First Drive: Larger 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe Proves to be a Major Upgrade

Significant redesign brings a roomy cabin, refined powertrain, and easy controls

2021 Chevrolet Tahoe front

Update: Since this first drive was originally published in August, 2020, we finished testing the Chevrolet Tahoe.

Read the complete Chevrolet Tahoe road test.

The Chevrolet Tahoe has been completely reconfigured with its latest redesign, adding inches to the wheelbase and overall length, shifting to an independent rear suspension, updating powertrains, and upping the ante on its high-tech features and connectivity.

The Tahoe gained 6.7 inches in length, opening up the interior space more and lessening the case for customers to upgrade to the even longer Suburban. A new contemporary independent rear suspension saves space and promises to aid both ride and handling. An adaptive suspension is available on uplevel High Country and Z71 models that offers automatic load leveling and ride-height adjustments.

The base engine is a 355-hp, 5.3-liter V8. It comes standard on the LS, LT, Z71, RST, and Premier trims. The more powerful 420-hp, 6.2-liter V8 is standard on the upscale High Country trim. Both V8s use GM’s latest cylinder deactivation technology to bolster fuel economy by turning off some cylinders when not needed, such as during steady-speed cruising.

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An all-new 277-hp, 3.0-liter diesel engine distinguishes the Tahoe from its competitors. There is a trend among full-sized pickup trucks to introduce small diesel engines, and this is the first modern, full-sized, light-duty SUV to follow this strategy. All engines are teamed with a 10-speed automatic transmission.

The big SUV also brings the latest infotainment system and features from GM, with built-in WiFi, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, available rear-seat screens, and numerous charge ports.

If you’re a Consumer Reports member, our initial expert assessment of the Chevrolet Tahoe we purchased for testing is already available to you below. If you haven’t signed up to become a member yet, click below to access this full article and all our exclusive ratings and reviews for each vehicle we buy and test. Joining also gives you full access to exclusive ratings for the other products our experts evaluate in several categories, including electronics and home appliances.

We have put our Tahoe through more than 50 tests at the CR Auto Test Center, including those that evaluate acceleration, braking, fuel economy, handling, car-seat fit, and controls.

CR members have access to the full road-test results.

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What we bought: 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe 4WD LT
Powertrain: 355-hp, 5.3-liter V8; 10-speed automatic transmission; four-wheel drive
MSRP: $56,800
Options: $5,685 LT Signature Package (20-inch wheels, panoramic roof, surround-view camera, heated mirrors and steering wheel, memory settings, second-row heated seats, third-row power fold, blind spot warning, lane departure warning, lane keeping assistance, rear cross traffic warning, parking sensors, trailer brake controller, enhanced cooling radiator); $370 Hitch guidance
Total options: $6,055
Destination fee: $1,295
Total cost: $63,650

CR’s Take

We are halfway through our 2,000-mile break-in period before we can begin formal testing, and already the Tahoe has impressed in our first few hundred miles driven. It is a well-balanced package, with no significant drawback that we have found, from road performance to interior comfort. It is a versatile vehicle, capable of addressing the needs of a large, active family—especially one that tows.

In our time thus far, we have commuted with it extensively, towed a heavy two-ton load, and even used it as a mobile office during a storm-related power outage. (It provided one staff member’s family a place to escape the heat and work from laptops, thanks to built-in WiFi. And the dual 110-volt outlets and several USB-A and USB-C ports were convenient for charging multiple devices.)

So far, it seems truly competitive with the Ford Expedition—its archrival. There are some likely concessions to each model that we will explore further in testing, such as the Tahoe possibly having the edge in ride but the Expedition clearly having a preferred gear selector.

So far, the Tahoe shines for its ride quality, quiet interior, and smooth, robust powertrain. We plan to purchase the larger Suburban in the higher Premier trim with the adaptive suspension. We also plan to buy a Cadillac Escalade, with its massive dash display and more powerful engine. Combined, we will have deep insights into the new full-sized SUV family from General Motors.  

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