mpg.
Whether they are weekend warriors, or family haulers, big SUVs have mass appeal. Big price tags aside, they offer plenty to families who need the space and capability. Thankfully, Chevrolet continues to up Tahoe’s game by making improvements and keep it viable.