While our options for sub-4,000-pound Chevys are sadly few and far between, there's plenty to choose from when you ratchet up the gross vehicle weight rating to well above 6,000 pounds. With what feels like a bazillion accessory package options available for pretty much everything it sells, the brand could be called an accessory package company that sells automobiles, and when it comes to performance-minded packages in particular, even the Tahoe gets an enthusiast-geared Bowtie Brigade treatment.
The 2023 Chevy Tahoe RST Performance 4WD is a curious iteration of GM's mighty body-on-frame SUV. It's as big as you think it is—massive—and is very good at big SUV things. Except, this one's outfitted with police-spec handling and grip components, and even sports some mild engine tuning to bump power by a decent little margin. It might not be for everybody, but it could definitely be something special to somebody. Especially if they take it for a spin on a fun road, or take on an off-the-beaten-path day trip. Both of which I had the opportunity to do, and walked away with a smile on my face.
|2023 Chevrolet Tahoe RST Performance Specs
|Base Price (as tested)
|6.2-liter V8 | 10-speed automatic transmission | switchable two-wheel and four-wheel drive
|122.9 cubic feet
|EPA Fuel Economy
|14 mpg city | 18 highway | 16 combined
|A versatile yet niche truck that's loaded with luxury.
The Rally Sport Truck Basics
Rally Sport (RS) is a badge that's familiar to any Chevy head; it's an appearance package that blacks out certain exterior components to give a sportier look. In the case of Chevy trucks, the Michigander institution tacks on a T to denote it as, well, a Rally Sport Truck.
On the 2023 Tahoe, it's a welcome addition: I dig its look in general, and giving it a darker grille and black wheels that are accented by black badges looks great on its deep, Radiant Red paint. Though, this is the RST Performance, which features a few more nice add-ons, particularly when it comes to power and handling—more on that later.
Swinging open one of the '23 Tahoe's doors revealed a truly massive interior. I am six-foot-three standing up and even I felt small in there—even I had to climb up into its cab. It had been a while since I'd driven an SUV that measured around 81 inches wide, 210 inches long, and nearly 76 inches tall. But it was a breath of fresh air, as it was nice to slide in and never be in fear of bumping my head (headroom measures out to 42 inches), being a bit too scrunched, or knocking my elbow. Or some other ailment-inducing scenario for big, clumsy folks.
And it's a reasonably plush cabin, too. The seats were comfortable, reasonably supportive, and featured both heating and venting. I had all the legroom one could ever want, but I wish they had a little more tilt and thigh support, as I found myself re-adjusting quite a bit during longer multi-hour stints at the helm. Rear seats were easy to move around and fold down to a flat floor, too, which brought cargo room up to a very generous 123 cubic feet. For my fellow cyclists out there: I hauled my XL-sized road bike down to Orange County for some Pacific Coast Highway cruising and didn't have to detach/readjust any component, just roll it in and out at an angle.
When it came to interior materials, Chevy outfitted the Tahoe with upscale-feeling buttons and switches, particularly for transmission controls, and red stitching across the dash and center armrest. It's not quite Caddy-level (it ought to not be, after all), but I doubt most folks throwing down $80,000 on a surprisingly fun-to-drive, spec'd-out Tahoe would have much to complain about. The instrument cluster is all digital, quite easy to read and navigate through, and was thankfully never affected by any degree of glare. Chevy's latest infotainment system was same song, second verse: it was a snap to figure out and didn't exhibit any annoying amount of lag.
In the advanced driver assistance arena, Chevy Safety Assist is standard across all Tahoe trims and includes automatic emergency braking, forward collision alert, lane keep assist/lane departure warning, and front pedestrian braking. These were all easy to switch on and off and operated generally well, though automatic emergency braking was quite sensitive, and forward collision alert occasionally got confused on mildly curvy roads.
Driving the Chevy Tahoe RST Performance
Behind the Tahoe's massive, aggressive face lives GM's 6.2-liter naturally aspirated V8. It produces 433 horsepower and 467 lb-ft of torque in the RST Performance, a gain of 13 hp and 7 lb-ft over the standard RST's figures. This is due to a better intake system and performance exhaust fitted behind the catalytic converter. With a 10-speed automatic bolted up to the all-aluminum lump, the 5,845-pound Performance will reach 60 mph in just 5.8 seconds, and cover a quarter of a mile in just 14.2 seconds—both of these figures are around two-tenths quicker than those of the lesser, standard RST.
There’s also an added aural gusto that made for a fun driving experience in any scenario. The hopped-up Tahoe's exhaust let out a decibel or two more than a more conventional model's while taking it easy around town. Then, punching the throttle gave it a proper, menacing single-cam growl—Chevy engineers tuned its tone just right for any self-described V8 aficionado who doesn't want to disturb the peace on the regular.
But alas, these Certifiably Excellent Noises probably contributed to my less-than-ideal mileage over 440 miles behind the wheel. I managed just 12 mpg against the EPA's 16 mpg combined rating. But I did at one point reach 19.3 mpg on the highway, which beats out its EPA-estimated 18. So I had that going for me, which is nice.
One of the RST Performance Package's main draws is the police-spec equipment that's bolted up to increase performance, notably its stiffer springs, retuned dampers, and other chassis improvements. Plus, cop-spec 275/55/20 Firestone Firehawk Pursuit tires are mounted up at all four corners. So, for those who want to quote part of that famous line from The Blues Brothers in earnest, you don't have to travel all the way to the Mt. Prospect city police auction to do so.
This left me a tad conflicted: On one hand, the car was noticeably more jiggly around town than most other full-size trucks and SUVs that I've driven. I don't think most people willing to throw down $80,000 on a Chevy will dig that. But on the other, it was surprisingly fun to toss around on a fun road.
In fact, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the big Tahoe handled itself. There's no overcoming its near-6,000-pound curb weight and freighter-sized footprint—it's the opposite of a Miata—but it kept body roll reasonably in check, all things considered. I also enjoyed how its light truck steering loaded up with nice weight in my favorite corners on SoCal's Angeles Forest Highway. This was a characteristic that was sorely missing from the Aston Martin Vantage F1 Edition's steering … never in a million years would I think I'd be comparing these two vehicles in the same review.
Driving the Chevy Tahoe RST Performance Outside of Its Intended Environment
During my week behind the wheel of Big Red (Chevy, not Ford), a buddy and I ascended Southern California's Santa Ana Mountains in search of beautiful places to shoot photos, including this region's picturesque Santiago Peak. Pretty much all of the roads were unpaved, though comprised of hard-packed crushed gravel and dirt that even the most on-road-only cars can roll over. It was like driving through Central Illinois farmlands, except with significant elevation changes. At least until we explored a bit deeper into the range, south of the peak.
We happened upon a fairly gnarly rocky ascent, which for the unadventurous might've meant game over. But we had four-wheel drive, a rear mechanical limited-slip differential, plus the added assurance of an off-road-centric drive mode. Despite this particular Tahoe variant’s street-centric focus, departure, and breakover angles of 24.5, 20.5, and 18.5 degrees, respectively, eight inches of ground clearance, and no low range, it was a champ. On cop tires, no less. Later on, we descended this section without issue as well and drove out of that gorgeous corner of Southern California completely unscathed. I can hear the sick drum hits on that Bob Seger song from here.
When it came to limiting slip off-road, the rear differential was a real champ. The Tahoe's drivetrain in general needed to briefly set a spell and cool off after some lengthier hills. But its ability to do off-road rascality demonstrated that even the most street-centric Tahoe can haul a family comfortably and confidently in any situation. Which could come in handy when summer vacation includes lightly leaving the beaten path.
The Highs and Lows
The 2023 Chevy Tahoe is a massive full-size SUV, but a generally handsome one at that. As big as it looks on the outside, it feels even larger on the inside, making for one spacious cabin that'll fit a family of awkwardly proportioned folks like yours truly with no issue at all, and with plenty of cargo room to spare.
It's fun to drive, but really only when the road has the right amount of curve to it. Otherwise, it might ride a hair firm for most consumers. But if that's no big deal and you're happy to have a bit more cornering confidence than the average vehicle of this size, it could be the rowdy V8 truck for you.
One particular annoyance that stuck out the most pertained to its automatic transmission. Letting off the brake and slowly moving around at idle was a pain in the butt—instead of creeping around at a very slow and steady speed, it barely crept forth at all in drive and with my foot off the brake. I had to give it a light stab of the gas in order to accomplish a three-point turn or parallel park in a respectable amount of time. Which probably looked awkward and aggressive to any passersby.
Chevy Tahoe RST Features, Options, and Competition
The 2023 Chevy Tahoe RST with four-wheel drive, the 6.2-liter engine, and 10-speed transmission starts at $67,095, $11,000 more than the base Tahoe. This includes niceties such as its bumpin' nine-speaker Bose audio system, a 360-degree camera, 10.2-inch infotainment screen with wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, automatic tri-zone climate control, and a nice suite of the latest Chevrolet advanced driver assistance.
Putting a bit more pep in its step with the RST Performance package tacks on an additional $8,875, which also throws in more ADAS features, a power tilt, telescoping, heated steering wheel, and heavy-duty Brembo front brakes. Additionally, my tester sported a $1,995 rear seat media system, a $350 power sliding center console, and its Radiant Red paint tacked on an additional $495.
If joining the Bowtie Brigade doesn't appeal to you, there's plenty of room elsewhere in the market for similarly sized vehicles. Ford comes to mind first since they're such dear frenemies: The Expedition Limited starts at $57,420, but it'll take as much as $84,580 to extract more power out of its 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 (400 horses and 480 lb-ft) with four-wheel drive. And even then, it doesn't sport a limited-slip differential like this Chevy does. Keeping it in the family, the Tahoe's dear sibling the GMC Yukon starts at $59,295
Then, if instead of a bowtie you prefer a ruffled dickey, the Cadillac Escalade Luxury commands a little more coin: $85,690. Finally, the Jeep Wagoneer starts a bit higher at $63,595. Its 5.7-liter V8 only puts out 392 horsepower and 404 lb-ft, but spending a little more can get you Stellantis' turbocharged 3.0-liter Hurricane inline-six and as much as 510 horsepower.
Per the EPA, the 6.2-liter Tahoe is rated for 14 mpg in the city, 18 mpg on the highway, and 16 mpg combined. Granted, none of these are particularly kind to your wallet or the environment, but, for what it's worth, the V6 Ford Expedition gets 18 mpg combined while the electrified Jeep Wagoneer ekes out 17 mpg officially. As mentioned, I averaged 12 mpg over 440 miles of driving in the Tahoe RST.
Value and Verdict
My most pertinent initial thought when I first got behind the wheel of the 2023 Chevy Tahoe RST Performance was: Who is this for? $80,000 is a lot of money for a big Chevy SUV no matter how you slice it, above-average interior and all. A nicely equipped Escalade isn't far off. And it's not the most comfortable over bumpy roads.
Underneath, it's still a very-well-selling full-size truck chassis. And for the potentially small demographic that wants an iteration that has surprisingly fun driving dynamics in the twisties, pulls really well, and makes excellent noises, the brand doesn't need to sell very many RSTs to justify keeping it around. The Tahoe RST may not be for everyone but if you're looking for a whole lot of space, a solid interior, the ability to safely kick it off-road, and just a touch of sport, it may just be exactly what you're looking for.
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