Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe 4WD Premiere

AutoTrader SCORE
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car
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As one of the only traditionally built SUV’s remaining on the scene, the 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe is a bit of an endangered species. The market has largely shifted to the crossover: a car-based utility vehicle born of the shopper’s desire for flexibility and all-wheel drive, but with better mileage and more car-like dynamics than the truck-based vehicles that first defined the category.

Expert at delivering a laidback, comfortable, and easygoing cruise with power and capability to spare.

Usually, you drive a Tahoe if you do a lot of weekends at the slopes, if you’re a serious dad, or if you’re a police officer. There’s the other thing, too: since Tahoe uses a body bolted to a rugged pickup truck frame (rather than using its body as the frame itself) it’s better suited to certain tasks than a typical crossover is.

There are pros and cons to building an SUV like a truck instead of a car. But, for many owners, Tahoe makes an ideal choice when rough terrain and lousy roads are to be frequented, where towing a trailer is a regularity, and when off-road driving is commonplace.

Properly equipped, towing capacity approaches 9,000 pounds. A V8 engine is standard. Plus, since Tahoe has a truck suspension, a truck driveline, a truck chassis, and truck brakes, it feels more durable, robust and comfortable in situations like the above. If you tow frequently, you’re using much less of the Tahoe’s capability – pulling the same trailer – than with something like a Honda Pilot.

Simply, if you’re going to work your utility vehicle hard, or if you want a pickup truck but need something with a passenger compartment instead of a box, it’s an ideal pick. Capability is tops here – but you do pay for it.

In fact, my tester’s $76,000 price tag means that maximum return on investment will come to those using Tahoe’s capability on a regular basis. If that’s not you, any number of crossover models for tens of thousands cheaper may be a better choice.

Tahoe shines brightest in a few key areas.

First, it’s a gorgeous highway cruiser. At a decent clip, Tahoe feels secure, stable, remains relatively quiet, and rides softly, but no so softly that you feel like you’re wafting down the road in a giant pail of gravy. On smooth or gently undulating highways, the ride borders on luxury sedan territory.

The Magnetic Ride Control suspension is partly to thank: not only does it trigger constant changes to shock absorber stiffness to actively fine-tune ride quality, but it’s able to nuke unwanted body motions before they occur, keeping Tahoe more flat and stable, more of the time, to the benefit of everyone on board. Bumps and whumps that send bigger vehicles on a one-way trip to bouncy-ville just generate a little squiggle from beneath the Tahoe, and little else. You smile over certain bumps, as you brace for a for a few moments of bouncing and rebounding that never arrive.

Simply, what you feel over most bumps is “Up, down, done.” You move once over every bump, and that’s it.

Add in the generous space in the first two rows of seats, a commanding but not towering-above-the-road driving position, and the built-in household power outlet and Wi-Fi, and Tahoe amounts to a comfortable, roomy, and connected place to chill and relax in peace and quiet.

Keep your speed reasonable and use the cruise control, and the engine rewards you with decent-for-its-size fuel mileage, too. When you drive like a yoga instructor, it can even turn off half its cylinders. Further, it’s quiet enough to have a conversation at highway speeds and beyond, without raising your voice.

Next, Tahoe is expert at comfy cruising over very rough surfaces. On at least three roads I use as a “worst case scenario” ride quality test, Tahoe blew the ride quality and confidence imparted by many a crossover clean out of the water. One particular washed-out camp road saw Tahoe ride in muted, nicely damped comfort, with no rattles, no undue harshness transmitted into the passenger cell, and no wincing at the thought of coughing up a tie-rod or fracturing a strut.

Some car-based crossovers on this road feel far flimsier, need to be operated with much more care, much more slowly, and emit so much metallic clanging from beneath you’d think they’re filming a Game of Thrones sword battle nearby. In summary, Tahoe rides well on around-town roads and on the highway, and very rough surfaces do little to degrade that. Even more remarkable? The tester ran a set of 22-inch wheels with thin tires, which typically cause rough-road ride quality to fall off a cliff.

Third? Its flexible, spacious, and highly accommodating. The cargo hold isn’t quite as big as you think, though it is square to the edges and easily accepts stacked boxes and bins. Just note that the tall load floor means a too-high jump-in height for many a family canine.

There are three rows of seating. The rear of these is comically cramped unless you’re six, and for your writer, Tahoe worked best with the rear row folded, leaving an interior with four spacious seats, plenty of cargo space, and a lounge area for my doggo.

Up front though, a cavernous centre console, proper cupholders, door pockets, console-side pockets, and even a hidden storage compartment behind the central display screen leave drivers feeling, in no uncertain terms, like there’s a place to keep anything and everything along for the ride secure and organized. Plus, with no fewer than seven charging points in reach of front seat occupants, you can juice up mobile gadgets without issue.

There’s even a handy wireless charging pad on the centre console lid to charge your phone, sans cord, in a location where you can’t see it, or be tempted to pick it up. It’s nicely thought out.

Finally, the powertrain, which is excellent.

Shoppers can specify GM’s mighty 6.2-litre V8, good for 420 horsepower, on selected Tahoe grades these days. My tester made do with the smaller 5.3-litre unit, good for 355. This lively all-American V8 packs plenty of low-rev sauce for effortlessly gliding through city and highway traffic at minimal revs, with minimal noise. Much of the time you’re using it, this powerplant is near-silent, liquid-smooth, and very refined. Even pushed, it stays quiet and composed at anything much less than max revs.

There’s a six-speed automatic and four-wheel drive, with driver selectable modes for 4x4 auto (like automatic AWD), 4x4 lock (for greasy surfaces) and 4x2 (saves fuel). Just flick the dial on the dash, and your preferred setting is deployed a moment later. My tester had no low-range, though.

Chevrolet knows a thing or two about building 4x4s. That’s why one friend, a three-time Tahoe owner, says he keeps himself in a Tahoe: it’s the only big-buck sports ute he’s not horrified to own once the warranty expires.

Thus far: in all aspects of comfort and refinement, virtually regardless of the type of driving or the surface passing beneath, Tahoe is expert at delivering a laidback, comfortable, and easygoing cruise with power and capability to spare.

The downside? The cabin. And for this part, remember, we’re talking about a $76,000 vehicle.

Broadly, Tahoe’s cabin is getting old, needs an update, and fails to pull its weight towards that hefty sticker.

Specifically, numerous, if not most crossover models on offer today for $20,000 less make better use of better materials for an atmosphere that feels more rich, authentic, and upscale. Take a gander inside of a roughly $50,000 Ford Explorer or Mazda CX-9 to see what I mean.

Tahoe is a truck – so you’re paying more for capability than cabin trimmings. Still, at this price, some will be left wanting. There’s the mandatory application of some stitched leather and wood-looking trim, and the central command interface is logical and clever, and most of the expected high-end features are on board, too.

But other than a little stitching and wood to gussy things up, much of what you see inside is on par with a much less-expensive vehicle. The cabin looks and feels fine, but for $76,000, you probably want a cabin that blows your socks off. That’s not what’s on offer here.

Other notes? The built-in Wi-Fi and household power outlet were feature favourites for numerous passengers who needed to stay connected en route to a camping trip; brake feel is a bit soggy but the performance is strong; and Tahoe is much easier to park, and more maneuverable, than its size leads on.

Mostly, after a week, I enjoyed Tahoe’s great ride quality on both the highway and a large selection of rough roads and trails. For comfort, size, and power to spare, it ticks all the right boxes. Still, I left the tester wishing for a more upscale cabin, especially given the price. Ultimately, Tahoe is a proven machine that’s great at what it does, provided you’re willing to sign the cheque.

Engine Displacement 5.3L
Engine Cylinders V8
Peak Horsepower 355 hp @ 5,600 rpm
Peak Torque 383 lb-ft @ 4,100 rpm
Fuel Economy 15.2/10.8/13.2 L/100 km city/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space 433 / 1,463 L seats down
Model Tested 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe 4WD Premier
Base Price $73,275
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,700
Price as Tested $78,070
Optional Equipment
$2,995 – RST Edition Package $2,995