What Is It?
The full-size SUV market has been steadily shrinking as consumers embrace more car-based crossovers. These smaller models are more fuel efficient, and for many owners a big truck-based SUV is more vehicle than necessary for everyday use. However, some simply need more cargo- and passenger-carrying capability — or off-road ability and towing capacity — than a small crossover can provide. Those folks know it’s hard to beat a big SUV, and one of the newest and most capable on the market is the redesigned 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe Diesel.
Chevrolet provides us with a 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe 4WD High Country painted in Iridescent Pearl Tricoat. The High Country reigns as the top-level trim of the Tahoe lineup, so it packs in plenty of standard equipment; however, the test vehicle also featured the High Country Deluxe package, a rear-seat entertainment system and a powered sliding floor console. This Tahoe was also equipped with the Duramax turbodiesel powerplant. Total retail price lists at $80,790. Competitors to the Tahoe include the GMC Yukon, Toyota Sequoia, Nissan Armada, Mercedes-Benz GLS, Lexus LX, Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator.
The Tahoe line offers a choice of V8 engines or a diesel powertrain. The test vehicle arrived with the diesel — more specifically, a 3.0-liter turbodiesel inline 6-cylinder engine generating 277 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque at a low 1500 rpm. Chevrolet teams a smooth-shifting 10-speed automatic transmission with the diesel powerplant. This unit, combined with four-wheel drive, gives drivers the ability to tow up to 8,000 pounds — more than enough for the 3,700-pound Lance travel trailer we towed for our test outing. The diesel powertrain adds $1,500 to the Tahoe’s price.
According to the U.S. EPA, the 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe Diesel is rated at 20 mpg city / 26 mpg hwy / 22 mpg combined — strong numbers for a vehicle of this size. During our time in the Tahoe the fuel display read about 23 mpg around town, and an impressive 16 mpg while towing the travel trailer.
The 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe has an all-new look with a bold yet clean design up front. The High Country gets a unique grille with bronze accents and a large Chevrolet bowtie. Slim LED headlights sit flush with the hood and have stylish LED running lights below. The Tahoe still exhibits classic squared-off SUV looks that give this big sport ute its strong presence.
Although Chevrolet is not considered a luxury brand of parent-company General Motors, the Tahoe High Country is incredibly luxurious inside. Large bucket seats trimmed in soft leather have tasteful contrasting stitching and High Country lettering embossed on the head restraints. Heating and cooling as well as multiple adjustments ensure occupants are cosseted in the utmost comfort. Leather and stitching also adorn the dashboard, doors and center console.
The 10-inch center display of the 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe is bright and easy to read, and we appreciate the easy navigation points at the bottom of the screen. Actual knobs for volume and tuning are also found below the screen, along with another physical button to quickly access the home screen. Climate controls are separate and easy to use. Below the center stack, front-seat occupants will appreciate additional USB-A and USB-C ports, as well as a large wireless charging pad. Wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard — features that owners will definitely appreciate.
Sliding Center Console
Many full-size SUVs offer spacious center console storage, and the 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe adds a novel feature to its between-seat storage bin. With the push of a button, the console can be moved toward the rear seat, allowing aft passengers to reach cupholders and power ports more easily. At the same time, a drawer at the front of the console can be opened and it then functions like a safe — once the console moves forward again, items secured in the drawer remain hidden out of sight. The console also has a light in the lid, making it much easier to find items at night.
Roomy Second Row
Bucket seats in the second row of the 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe offer plenty of legroom and headroom, and the optional rear-seat entertainment system makes this location a nice place to ride. Rear-seat passengers get their own climate controls, and the High Country also offers heated rear seats. Four USB ports — two USB-A, two USB-C — keep everyone’s devices charged.
The third row of practically any vehicle can be a bit of a penalty box — not a seat most adults would want to spend time in. However, the new- generation Tahoe possesses major improvements for third-row passengers. Seats are positioned higher off the floor, and with 10 inches more legroom and plenty of headroom they don’t feel cramped. The second-row seats can also slide forward or backward, which provides a bit more legroom for the third row. Two additional USB ports are available to third-row occupants.
The Tahoe is a big SUV, so it’s no surprise that cargo space is plentiful. The 2021 model has 66 percent more cargo room behind the third row — enough space for a few suitcases or plenty of groceries. Both second- and third-row seats can be folded via buttons in the cargo area, creating a cavernous space for carting large items.
During our time with the 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe Diesel, we towed a Lance 1475s travel trailer with a GVWR of 3,700 pounds — well within the capabilities of the Tahoe diesel. The top-level High Country Deluxe package equips the big SUV with an integrated trailer brake controller, a hitch receiver and Chevrolet’s Advanced Trailering System with Trailer Side Blind Zone Alert.
The Tahoe features multiple camera views that make hooking up a trailer an easy, one-person operation. Grid lines in the standard rear display help line up the ball with the hitch, and as the Tahoe draws close to the trailer the view can be changed downward towards the hitch to ensure an easy connection. All this camera tech sure helps — while watching the display, we discovered that the trailer had not been raised enough to fit over the hitch ball, so instead of getting out and raising the tongue jack we simply lowered the Tahoe’s air suspension to slip beneath the hitch.
Once a trailer’s wiring harness has been plugged in, the Tahoe recognizes the connection — from then on, the trailer info can be stored and recognized every time the trailer is attached. Testing the lights has also become a one-person operation. The Tahoe’s trailering menu has an option to test all lights. At the press of a button, the system will cycle through brakes, turn signals and emergency flashers to confirm all are working. Brake gain can also be set through the display.
With the Lance 1475s connected to the 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe Diesel, we drove over Snoqualmie and Blewett passes to central Washington for a few days of camping. The Tahoe remained impressively stable while pulling the trailer and was never lacking in power. Nearing the two summits, our tow rig passed slower trucks with no drama — the Tahoe’s high-torque diesel powerplant barely broke a sweat. We easily adjusted the integrated brake controller on the fly so it would provide a continuously confident ride, even when descending from the summits.
The Tahoe’s diesel powerplant adds a high level of efficiency without any perceptible drop in performance. We experienced an average of 23 mpg in a combination of city and highway driving — impressive for this large, powerful vehicle. Fuel economy dropped to a still respectable 16 mpg while towing the Lance travel trailer.
Granted, the 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe Diesel is certainly capable of towing a lot more than a small trailer, so it’s no surprise that the diesel powerplant and smooth automatic transmission provide a confident, stable ride. The towing apps make trailer hookups easy and thus improve the entire experience. And the luxurious appointments and features of the High Country are certainly a plus. Although the price of this top-level variant does put it out of reach for some buyers, the Tahoe’s spacious interior and strong capability are hard to beat for those who need big luxury, big utility and big efficiency in a truck-based SUV.