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2018 Chevrolet Tahoe Review

2018 Chevrolet Tahoe Review
The 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe lineup grows in all the right ways for 2018.

The 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe full-size SUV has us misty-eyed for the 1990s like a PM Dawn song. (Perhaps we should have said Boyz II Men?)


The Chevy Tahoe doesn’t feel like the relic that its spec sheet says it is while possessing more hauling and four-wheeling ability than most crossovers. We’ve rated it 6.6 out of 10 overall. 

This year, the breadth and depth of its lineup grows. At the bottom end, there’s a new base trim level that deletes the otherwise standard third row of seats. Also new to the lineup is the RST Package, which pairs a trick magnetic suspension to an available upsized 6.2-liter V-8 and can be fitted with hefty 16.1-inch Brembo brakes. The rest of the lineup carries over mostly unchanged in LS, LT, and Premier trim levels.

If the Tahoe’s looks aren’t for you, the 2018 GMC Yukon is essentially the same vehicle with its own styling and an optional upmarket Denali trim level. Additionally, the Chevrolet Suburban and GMC Yukon XL take the basic Tahoe/Yukon package and stretch it by about 10 inches for more passenger and cargo room. Cadillac’s Escalade is also a close cousin, albeit one with lots of wood trim, soft leather, and additional sound deadening.

With the exception of the new Tahoe RST, all other Tahoe variants come standard with a 5.3-liter V-8 mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. With 355 horsepower, the 5.3-liter is strong enough, but we’re eager to try out the 2018 Tahoe RST with its optional 420-hp, 6.2-liter V-8 paired to a 10-speed automatic. Rear-wheel drive is standard on the Tahoe lineup, with four-wheel drive an extra-cost option.

Underneath, Tahoes ride on a separate ladder frame that endows them with a truckier feel over bumps, more ground clearance than a typical crossover, and a maximum towing rating of 8,400 pounds when properly equipped. They’re hardly sports cars, although they handle well and their soft suspensions take big bumps in stride. We’ve not yet spent time in the Tahoe RST with its more buttoned-down suspension, beefier brakes, and stronger V-8 option.

Inside, the Tahoe is supremely comfortable up front, a little less so in the second rear, and downright tight in the third row. If you’re only going to carry four or five passengers, the Custom Package available on the Tahoe LS drops the list price by $2,300 and deletes the third row in favor of in-floor storage bins. Sadly, the Custom Package doesn’t lower the Tahoe’s rather high load floor, a consolation to a mandate that the third row in the current version needed to fold completely flat.

All Tahoe trim levels are well-equipped, as you’d expect from a price tag that starts around $45,000. A loaded-up Premier easily tops $60,000, however, which puts it in competition with some impressive luxury brand rivals. Standard on LT and Premier trims, and optional on the Tahoe LS, are some desirable advanced safety features like automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control.

Predictably, the 2018 Tahoe isn’t the thriftiest vehicle on the road, but at up to 19 mpg combined for the rear-wheel drive model with the base 5.3-liter V-8 using regular unleaded, this big bruiser isn’t nearly as thirsty as it was once.

Styling
The 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe’s clean exterior wins it points in our eyes.

The 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe doesn’t try too hard, but its crisp exterior and car-like interior have a timeless appeal that we like. We’ve given the Tahoe a single point above average for its swoopy, but organized dashboard, which merits a 6 out of 10 overall.

In profile, the 2018 Tahoe is simply a two-box SUV with squared off lines. Look only at the shadow it casts and you could be convinced this is 1998, not 2018, yet the difference is in the details. Up front, the Tahoe’s chrome-heavy grille and odd, semi-split headlights give it a more expressive look than out back, where there’s precious little detailing. This year’s new RST package optional on LT and Premier trims—that’s for Rally Sport Truck—cuts down on the chrome in favor of body-color and black-painted trim and subs 22-inch wheels in place of other trims’ 18- and 20-inch units. It’s a conservative tuner look that works for us. Similarly, the new Tahoe LS with the optional Custom Package dials things back with gray 18-inch alloy wheels.

Inside, the Tahoe features bucket seats up front unless you opt for a special-order fleet-spec trim with the standard front bench seat. A wide center console between the seats opens up into a curvy dashboard with controls mostly mounted high up for easy use. Several different interior shades are available to spice things up, but it seems like few dealers order much beyond black cloth (on LS) or leather (standard elsewhere).

Performance
The 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe belies its trucky roots with a smooth ride and strong V-8s.

The 2018 Tahoe boasts a smooth and strong lineup of engines and it tows well, but its handling is ponderous compared to more sure-footed SUVs. In our eyes, that merits 6 out of 10 points. 

Most Tahoes will leave the automaker’s Arlington, Texas, assembly plant (really, where else would they build big SUVs than deep in the heart…) with a 5.3-liter V-8 rated at 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque. It’s powerful, sounds rich, and mates well to the standard 6-speed automatic transmission. This V-8 can run on half of its cylinders during low-load situations, a boon to fuel economy on the highway. We’ve seen indicated mileage in the mid-20 mpg range, which is staggeringly good for a heavy ‘ute that can tow up to 8,600 pounds in the right guise.

Underneath, the Tahoe’s separate ladder frame is similar to that in the Chevrolet Silverado pickup trucks, although the SUV swaps in a coil-sprung solid rear axle for a better ride quality. Models with the standard 17-inch and optional 18-inch alloy wheels ride the best, with good body control and soft, almost plush feel. Opting for the 20- and 22-inch units firms things up a bit without really improving handling. A thick four-spoke steering wheel feels good in the driver’s hands. It delivers up a more precise feel than Tahoes of yore, yet there’s no denying this vehicle’s trucky roots and curb weight that tops 5,700 pounds with a few options.

Off-road, the Tahoe’s nearly 204-inch length and 81-inch width make it a handful, but the optional four-wheel-drive system can be further upgraded with a two-speed transfer case with high- and low-ranges. The optional Z71 package includes skid plates and recovery hooks, plus light-duty all-terrain tires for even more mud-plugging capability.

We’ve towed extensively with the Tahoe and its GMC and Cadillac siblings. These trucks are stable, comfortable cruisers with a useful tow/haul mode that prevents their transmissions from downshifting too quickly. They’re just the ticket for smaller car and boat trailers.

Tahoe RST Package
Newly optional—and not yet tested—is a 6.2-liter V-8 rated at 420 hp. It’s only available with the extra-cost Performance Package once you’ve selected the RST Package on a Tahoe LT or Premier, meaning you’ll need to tick a few boxes before going all-in. The V-8 mates exclusively to a 10-speed automatic, which is the same setup that’s impressed us in the GMC Yukon Denali.
However, the Tahoe RST also includes a Borla exhaust that Chevy says adds up to 10 hp—not to mention a distinct burble from its dual chrome tips. The 6.2 comes paired with GM’s Magnetic Ride Control shocks, a Corvette-spec technology that we’ve found on other vehicles improves ride quality over bumpy terrain while also tightening handling. To reign in that extra power, the Tahoe RST is also exclusively available with upsized, 16.1-inch Brembo front brakes. We’re looking forward to driving a Tahoe RST and will update this space when we’ve done so.

Comfort & Quality
The 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe offers good room and plenty of cargo space.

The Chevrolet Tahoe boasts a suitably upscale feel, comfortable front seats, and excellent cargo-carrying ability, so we’ve rated it with 8 out of 10 points of its comfort and quality. 

While fleet models can be special-ordered with a bench seat up front, nearly all Tahoes are built with a pair of multi-adjustable bucket seats up front with standard full-power operation for the driver. LS models are swathed in fabric, while LT and Premiers have leather seating surfaces. The front thrones are all-day comfortable, especially in LT and Premier trims with their full-power adjustment for both seats.

Row two is a little more compromised, although outboard passengers will find good support and space. The middle seat on models fitted with a three-place, 40/60-split bench is tight but tolerable for short stints. A pair of rear captain’s chairs are optionally available to provide a better pass-through to the third row. For adult access to the deletable third row, you’ll need to either tug a lever (or push a button on higher-spec trims) to fold the second row. More dexterous adults will find the third row easy enough to access and there’s surprisingly good space back there.

On the downside, while the third row folds flat, the load floor is remarkably high off the ground. LS trims ordered with the optional Custom package delete the third row, but the load floor isn’t any lower.

Fold both the second and third rows and you’ll find nearly 95 cubic feet of space. With the second row upright, there’s still an impressive 52 cubes. With all three rows raised, space behind the third row is still a suitcase or stroller-swallowing 15.3 cubic feet.

All models we’ve driven have felt nicely screwed together and even the Tahoe LS’ interior is composed of soft-touch materials and stitched panels covering the dash and doors.

Safety
The 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe offers some advanced safety tech, but we don’t have full crash-test data.

The 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe certainly has mass on its side, although that's not always an advantage. This big SUV weighs upward of 5,600 pounds, which makes it a force to reckon with in a crash.

However, we don’t have full crash-test data, so we can’t assign it a score here. 

All Tahoes come standard with seven airbags, including an innovative central bag that deploys from the inboard bolster on the driver’s seat to prevent the front occupants from making contact with one another. Stability control and anti-lock brakes are standard as well. Optional on the LS and standard on LT and Premier trims is a suite of collision-avoidance tech that includes automatic emergency braking, active lane control, automatic high-beam headlights, and power-adjustable pedals. The system delivers audible alerts and it buzzes the base of the driver’s seat when a warning is necessary.

Adaptive cruise control is exclusively optional on the Tahoe Premier.

The federal government has subjected both rear- and four-wheel drive Tahoes to crash-testing, where they scored four stars overall. Breaking the tests down, we find that the government rates the SUVs five stars for both frontal and side impact, but just three for their resistance to rollovers—hardly a surprise given the high center of gravity inherent to large SUVs.

The IIHS hasn’t yet tested the Tahoe, but we’ll update this space with a score should they decide to crash a few of GM’s finest.

Features
The 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe can be outfitted like a full-on luxury truck, for a price.

The 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe is offered in three trim levels, each with a variety of individual options and packages. We rate the lineup at 8 out of 10, with points above average for a terrific infotainment system and strong standard and optional equipment. 

The Tahoe lineup starts with the LS, but the base trim’s story is a bit more complicated for 2018. A new Custom package lowers the LS’ base price by $2,300 by deleting the third row and swapping in 18-inch instead of 17-inch alloy wheels. It lowers the price of entry to a hair under $45,000 including a mandatory (and hefty) $1,295 destination charge, and it’s worth considering if you’re unlikely to carry more than five passengers.

Otherwise, the LS lineup includes standard dual-zone automatic climate control, an 8.0-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth connectivity, and five USB ports. Also standard on the LS is GM’s OnStar telematics with a 4G LTE antenna that can turn the vehicle into a wi-fi hotspot—albeit for a monthly charge after an initial trial period.

The Tahoe LT adds leather upholstery with heated front seats, Bose audio, a power tailgate, automatic emergency braking, and automatic high-beam headlights, among a few other items. It’s optionally available with a Luxury Package that adds keyless ignition, a power-folding second row seat, a heated steering wheel, and blind-spot monitors. Other options include a moonroof, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, and upsized alloy wheels.

Tahoe Premiers can top $75,000 when they’re fully optioned, but with ventilated seats, navigation, convincing wood trim, and magnetic dampers, they’re convincing luxury SUVs.

Optional on LT and Premiers is the popular, off-road-oriented Z71 Package. It doesn’t quite turn the Tahoe into a rock crawler, but with its all-terrain tires, hill descent control, and skid plates, it does add in some protection and enhanced capability.

New for 2018 is the RST Package for LT and Premier trim levels. The package includes a special appearance group that can be further upgraded with a 6.2-liter V-8, a Borla exhaust, and Brembo front brakes.

Fuel Economy
The 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe’s fuel economy is impressive—for what it is.

The 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe will probably outrun your bladder on a road trip—but that’s due mostly to its 26 gallon fuel tank.

We’ve rated this lineup at a 5 out of 10, with several caveats. 

Most Tahoes leave the factory with a 5.3-liter V-8 that can run on either regular unleaded or, if the right options are ticked, E85. With rear-wheel drive, that setup is good for 16 mpg city, 23 highway, 19 combined. Pop for four-wheel drive and those figures drop to 16/22/18 mpg. We’ve actually seen a bit higher than that on the highway thanks to the 5.3-liter’s impressive ability to imperceptibly run on four cylinders while cruising. Only a small in-dash display indicates that you’re driving a 2.65-liter V-4.

Not surprisingly, the Tahoe’s newly optional 6.2-liter V-8 guzzles more—and it requires more expensive premium-grade fuel. With rear-wheel drive, the Tahoe RST is rated at 14/23/17 mpg. Opt for four-wheel drive and it comes in at just 14/22/17 mpg.

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