2018 Chevrolet Tahoe Review
Liz Kim | Jul 17, 2018
IntroductionMost people will tell you that you don’t need a vehicle like the 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe. They’ll say that it’s a waste, that a minivan will do nearly every job just as well, that it guzzles fuel, and that it’s too big for the city.
The heck with them. Sometimes, the heart wants what the heart wants. And sometimes the heart wants lots of space and a big V-8 engine.
Among full-size SUVs, the Chevrolet Tahoe is the most popular when it comes to sales (even though it’s among the smallest of the biggest), its unapologetic brawn telling busybodies that vehicles like these serve a purpose. There is plenty of room for passengers, lots of space for cargo, and loads of strength for towing.
Beyond such reasons for the Tahoe’s popularity, however, is the SUV’s styling. It’s a good-looking rig, for sure, and equipped with a cabin that’s more like a car’s than a truck’s.
That certainly was true of the Tahoe I evaluated for this review. It included Premier trim, with options such as the Rally Sport Truck (RST) package, RST 6.2L Performance package, performance braking kit, performance exhaust system, Sun Entertainment and Destinations package, an 8-in. driver information center and head-up display, and all-weather floor liners. The price came to $80,024, including the $1,295 destination charge.
What Owners SayBefore we discuss the results of our evaluation of the 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe, it’s helpful to understand who buys this large SUV, and what they like most and least about it.
Compared with the large SUV segment as a whole, women more frequently choose the Tahoe. J.D. Power research data shows that 42% of buyers are female, compared with 38% for the segment. Tahoe buyers are a little older and less affluent, too, with a median age of 55 (vs. 57 for the segment) and a median annual household income of $151,786 (vs. $157,498).
Perhaps this comes as no surprise, but differences in how Tahoe buyers think about a vehicle purchase and how large SUV buyers do are fairly insignificant. In fact, the only significant variances exist with regard to how many Tahoe buyers identify themselves as practical buyers (35% vs. 27%), and that they are more likely to prefer buying a vehicle from a domestic company.
Fuel efficiency and environmental factors do, however, separate Tahoe buyers from large SUV buyers as a whole. According to J.D. Power data, Tahoe buyers are more likely to agree that fuel economy is their first consideration when choosing a new vehicle (42% vs. 37%). They’re also more likely to agree that they will pay more for a vehicle that is environmentally friendly (50% vs. 45%).
Buyers say their favorite things about the Tahoe are (in descending order) the exterior styling, interior design, driving dynamics, engine/transmission, and visibility and safety. Buyers indicate their least favorite things about the Tahoe are (in descending order) the infotainment system, climate system, seats, storage and space, and fuel economy.
What Our Expert SaysIn the sections that follow, our expert provides her own assessment of how the 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe performs in each of the 10 categories that comprise the J.D. Power 2017 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study.SM
ExteriorThe Tahoe is sorry, not sorry, when it comes to showing off its size and girth. Its proportions convey strength and brawniness, while its T-square styling gives the impression of industrial practicality. The Tahoe RST rides on colossal 22-in. wheels, which befit the overall persona.
Chevrolet has been doing a terrific job of styling its vehicles as of late, and the Tahoe is just one more example of designers creating an appealing look that stands out from the crowd without offending anyone’s sensibilities. No wonder buyers cite the Tahoe’s styling as their favorite aspect of the SUV.
InteriorChevy took a more understated approach when it came to the Tahoe’s cabin, as it lacks the overstated flash and busyness found in the company’s sedans.
At the same time, the comparatively business-like Tahoe isn’t truck-like inside, either. Where competitors such as the Ford Expedition and Toyota Sequoia use the same dashboards and materials as the F-150 and Tundra, respectively, the Tahoe is more like a car inside. That appeals to people who will use this vehicle as their daily driver.
Despite the way the dashboard and door panels cocoon the driver and passenger, there is a ton of space between them. The Tahoe never lets you forget that you’re driving a big, wide, size-XXL SUV.
SeatsStep inside the Tahoe—a task made easy by the test vehicle’s running boards—and you’ll find an ideal perch from which to pilot this beast. My Premier RST had 12-way power-adjustable seats with power lumbar support, power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, and power-adjustable pedals. The leather-wrapped front seats were heated and cooled—features much appreciated in Southern California’s fickle summer weather.
My test vehicle also came with second-row captain’s chairs, which always elicits excitement from my kids. They do prefer to have their own, distinct seating zones. For adults, the chairs are OK. A little soft, a little low, and immovable except to tilt and fold, they’re acceptable places to spend time.
The third-row bench seat, alas, can legitimately be characterized as cruel and unusual punishment. The seats are mounted so low to the floor that your knees are splayed out—partly because there is nowhere to put your feet. Here’s to hoping that your third-row passengers practice yoga.
If you need to use a third-row seat often—and for anyone but the smallest of passengers—well, just don’t buy a Chevy Tahoe.
Climate Control SystemThe Tahoe’s climate control system is simple and intuitive to use, with two knobs for temperature adjustment and well-marked buttons for remaining functions. It was effective as well, quickly cooling a sun-roasted cabin.
Infotainment SystemChevy’s MyLink technology is aboard to address your infotainment needs, and it is one of the easier systems to learn and use. The graphics are modern and clean, and separate buttons and knobs are employed for the functions you access all the time. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto help things along further, and there’s a subscription-based Wi-Fi hotspot.
My test vehicle was also equipped with an optional head-up display that keeps useful information projected on the windshield, so that you can keep your eyes on the road. It also had a rear-seat entertainment system to keep our little rugrats quiet and sedated when all we wanted was just a few moments of peace and adult conversation.
Storage and SpaceThere’s a good reason why Tahoe buyers cite storage and space as their second least favorite aspect of the vehicle; the vehicle simply doesn’t hold that much cargo, when compared to other full-size SUVs and even some crossovers.
Open the rear liftgate and you’ll find a puny amount of cargo space (15.3 cu. ft.) behind the third row. Remember, this is mostly vertical space, which is not as useful as horizontal space when it comes to loading lots of groceries. Plus, the Tahoe’s elevated load floor lacks a little lip to prevent items from rolling out when you open the tailgate.
Press a button in the tiny cargo hold and the Tahoe Premier RST’s third-row seats power fold themselves flat, creating 51.3 cu. ft. of space. Behind the front seats is 94.7 cu. ft.
These are more generous numbers, to be sure, until you start comparing them to vehicles like the Suburban (an extended Tahoe), GMC Yukon XL, and the winner of the full-size SUV cargo hold competition, the Ford Expedition Max. Heck, even crossovers like the Chevrolet Traverse and Volkswagen Atlas can slap the Tahoe when it comes to stowage. And minivans are substantially larger inside.
At least there are useful nooks and bins sprinkled throughout the Tahoe’s cabin. My favorite is a secret little storage space that opens up behind the center stack screen, and which includes a handy USB charger.
Visibility and SafetyYou are, of course, sitting well above other vehicles in traffic when you’re driving a Tahoe. However, that doesn’t negate the effects of the fat windshield pillars, and especially the one on the driver’s side, which makes you peer around it to see oncoming traffic. At least the squared-off hood makes it easy to gauge where the front of the SUV begins.
Most SUVs and trucks don’t show very well when it comes to rollover-resistance ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the Tahoe is no exception. In this evaluation, it earns a middling 3-star (out of 5) rating. At least in other crash-test parameters, the 2018 Tahoe gets 5-star ratings all around. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has not tested a Tahoe for crashworthiness.
Every 2018 Tahoe can be equipped with important safety features like blind-spot monitoring, forward-collision warning, low-speed automatic emergency braking, and lane-keeping assist systems. Adaptive cruise control with full-speed automatic emergency braking is an option for the Tahoe Premier, but not with the RST 6.2L Performance package.
Engine/TransmissionPress the Tahoe’s engine start button and if you’ve upgraded to the RST 6.2L Performance package you’ll be treated to a sonorous aria, courtesy of the 6.2-liter V-8 engine. It makes 420 horsepower and 460 lb.-ft. of torque, and my test vehicle’s optional Borla performance exhaust system gave the truck a menacing snarl.
The V-8 is matched to an exclusive 10-speed automatic transmission, which directs all of those ponies to the rear or all four wheels. During my driving, it provided crisp, correct shifts each time, and you can depend on the engine’s vast reservoir of thrust and torque.
Although I don’t have the need to tow a significant payload, my Tahoe test vehicle was rated to tug up to 8,100 lbs. Because my test vehicle was equipped with the RST package, with its huge wheels and sport-tuned suspension, I kept it on pavement. You could, however, go off-roading thanks to the SUV’s multiple 4-wheel-drive system modes and generous clearance.
Fuel EconomyBig honking vehicles with big honking engines used to quaff fuel at an alarming rate. While the Tahoe RST’s available 6.2-liter V-8 engine is no fuel-sipper, its 14 mpg city/22 mpg highway fuel-economy estimates are a vast improvement over the Grendels of the past. I averaged 17.2 mpg on my test loop, which is right in line with expectations.
Driving DynamicsDriving in the city and suburbs, what with their narrow lanes and puny compact vehicle parking spaces, poses a challenge to the Tahoe. You’ll need to be mindful of its tall stature and considerable length. Thankfully, the unexpectedly tight turning radius (given the giant wheels and tires) helped thread the big truck through some pretty small holes.
And while its natural habitat isn’t the sinuous roads ribboning across the Santa Monica Mountain range, it handled reasonably well for a vehicle that weighs close to 3 tons. I did need to make allowances for a longer stopping distance and more body roll than I would for a midsize crossover, but I got used to driving this bus fairly quickly, as will most buyers.
The upgraded Brembo front brakes on my test vehicle certainly helped, and though the athletically taut suspension sent shocks into the cabin when it went over bumps, it helped the Tahoe remain remarkably composed when driving on curvy roads.
Final ImpressionsIn many ways, the 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe makes no sense. It’s big outside, but not that big inside. It tows, but not as much as other SUVs. And it’s so much louder and thirstier than crossovers.
But in so many intangible and illogical ways, it still appeals to a wide variety of people who may see it as just big enough and just strong enough to justify what will be a much costlier purchase than a more modest vehicle.
Indeed, its appearance and image make it easy for many buyers to rationalize the Tahoe, and for that, we give kudos to the marketing and design teams at Chevrolet.
General Motors supplied the vehicle used for this 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe review.
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