2018 Chevrolet Tahoe RST Premier Review: The Best Tahoe, at the Worst Price
A bigger engine, better suspension, improved brakes, and a boss exhaust are all great...but at what cost?
Welcome to Critic's Notebook, a quick and off-the-cuff car review consisting of impressions, jottings, and marginalia regarding whatever The Drive writers happen to be driving. Today's edition: the 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe 4WD Premier RST.
It's hard not to be a a little taken with the Chevy Tahoe RST Performance Package, at first glance. It's a parts-bin special done right, as only General Motors could do it: a Tahoe outfitted with the bigger 6.2-liter V8, GM's trick Magnetic Ride Control shocks, the sweet new 10-speed automatic transmission, and an aggressive body kit, among a few other lower-key goodies. (Note: For the sake of brevity, the "RST Performance Package" will be referred to as just "RST" for the rest of this review, even though GM also offers a separate "RST Edition" that's basically just the cosmetic options on the SUV's Premier and LT variants.)
But that was until I saw the big, bold price in the last column of the window sticker: $78,450, as tested.
That's enough to buy a brand-new Chevy Camaro SS and a new Chevy Traverse, if you wanted to fill your garage with 6.2-liter V8 power and have an all-weather seven-passenger hauler. Or it's enough to take home a nearly-loaded Cadillac CT6—one with the twin-turbo 400-horsepower engine and AWD, the bougie Rear Seat Package, and the groundbreaking SuperCruise autonomous driving assist system. Or, for less than $2,000 more—just 2.5 percent more cash—you could drive off in a new Corvette Z06 capable of blasting from 0 to 60 in less than three seconds and topping out above 200 miles per hour. And that's all within the GM family.
More pointedly, however, $78,450 is also enough to take home a nicely equipped four-wheel-drive GMC Yukon Denali, or even a new 4WD Cadillac Escalade. (Granted, it'd be a stripper, but it's not hard to make the argument that stripper Cadillac > loaded Chevy.) Both of those, incidentally, also come standard with the 6.2-liter V8, the 10-speed automatic, and Magnetic Ride Control.
Go outside General Motors to cross-shop SUVs, and the choice becomes even more outlandish. If you're just looking for an ass-hauling seven-seat SUV with a mean V8 roar, you can grab a fully-loaded Dodge Durango SRT—a rig that runs a 12.9-second quarter-mile—for less than $75,000. If you want space, effortless power, and a nice interior above all else, the Lincoln Navigator's nicely-equipped Select trim starts at a hair over $78,000 in 4x4 form. Hell, you can drive home in a well-optioned Mercedes-Benz GLS450—one with massaging heated leather seats, no less—for almost the exact same price as the Tahoe RST.
At that price, making the case for a Chevy SUV—even one with all the best parts of the corporate parts bin aboard—requires some Cirque du Soleil-level acts of mental contortion. Well, we only have room to park one car in the driveway...and I really want the big engine and the cool exhaust...but I don't want Bob and Sally down the street to think we're were "too good" for them because we got a Cadillac, they're already pissed enough at us for not coming to Tommy's fourth-grade graduation party...but seriously, who has a party for a fourth-grade graduation, there's still another year of elementary school left, it's not even actually a graduation for chrissakes...
But that doesn't mean this Tahoe is a bad ride by any means. In fact, like the all-new Ford Expedition, it's a testament to just how well American carmakers have mastered the full-sized SUV.
- Damn it, but the Tahoe RST does drive well. Even with the truck riding on 22-inch wheels, the MagneRide smooths over bumps with ease; likewise, the 6.2-liter ladles out the power with such fluidity, you'd never suspect it was pushing around close to three tons. Even half-throttle is enough to launch an aggressive passing maneuver on the highway.
- The new 10-speed automatic is a marked improvement over the old eight-speed slushbox still found in the likes of slushbox-equipped Corvettes (and much of the rest of the Chevy lineup). Much like the closely-related gearbox found in the 2018 Ford Mustang, it flips through its gears crisply and efficiently, often skipping over intermediate cogs as needed.
- General Motors dropped the Tahoe off the day after Winter
ShitStorm Grayson, a day with temperatures down in the teens and the better part of a foot of crunchy, dirty snow clogging up the curbs and sidewalks of Brooklyn. I'd debated having them cancel the loan, on the grounds that I'd likely wind up stranded like an upside-down turtle if I tried to crawl over the crud and into a parking space. But that was the part of me not used to spending time with giant, four-wheel-drive SUVs. With the 4WD system set to Auto, the RST easily clambered over the icy debris time after time, even with all-season tires in place of the winter rubber that really ought to be standard this time of year.
- Great controls—simple, intuitive, and ideal for use while driving. Most of the important things you'll adjust most often—volume, radio tuning, temperature—are controlled by big, rubbery dials whose location quickly becomes muscle memory.
- Clad in black paint with matching black trim—the sort of look improperly-educated automotive journalists might have once described as "murdered out"—the Tahoe RST stood out in damned menacing fashion, even amongst the fleet of livery-driven TahoeBurbanScalades clogging up New York's streets. So equipped, it looks like The Ultimate Cop Truck—the sort of hero car Jack Bauer would spend much of his time racing across Los Angeles in during one of those bad days of his.
- For a truck with a Borla exhaust connected to 6.2 liters of smallblock, it doesn't sound all that exciting. The noise that is there is pleasing to the ear—a seismic rumble that rips in pitch up every time the 10-speed shuffles down a few cogs to make a pass—but there's not nearly enough of it for a truck that purports to be a factory-made badass.
- For such a giant truck, the interior seems a might cramped. Smaller adults—especially those who are short of limb—will likely be satisfied with the second row captain's chairs, and children young enough to still find the opposite sex icky will be fine in the third row's bench. But someone of my NBA-like size will likely want to call shotgun every chance he or she gets. (Or, y'know, drive the thing.)
- The slightly-offset steering wheel will send anyone with O.C.D. into fits.
- Again, not to harp on this, but it's a Chevy Tahoe that costs as much as Cadillac's flagship.
The Chevrolet Tahoe RST, Ranked:
Hauling people: 4/5
Hauling stuff: 5/5
Curb appeal: 4/5
“Wow” factor: 2/5
The Bottom Line:
This may be a bit of stereotyping, but I wouldn't be shocked to see the Tahoe RST sitting in the driveway of every Chevy-sponsored NASCAR team driver by the end of this time next year. Its combination of an utter lack of pretension, high-performance features, dominating size, and legitimate four-wheel-drive capability seem perfect for folks with money who need a ride that can handle everything from towing to long road trips to shuttling people about town—yet wouldn't be caught dead in a Lexus or a Lincoln.
But unless you happen to occupy the middle ground of that very specific Venn diagram of "People who can afford an $80,000 car" and "People who are desperately worried about looking conceited," there are plenty of other SUVs and crossovers out there that offer greater capability, luxury, size, or style for the cash—many of them located within GM's very lineup.
Now, if Chevy let us lob the $8,245 bundle of RST Performance Package parts onto the $47,000 Tahoe Custom...well, then we'd be talking.
The 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe RST Premier, by the Numbers:
Price (as tested): $74,670 ($78,450)
Powertrain: 6.2-liter V8, 420 horsepower, 460 pound-feet; 10-speed automatic; two- or four-wheel-drive
Fuel Economy: 14 city, 22 highway
Pistons on the Brembo brakes up front: Six
Length of time it'd take me to rip off that aerodynamic chin strap if I bought a Tahoe: 90 seconds