A big boi learns new tricks
Even though GM’s current crop of full-size SUVs was just overhauled for 2021, the bow-tie brand is working to make the Tahoe even better. Changes for the new year include a larger 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, which is now included on most trims. Beyond that, front and rear parking sensors as well as lane-keeping assist are standard across the range, off-road-ready Z71 models can now be had with an electronic limited-slip rear differential, a few new paint colors are offered, and availability of the top-dog 6.2-liter V8 has been extended. You can now get this lovely engine in RST, Z71 and Premier trims.
What hasn’t changed, however, is the size. Even though the Tahoe is smaller than its sibling, the Chevy Suburban, it’s still absolutely gigantic. The hood stands chest-high, you hop up into the driver’s seat like climbing onto a horse, and the grille is practically in a different zip code than the rear bumper. This SUV isn’t any larger than its primary rivals like the Ford Expedition, Nissan Armada and Toyota Sequoia, but for whatever reason it feels significantly bigger.
Motorcoach comfort, tractor-trailer capaciousness
Matching its outsized exterior, the Tahoe’s cabin is vast, with huge room in all three rows and correspondingly great passenger comfort. The sliding and reclining second-row seats offer plenty of support for long trips and the optional dual 12.6-inch entertainment screens ($1,995) will keep kiddies occupied for hours. Even the Tahoe’s third row is suitable for adults, providing ample room in all directions, a major benefit of this SUV’s neatly packaged independent rear suspension.
That upgrade over the previous generation’s live axle also helps increase luggage space. The Tahoe’s cargo hold is cavernous, clocking in at 25.5 cubic feet behind the third row. Drop the split, power-folding backrest and this SUV serves up 72.6 cubes’ worth of room. Fold the second-row chairs, which you can also do at the push of a button in the cargo area, and you’re treated to 122.9 cubic feet of space, more cargo-hauling room than a Ford Expedition Max, which competes with the larger Suburban. Yeah, the Tahoe is an excellent pack mule.
Top-notch tech and trimmings
This beast of burden is also surprisingly well trimmed, even if its interior isn’t quite as nice as what you get in a Jeep Grand Cherokee. In Premier form, one step down from the top-shelf High Country model, there’s lots of attractive soft plastic in the usual places and contrast-color stitching livens things up. Slivers of brushed-metal brightwork keep things interesting, and the cavernous center console is a great dumping ground for life’s sundries. I also appreciate the simple climate controls. Consisting of physical dials and switches, they couldn’t be easier to use, even if they’re mounted just a skosh lower on the center stack than I’d like. The Tahoe’s electronic shifter, on the other hand, is perched high on the dashboard, right in the driver’s line of sight. This toggle switch-style gear selector takes about five minutes to get accustomed to, but after that it’s immediately intuitive.
Other elements of this SUV’s in-cabin tech are also no-nonsense. The 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster is easy to read and its menus and settings are dead simple to cycle through. The 10.2-inch central touchscreen is equally impressive, home to the up-level Chevrolet Infotainment 3 multimedia system, which is fast and functional. It also supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, both of which can connect wirelessly. But beyond all that, this infotainment system has a range of Google services including the Play store as well as apps for podcasts, news and maps. Navigating with that last item is tremendous. The app is snappy and easy to use, plus it feels super familiar, like something on your smartphone, so the learning curve is minimal.
When it comes to driver aids, the Tahoe falls short. Automatic high beams and front and rear parking sensors are standard across the range, but amenities like blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are not. Stranger still, if you want adaptive cruise control, it’s bundled in a package, even on the range-topping High Country model.
V8 performance and consumption
Three engines are available in the Tahoe, and this high-end example features the most potent one. A rumbling 6.2-liter V8 delivers 420 horsepower, 460 pound-feet of torque and all the smoothness of buttercream frosting. Silky and sonorous, this V8 is a visceral delight and has no trouble motivating such a husky SUV, one that happens to weigh a pavement-pounding 5,845 pounds.
An always-on-point 10-speed automatic transmission makes the most of that prodigious power, shifting quickly and imperceptibly. Despite having so many ratios, this gearbox never feels busy as it works to deliver startling performance. The Tahoe is so confident and serene I often find myself going significantly faster than the posted limit without even realizing it. This truck scoots, yet it’s so refined you don’t even realize it.
The Tahoe’s impressive verve should make towing a breeze. With the 6.2-liter engine, this four-wheel-drive example is rated to haul up to 8,100 pounds, though when properly equipped, the vehicle maxes out at 8,400. That’s just 100 pounds less than a Nissan Armada can manage, though the Ford Expedition can tow up to 9,300 pounds, almost half a ton more.
Potent and peaceful, there’s plenty to love about this rig’s powertrain, though efficiency is not one of them. Expect 14 mpg city and 19 mpg on highway drives. Combined, my tester is rated at 16 mpg, a fairly accurate figure considering I’m getting 15 and change in mixed driving during the cold of a Michigan winter. Dynamic Fuel Management, a cutting-edge version of cylinder deactivation, helps reduce consumption when possible and is absolutely seamless.
The Tahoe’s powertrain is a delight, but the rest of its dynamics leave something to be desired. No, this truck isn’t bad to drive, and it’s lightyears ahead of its predecessor, but the thing feels unnecessarily huge. The towering hood makes it almost impossible to visualize where the bumper and front corners are located, so lane placement can be an issue. Fortunately, parking isn’t nearly as hard because this Tahoe features the $4,485 Premium Package, which includes a high-definition 360-degree camera system. It offers up to 13 different views including a cool transparent trailer feature that allows you to see what’s behind whatever you’re dragging out back.
Magnetic Ride Control is standard on the Premier and High Country trims, though the latter can also be had with adaptive air suspension for enhanced comfort and an adjustable ride height. The Tahoe’s adaptive dampers work well enough, though this Premier model’s ride is definitely on the firm side. The 20-inch polished aluminum wheels make the vehicle feel a bit like it’s wearing concrete shoes. Switching between the driving modes makes little difference. But at least the independent rear suspension keeps the back end planted at all times, even when driving over nasty washboard surfaces that would cause a live axle to bounce around like an Olympic gymnast. Making the Tahoe feel even bigger is its somewhat ponderous steering. The ratio feels a bit too slow, plus the wheel, with its dainty rim, does a poor job of self-centering after making turns.
Big SUV, girthy price tag
As full-size SUVs go, the 2022 Chevy Tahoe is a delight, though all this excellence does come at a price. This Premier model checks out for $76,670. That brow-furrowing total includes $4,485 for the Premium Package, $2,495 for that oh-so-lovely 6.2-liter V8, $1,995 to cover the rear seat entertainment system and $1,695 in destination fees. As it sits, this Chevy is within spitting distance of an entry-level Cadillac Escalade or Lincoln Navigator. Fortunately, settling for fewer amenities means you can get a base Tahoe for much less, around 52 grand.
But even with lowered expectations, this SUV is still an excellent option because it nails the fundamentals, being spacious and upscale, refined yet capable. Aside from its ponderous feel, this is a well-rounded SUV and one of the best offerings in its segment.