When we last had the chance to see the 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban, it was when the made their debut at the Little Caesars Arena late last year. The Suburban and the Tahoe rolled across the stage debuting brand new exterior styling, a revamped platform, and a completely reworked interior that aimed to rocket Chevrolet into the modern age. But can the duo follow up on the success of their predecessors while also incorporating new ideas at the dame time? We were eager to find out.
Refreshed duds keep Tahoe fresh
To find out, Chevrolet sent us a Premier grade Tahoe (the Suburban’s slightly shorter sibling) and it certainly makes a strong first impression. While the Premier was usurped in the trim lineup by the High Country variant, the Premier still projects a subtle air of elegance, with Chevrolet claiming that the Premier is supposed to be a balanced blend of modern style and value focused content. The front fascia is very progressive looking, and lacks some of the flab and clumsiness that defined older examples. The headlights are all new and define a reworked front grille which is more aggressive than before and works nicely with the tweaked lower bumper. There’s hints of Silverado DNA in the design, but unlike the truck, the Tahoe manages to pull off the look much better and looks very handsome. The side profile is still a very slab sided affair but a new design line now runs along the lower part of the doors.
This angle also showcases the Tahoe’s 6.7 inch increase in length which helps make big strides when it comes to interior room but we’ll touch on that in more detail later. Our tester’s large chrome rims also help enhance its street presence and are only bested by the slightly bigger hoops on the High Country. The rear of the Tahoe has been reworked too, but it still remains the weak link in the presentation with a look that’s much blander than some of its rivals. We will give Chevrolet props for finally adding a formal dual exhaust system to the Tahoe which helps the rear bumper look more composed though lower grade models still have the familiar single pipe exhaust setup.
As a whole we like the styling on the 2021 Tahoe and we think it has a leg up over the Ford Expedition’s more mundane balance out the essentials look. The Tahoe still does come up a bit short against the Dodge Durango which has racier duds but is saddled with older technology to make up the difference.
Premier interior goes for a balanced approach, excels in value
Slip inside the interior and you will find a number of new changes which help balance out some of the familiar quirks that are abundant in this iteration of Tahoe. Chevrolet designers added higher quality materials inside and while the dashboard is still a very button filled affair, there are less of them to contend with than the 2020 model. A big change though is the addition of a push/pull operated gear selector for the transmission. Replacing the long running and rather dated column mounted shifter that had been a staple of the Tahoe for the past several decades, the center stack mounted unit helps add a dash of unconventionality to the Tahoe, though buyers transitioning from the old school column shifter will have a brief learning curve when it comes to acclimating their muscle memory to it. But achieve this and the layout is very straight forward.
While the High Country is the way to go if you want all the toys, we actually recommend sticking with the Premier trim if your looking to have understated style to go with your family hauling needs. The High Country’s wild west motif brings garish colors that clash with some of the leather accents versus the Premier which does a better job of working with the materials it has on hand.
Passenger space makes full use of the 6.7 inches of extra space and the addition of an independent rear suspension to the Tahoe (a long overdue first for the model) helps create a flat floor and all of this combined helps improve leg and knee room. The third row is a space that’s still best left for children, but adult passengers will certainly be able to tolerate much longer hauls back there. When you don’t need the extra passenger room, the third row seats can be folded down with the help of satellite buttons in the rear. The third row can be summoned back up using this method, but the second row still requires a bit of manual muscle to go through the same procedure. But the reward is worth the effort with the Tahoe boasting a massive 122 cubic feet of space with all the rows folded (that shrinks to 25.5 cubic feet with the seats in place.)
Familiar performance makes full use of Tahoe’s new platform
With all the changes that Chevrolet engineers made for 2021, buyers will be happy to know that both of the Tahoe’s gasoline engines have been carried over for the 2021 model year. A 6.2 liter V8 is still the performance focused option, but our tester arrived with the base 5.3 liter V8 which is expected to be the volume focused engine in the lineup. Boasting 355 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque, this long running V8 choice still has the goods to help the Tahoe take care of business and it makes you question why you would upgrade to the 6.2 liter to begin with.
A 10-speed automatic is the sole transmission available and it’s not only a noticeable improvement over the old eight speed, but also manages to be a far smoother unit as well. A new 3.0 liter diesel engine is also available on the Tahoe, but it depends on trim level with the Z71 model not getting it due to constraints in regards to the cooling system. As for our example, the 5.3 liter V8 and the accompanying transmission allowed our tester to make the sprint to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds which is reasonably swift but the Tahoe will still never be mistaken for a track day darling.
Handling is arguably where the biggest improvement lies with the Tahoe for 2021. The bouncy ride of the old solid rear axle is replaced by a renewed sense of poise and a slight degree of sharpness that can be achieved with a Independent rear suspension. The Tahoe is still a full-size SUV, but our tester did feel more composed in city driving with the steering being more accurate than before. Braking is secure but our tester did exhibit a good deal of nose dive in panic stop situations.
Pricing for the 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe starts at $50,295 for a base two wheel drive LS but as is the case with past generations of the Tahoe, that figure can rise very quickly depending on trim and options. Work your way to the Premier trim like our example and you are greeted with a base MSRP of $63,895. Adding all-wheel drive pumps the price up to $66,895 with our rig also pumping an additional $4,485 into the sticker. This caused our final total to climb to $71,380 which includes the $1,295 destination charge.
That’s a hefty chunk of change but it’s still less expensive than the range topping High Country model with that trim forcing buyers to go to the 6.2 liter V8. Buyers looking to match the Tahoe’s price in the Expedition lineup will have to either go for the wild west themed King Ranch or the range topping Platinum models. The Expedition said adios to its V8 engine lineup several years ago and only offers a 3.5 liter engine with the turbocharged version producing 400 horsepower. As for the Durango, it’s the only one of the domestic big three to offer a V8 engine (the bonkers one year only Hellcat excluded) but the 5.7 liter and 6.1 liter Hemi V8s are aging and the Durango also gives up two gears to the Tahoe in terms of transmission equipment.
When it all comes down to it the 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe manages to check off all the essentials that full-size SUV buyers crave in a utility. It has enough size to haul large amounts of people and cargo, the technology to finally fit in with an increasingly mobile world, and a platform we can believe in again. Hopefully with a few more minor revisions (the recently announced performance parts are a welcome start) the Tahoe can go from being a clutch hitter to a balanced all rounder.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.