What Is It?
Some might call it a consequence of crossover popularity — America’s demand for big truck-based SUVs has dwindled over the years. However, that doesn’t mean the market is devoid of consumers who need a sport utility that can tow a big boat and haul the entire family in comfort — for these folks Chevrolet continues to build the Tahoe. All new for the 2021 model year, the best-selling full-size SUV in America is improved in every way with standout styling, plenty of power and range of new features.
Chevrolet provided us with a 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe High Country 4WD painted in Graywood Metallic. As the top-level trim of the Tahoe lineup, the High Country comes with most bells and whistles. However, the test vehicle arrived with a few additional options including a High Country Deluxe package with a power panoramic sunroof and retractable running boards, as well as a rear-seat media system for a total MSRP of $81,345. Competitors to the Tahoe include the GMC Yukon, Toyota Sequoia, Mercedes-Benz GLS, Lexus LX, Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator.
Chevrolet builds the 2021 Tahoe — and its larger SUV sibling, the Suburban — on a new chassis with a longer wheelbase and new independent rear suspension. Not only does this setup provide an improved ride, it also allows for a lower load floor and improved overall passenger space without sacrificing any capability.
The 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe gets an all-new look with a bold but clean design. Up front, the High Country gets a unique grille adorned with a large Chevrolet bowtie and bronze accents. Slim LED headlights sit flush with the hood and have stylish LED running lights below.
Proper SUV Style
Tahoe retains its squared-off classic SUV styling, although the 2021 model features sculpted doors and pronounced fenders that add considerable character. Large 22-inch wheels on the High Country underscore the vehicle’s rugged looks.
The bold styling of the 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe continues at the rear, where TAHOE is emblazoned in large letters beneath a stylish chrome strip that gives the big SUV a wider look. New LED taillights, a roof spoiler and quad exhaust round out the Tahoe’s new demeanor.
“The longer proportions enabled us to add more sophistication and surface detail,” noted Phil Zak, executive design director at Chevrolet. “The design builds on what generations of owners have known and loved about the Tahoe and Suburban and gives them more, with confident, bolder stances that remain reassuringly familiar, but with greater detail than ever before,” said Zak.
Major improvements to the 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe help transform the top-tier High Country into a luxurious conveyance. Up front, big bucket seats trimmed in leather have contrasting stitching and High Country embossed on the head restraints. The comfortable seats offer heating and cooling as well as multiple adjustments. Leather and stitching continue to the dashboard, door panels and center console.
The 10-inch center display of the 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe is bright and easy to read, and drivers will appreciate the easy navigation at the bottom of the screen. Actual knobs for volume and tuning are found below, along with a button to quickly access the home screen. The separate climate controls are easy to use, and the bottom of the center stack houses USB-A and USB-C ports as well as a large wireless charging pad. Wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard — significant features that owners today would quickly find they can’t do without.
Many full-size SUVs offer spacious center console storage, although the 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe adds some interesting features. With the push of a button, the console slides toward the rear seat, making it easier for rear-seat passengers to reach cupholders and power ports. As the console slides rearward, it exposes a drawer beneath that functions like a safe; once the console moves forward again, items secured in the drawer remain out of sight. The console also has a light in the lid, which makes it easier to find items at night.
The 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe has a new location for the gear selector — next to the display screen. The design is a bit unusual; buttons for Drive and Reverse get pulled rather than pushed, while Neutral and Park are push to select. The new setup creates a lot of additional storage space, although new owners will likely need some time adjusting to the selector’s location and operation.
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 the space a chill place to ride. Rear-seat passengers get their own climate controls, and the High Country also features heated rear seats. Four USB ports — two USB-A, two USB-C — keep everyone’s devices charged.
Perhaps the biggest improvements for the 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe are in the third row. The third row of most SUVs can feel more like a penalty box — not in the new Tahoe. Seats sit up higher, and with 10 inches more legroom and plenty of headroom occupants won’t feel cramped. And the second-row seats can be slid forward to provide even more legroom for the third row. Third-row occupants also have two USB ports.
At the push of a button, the second-row seats of the 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe fold completely out of the way to provide easy access to the third row.
Stepping up into a vehicle as large as the 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe can be difficult, especially for people of small stature. Retractable running boards help with this issue, providing a solid step for all four doors.
The 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe is a big SUV, so its plentiful cargo space comes as no surprise. This new Tahoe 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 massive real estate for hauling large items.
Under the Hood
The Tahoe High Country test vehicle we drove came with the upgraded 6.2-liter V8 engine that generates 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque, teamed with a smooth-shifting 10-speed automatic transmission. With the big V8 and four-wheel drive, the Tahoe High Country can tow up to 8,100 pounds.
There are many reasons to buy a big SUV — fuel economy likely isn’t one of them. According to U.S. EPA numbers, the 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe High Country with the 6.2-liter V8 is rated at 14 mpg city / 19 mpg hwy / 16 mpg combined. However, during our time in the Tahoe we didn’t see much above 12 mpg on the trip computer. Fuel economy did improve slightly with the Tahoe in 2WD.
On the Road
The V8 engine in the High Country is fully capable of getting this big SUV moving quickly, with the added bonus of a pleasing V8 roar emanating from the quad tailpipes. Thanks to the new chassis, the ride of the 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe is smooth and comfortable with little road noise — the Tahoe would certainly make a great road-trip vehicle.
The Tahoe is a big, heavy vehicle, so we approached our backcountry drive with expectations set accordingly. However, the 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe surprised us with decent steering and feedback that make the SUV easier than anticipated to drive, even on winding roads east of Seattle. The Tahoe’s smooth ride remains comfortable even when road surfaces get rough.
Slow 4WD Response
During our test drives in the 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe roads were slick with rain, so we selected Automatic 4WD for additional traction. Thus we were surprised to feel the rear wheels spinning when accelerating onto a main road, causing the rear end to slip a bit sideways before the front wheels engaged. We would expect the system to react more quickly to a loss of traction.
Most people do not need a full-size SUV for everyday driving — a more fuel-efficient, smaller crossover will do. However, some consumers simply need a vehicle with room for the whole family, proper SUV versatility and the power to pull a camper or boat. Add in the desire for an attractive vehicle — with the latest safety and convenience features — and the 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe certainly fits the bill. Speaking of bills, the price of the top-tier High Country is steep, although its long list of equipment certainly makes it worth consideration.