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With more of everything, Chevy's Tahoe RST is a delightful lesson in excess

The Digital Trends 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe RST First Drive Review explores Chevrolet’s newest high-performance vehicle, with a 6.2-liter V8 at 420 horsepower, 10-speed automatic transmission, and enough scoot to make 0-60 in under six seconds.


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2018 Chevrolet Tahoe RST

Half of all full-size SUVs sold in America are Chevy Tahoes or Suburbans. They’re the top two best-sellers in the admittedly limited segment. That goes to well over half when you throw in the closely related GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade. If you’re shopping for a full-size body-on-frame SUV, General Motors pretty much owns the market.

The RST is Chevrolet’s first true hot rod Tahoe. Two option packages turn a top-trim Tahoe Premier into an RST. But when you tick the right boxes, the ordinarily staid Tahoe turns into a mighty machine with Chevy’s best 6.2-liter V8 tuned for 420 horsepower, 460 pound-feet of torque, a 10-speed transmission, magnetic ride control suspension, Brembo brakes, and a Borla exhaust.

All that kind of leaves the other full-size SUVs in the dust. The Tahoe competes head-to-head with the Ford Expedition, Nissan Armada, and Toyota Sequioa. Let’s assume for the moment that the GMC/Cadillac, Lincoln, Infiniti, and Lexus editions aren’t really in competition with their economy brand cousins.

The 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe starts at a base price of $48,745, which gets you a 2WD Tahoe with the 5.3-liter V8, not the fire-breathing dragon you want. When you go Premier trim and add the two RST packages you can get into the RST for $68,775, but that’s still only spinning the rear wheels. Suitable for drifting, but still not the SUV you want. With all the goodies, you’re looking at a cool $78,155 to drive away in the baddest-ass Tahoe that ever was. That’s the one we tested.

Interior and tech

As the top of the line Tahoe, you get pretty much everything in the RST. Sitting in the capacious driver’s seat, you’ll find adjustable pedals so that any human adult from the 5th to 95th height percentile can drive this rig. All the driver assistance tech is there, too. You get forward collision alerts with automatic low-speed braking, lane keep assist with a helpful (or not) warning that the massive Tahoe is getting close to the Botts Dots again, blind spot warnings with lane change alert, rear cross traffic alerts, a rear-view camera, and GM’s Stabilitrak stability control – which will come in handy with the RST.

The infotainment system is nothing you haven’t seen before unless you’ve never been in a GM product for the past few years. You’re fondling the 8-inch version of Chevrolet’s MyLink navigation and audio system, with support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Additionally, you’ve got the ability to get an AT&T 4G/LTE data plan for the Tahoe, with the ability to create a Wi-Fi hot spot in the vehicle. A single-screen rear entertainment system is part of the Sun and Entertainment package, along with a sunroof. As a rule, Chevrolet does a good job with MyLink. It’s easy to use and does the job. An extra $850 on the option sheet gets you a head-up display for driving and navigation data and an all-video 8-inch driver information center.

Jeff Zurschmeide/Digital Trends

Jeff Zurschmeide/Digital Trends


Jeff Zurschmeide/Digital Trends

Jeff Zurschmeide/Digital Trends


By the time you’re at the Premier trim level, the Tahoe is very luxurious. The RST we drove came with the Jet Black interior, with perforated leather upholstery in front and plain leather in back. The front seats are both heated and ventilated, and the outboard rears are heated. The third row is there if you want it, and adults can actually ride back there. The Tahoe configurator gives you the chance to choose between an eight-passenger configuration with a bench seat in the second row, or a seven-passenger setup with two bucket seats in the second row. This is really nice unless you just have to be able to carry eight people. This is pretty standard for full-size SUVs. All the competing brands offer eight passengers, and technically, you can put nine people in a Tahoe, but you have to order the front bench seat in the base trim.

With all three rows of seats in use, you’ll still get 15.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row, or about what you get from a mid-size sedan. With all the seats folded flat – and they do fold very flat – you’ll have 94.7 cubic feet, otherwise known as “plenty.” This is one area where the Tahoe doesn’t lead, and in fact it’s the smallest of the competitive set. The Armada gives you 97.1 cubes, the Expedition is in at 104.6, and the Sequioa offers a cavernous 120.1 cubic feet, which is about what the longer Chevy Suburban or the Expedition Max will give you.

Driving experience

The main thing you need to know about the Tahoe RST is that it comes with GM’s direct-injected 6.2-liter small block V8 engine, tuned for 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. By itself, that’s not such a big deal. The Expedition offers 480 pound-feet and 400 horsepower in its top trim, and that’s from the EcoBoost 3.5-liter V6. All the vehicles in this class have 380-420 horsepower, but only the Ford and the Chevy have the torque.

The new 10-speed automatic transmission, first released on the ZL-1 hot rod Camaro, is critical for performance. Chevy’s truck engineers have reworked the gearbox, fitting the Tahoe with gear ratios appropriate to the task of moving the big iron. With 10 speeds to use, the Tahoe gets great acceleration in the lower gears, and low-RPM highway cruising at the top. The best thing about the 10-speed box, however, is how smoothly and effortlessly it shifts. You can ignore it and simply concentrate on enjoying the ride.

Your 0 to 60 time is 5.7 seconds, or roughly comparable to a Maserati Levante

The Tahoe RST is fun off the line. Your 0 to 60 time is 5.7 seconds, or roughly comparable to a Maserati Levante or a ’63 Corvette Stingray. While that’s good, it’s not outside the envelope for the competition. The Ford Expedition offers a comparable package with a 10-speed box and 5.7 seconds to 60 MPH, and the Nissan will do 5.9 seconds. Only the Toyota is a full second slower at 6.7 seconds. Top speed is not known outside GM, but it’s surely faster than you really want to be driving on public roads.

There’s more to performance than the drivetrain, and Chevy has not disappointed. The Tahoe RST gets the magnetic ride suspension first developed for the Corvette, and it’s nothing short of wonderful. There are no driver-adjustable settings in the Tahoe – it’s all automatic, but the suspension responds to weight and conditions to keep the Tahoe level and smooth-firm at all times. This feature is unique to the Tahoe and other GM products. The active suspension is nice at all times, but really makes towing much more comfortable. The Tahoe RST can tow up to 8,400 pounds, which will handle most people’s needs.

Jeff Zurschmeide/Digital Trends

Jeff Zurschmeide/Digital Trends


Jeff Zurschmeide/Digital Trends

Jeff Zurschmeide/Digital Trends


You also have the option (for $2,795) to select the optional Brembo big brake kit, which gets you a pair of bright red six-pot fixed front calipers grabbing massive 16.1-inch rotors. That kit offers an 84-percent increase in swept area and the kind of confident brake performance you expect in a performance vehicle. None of the competing vehicles offer this kind of option from the factory.

As a modern top trim vehicle, the Tahoe RST includes all the safety gear you can think of. It’s got automatic this and adaptive that – the Tahoe will do its best to keep you out of trouble. You can read all about it at the Chevrolet site. The safety feature I want to call to your attention is the four-wheel-drive system. If you live anywhere there’s winter weather, this is a big advantage. Chevrolet offers a traditional dual-range 4X4 system on the Tahoe, but with an additional Automatic setting that emulates the AWD systems you find on crossovers. You can set the Tahoe to Automatic and it will mainly be a rear-wheel-drive vehicle, but if wheel slip is detected it will engage the front wheels for additional traction. The best part is that you can set the system to Automatic and leave it there without worrying about wearing out your 4WD on dry roads.

Fuel economy on the Tahoe RST is better than you might expect – 14 MPG in the city and 22 MPG on the highway with an aggregate expected economy of about 17. That matches the real-world results we got around Dallas, Texas on flat roads. For comparison, the Sequoia returns 13/17, the Armada is rated at 14/19, and the Expedition with the V6 leads with 17/24 MPG.

Warranty

The 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe RST carries a basic factory warranty of three years or 36,000 miles plus a powertrain warranty of five years or 60,000 miles. This is identical among all competing vehicles. Overall quality on the Tahoe has been highly rated in recent years, with the 2017 Tahoe getting five out of five for performance and design and predicted reliability from J.D. Power, and four out of five for overall quality. Among all full-size SUVs, only the Expedition is ranked higher than the Tahoe by J.D. Power.

How DT would configure this car

There aren’t a lot of choices to make when you’re building out an RST. Those choices have already been made by the time you get to this trim level. So here’s the thing. If you’re already north of $70,000 with the Premier trim and RST special packages, there’s no sense getting all stingy with the rest of the options.

With that in mind, we would definitely spring for the big brake kit, and for the optional Borla cat-back exhaust, which increases flow by 28 percent. Chevy doesn’t claim a power boost from that option, but it should be good for a couple foot-pounds. $850 for the all-video digital gauge cluster with head-up display is a good purchase, too. That’s tech that will keep your Tahoe current for years.

Jeff Zurschmeide/Digital Trends

Jeff Zurschmeide/Digital Trends


The only option package we might leave on the table is the Sun & Entertainment package, which is $2,885 for a sunroof and rear seat DVD player. If you don’t have kids and you don’t care about the sunroof, why bother?

If you omit the DVD player and sunroof package, you’ll drive your Tahoe RST away for right around $75,000, which is about on par with the top tier of the competition. The Sequoia Platinum comes in at $68,530, or the Land Cruiser starts at $84,960. The Nissan Armada Platinum Reserve is only a little lower than the Toyota at $66,835. The Ford Expedition will set you back $78,620 without the rear seat entertainment system, and $80,615 with it.

Conclusion

The 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe RST is a credible contender among performance full-size SUVs. Fully configured, the price of this Chevy is bumping up against the GMC Yukon Denali with the same engine, transmission, and suspension package, so you can choose the brand you want without a big price difference.

2018 Chevrolet Tahoe RST Compared To

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD

2018 Infiniti QX80

2018 Jeep Wrangler

2018 VW Atlas

2017 Mercedes-Benz G550 4x4²

2017 Jeep Compass Sport

2018 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

2018 Aston Martin DB11 V8

2018 Volvo XC60 T8

2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT…

2018 Honda Fit

2017 Bentley Bentayga

2018 Land Rover Range Rover Velar

2018 Subaru Crosstrek

2018 Dodge Durango SRT

The driving experience in the Tahoe RST is enjoyable, and it’s got every bell and whistle you can get in a modern car. About the only thing you really can’t get is a real color. The RST will be available in black, white, silver and gray, with blackout trim and wheels. If you really want to stand out, that’s why they invented vinyl wrap jobs.

The bottom line on the Tahoe RST is that if you’re looking for a performance-oriented full-size SUV with towing capacity, this is a great choice. Really, the Ford Expedition is the only truly competitive vehicle on all points. Give both of them a test drive and you’ll know which one you prefer.

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