- Available air suspension
- Roomier third row
- 10-speed automatic
- All the screens
- Loaded with family-friendly features
- Some in-state college educations are cheaper
- Optional adaptive cruise control
- Need a bigger garage
- Max towing decreases to 8,400 lbs
- MPG stagnant
features & specs
The 2021 Chevy Tahoe gets larger, roomier, comfier, and loaded with more features than a cineplex.
If big is better, then the redesigned 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe betters what it’s been. The full-size SUV expands in length, cargo room, and third-row passenger room to seat up to eight passengers in comfort (or nine in less comfort in fleet and base LS models), abetted by a softer suspension setup.
Built on the Silverado pickup truck platform and mechanically similar to the larger 2021 Chevy Suburban, the Tahoe can be less efficient than the outgoing model despite nifty fuel-saving tricks. Some features such as adaptive cruise control are not available on LS, LT, RST, and Z71 trims, and are only an option even on the priciest Premier and High Country trims. Nitpick withstanding, it earns a TCC Rating of 6.8 out of 10 (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Taking the broad, bold design cues from the Silverado pickup truck, the Tahoe might intimidate rear-view mirrors and deer alike. A wide vertical grille and boxy bod on big wheels belie the more refined touches inside.
A familiar duo of V-8 engines power the 2021 Tahoe, but are now paired with a standard 10-speed automatic transmission. Four-wheel drive is optional, as is a 277-horsepower 3.0-liter inline-6 turbodiesel that gets up to 28 mpg highway. The big 5.3-liter and 6.2-liter V-8s ride on a new independent rear suspension with available adaptive dampers and a four-corner air suspension.
Growing longer, the 2021 Tahoe gets 30% more cargo space, roomier third-row seats with a better seating position and more leg room, and heated bucket seats up front with power-adjustable lumbar support. All of that makes for comfier road tripping and less complaining.
Crash-test results aren’t in but Chevrolet equipped the 2021 Tahoe with standard automatic emergency braking. Other safety features are limited to the highest trims, but we kvetch about that later.
Aside from that bungled safety bundling, the 2021 Tahoe comes well equipped with a large 10.2-inch touchscreen, smartphone compatibility with wireless charging, power liftgate, and other features. The base LS and mid-grade RST trim are delayed until after the launch of the more popular trims. Available options run the gamut from the expected, like rear-seat entertainment center and a sunroof, to the unexpected, such as a power-sliding center console that moves 10 inches.
Even with fuel-saving technology such as cylinder deactivation and automatic start-stop, the 2021 Tahoe isn’t much more efficient than last year and in some cases it is worse, with the exception of the turbodiesel.
But that’s the consequence of bigness: physics. The big Tahoe cocoons passengers from the road in an immersive cabin that resurrects the adage about getting there as part of the fun.
2021 Chevrolet Tahoe
The full-size Tahoe SUV looks more truck-like outside and behaves more refined inside.
Bigger, bolder, richer, the 2021 Tahoe could be a BBQ sauce. It is not, but the full-size SUV wears a Texas-sized truck face and a boxy bod built for capacity. From the front, it looks like the new Silverado pickup truck, which is worth a point; inside, it doesn’t—it’s better than the trucks—and that’s worth another point to get it to a 7.
Standard LED headlights squint out of a broad, vertical face with a slotted grille and vertical fog lights. As seen in rear-view mirrors, it will make cars get out of the way, for better and for worse. With wheel sizes ranging from an almost meek 18 inches to a blingable 22 inches, the lone crease on the upper body blends into the background, as do available power running boards. The rear opening, flanked by vertical LED taillights is even more squared off to better fit cargo.
Inside, leather-trimmed seats and an uncluttered soft-touch dash simplify what has become so busy in other vehicles. The 10.2-inch touchscreen commands the dash in a speak-softly-big-stick kind of carriage. An electronic gear shifter on the dash opens up room for the wide, truck-like console, while a minimized band of screen functions and climate controls keep it clean and orderly. Fake chrome trim pieces contrast with black materials, and high trims get more rustic saddle-looking leather.
2021 Chevrolet Tahoe
An independent rear suspension and adaptive dampers soften the ride on the 2021 Chevy Tahoe.
The 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe hauls like a truck but handles like a crossover. V-8 power combines with a new independent rear suspension and available adaptive dampers and air suspension to earn a 7 for performance.
The 2021 Tahoe uses two familiar V-8 engines but this year a 10-speed automatic transmission is standard with rear-wheel drive. A fuel-saving 277-horsepower 3.0-liter inline-6 turbodiesel with 460 pound-feet of torque comes standard on the top High Country trim.
The 355-hp 5.3-liter V-8 makes 383 lb-ft and can tow up to 8,400 pounds in rear-wheel drive. Last year’s model could tow 8,600 pounds—blame this year’s added weight. Available only on the top High Country is a 420-hp 6.2-liter V-8 that makes 460 lb-ft.
The 10-speed automatic transmission is almost unnoticeable under normal throttle. A heavy foot will push the first two gears into the 6,000-rpm range with a welcome V-8 roar, but otherwise the full-size SUV shies to the quieter side in the truck realm.
More impressive is the four-wheel independent suspension instead of a solid live rear axle, for the first time. Each wheel carries its own load, so even going over train tracks neglected by post-industrial times means you can keep on going without slowing down. Slumbering passengers might not even notice. It also makes for less lean on curving roads, but for the complete package consider upgrading to magnetic dampers that react much quicker to smooth out road imperfections and limit or altogether eliminate that bouncing sensation from the unladen rear.
For the ultimate in comfort and convenience, the 2021 Tahoe offers an air suspension ($1,000) on High Country and Z71 trims. The ride height can adjust up to four inches via a somewhat concealed knob on the panel by the automatic headlights near the driver’s left knee. It automatically lowers three-quarters of an inch on the highway to improve aerodynamics, and can be set to lower two inches when it’s put in park for easier entry and exit. Off the road, it can be raised up to two inches for greater ground clearance.
Four-wheel drive costs $3,000 extra except where it is standard on Z71 trim.
2021 Chevrolet Tahoe
Comfort & Quality
The third row is more than functional for adults, and cargo room expands alongside the 2021 Chevy Tahoe.
The 2021 Chevy Tahoe excels at hauling families, teams, boats, gear, and whatever else in expansive comfort. It can seat up to nine passengers, with a 40/20/40-split front row bench seat in fleet and base LS trims. With a roomier cockpit and leather-trimmed power seats that are heated, a much larger third row, and 25.5-cubic feet of cargo room with the seats up, the Tahoe earns all of its 9 points.
Even though it’s 4% bigger, rear cargo volume increases by 30%, according to Chevy. Longer by 6.7 inches, and with a wheelbase 4.9 inches longer, the 2021 Tahoe’s bigness benefits all passengers, especially in the back. The longer wheelbase enabled designers to lower the load floor, which lets adults sit in the third row without feeling as if they are about to eat their knees. There’s 10.1 inches more leg room back there to 34.9 inches, and with available second-row bucket seats that can slide up to 5 inches either way and collapse to about two inches to create a flat load floor, the Tahoe can fit 122.9 cubic feet total. The power-folding rear seats on top trims can’t fold down completely without moving the second-row seats up, which requires a manual handle.
Clever storage solutions in door pockets, consoles, the center stack, and dash open up more space, aided in part by a shift to an electronic gear shifter mounted on the dash between the steering wheel and touchscreen, like some Lincoln vehicles.
Leather-trimmed heated front seats with lumbar support come standard on the LT trim, and though the seat backs are firm but supportive, the cushions are on the narrower side, or so it seems in a vehicle so large.
2021 Chevrolet Tahoe
The 2021 Tahoe has not been crash-tested by the IIHS or NHTSA.
The large proportions of the full-size SUV make it safe in crashes, but the standard active safety features make it safer for everyone since it can avoid or mitigate crashes. We can’t give it a score until it’s crashed by federal and independent testers, but we would award Chevy a point for including essential safety features such as automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, automatic headlights, rear-seat reminder, and parking alerts as standard equipment.
We would take that point away, however, for limiting the availability of other safety features.
Active lane control, blind-spot monitors, and front and rear parking alerts aren’t standard until the Premier trim, and enhanced emergency braking that works at speed above 50 mph is available only on High Country and Premier trims. Same with adaptive cruise control, which many other makes include as standard equipment.
2021 Chevrolet Tahoe
The 2021 Tahoe LT provides the best value, but the loaded High Country tempts the impractical impulse.
Starting with an excellent 10.2-inch touchscreen with large icons and a clear display, the 2021 Chevy Tahoe has a strong standard feature set that includes a wi-fi hotspot and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. That’s worth two points on our scale, and the extensive options list ranging from adaptive air suspension to a power-sliding console earn another point to reach an 8.
The base LS model and blacked-out RST model weren’t yet detailed by Chevrolet, so our feature assessment is limited to LT, Z71, Premier, and High (price) Country.
With 10-way power-adjustable front seats that are heated, the LT trim comforts up to eight passengers in the right way. Keyless access and ignition, wireless smartphone charging, Bose nine-speaker audio system, leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather-trimmed front seats, and two USB ports for every row of seats make this our value pick at just over $55,000.
The Z71 adds off-road elements such as red tow hooks, skid plates, 20-inch wheels with all-terrain tires, a black grille, and black tube side steps. Four-wheel drive is standard for just over $60,000.
If the Premier trim tempts, it might make more sense to scale one more step to Mount Loaded in the High Country. The 22-inch wheels make the 18 inchers on LT look embarrassed, magnetic ride control eases the lean on turns, and a rear camera mirror lets you see through all the full-heads of hair back there. Second row passengers get heated bucket seats, front row riders get cooled, and the third row folds with the push of a button from the cabin or the cargo area.
It’s a screen bonanza, with a sharp 15-inch head-up display, 8.0-inch digital instrument cluster, and available dual 12.6-inch LCD HD entertainment touchscreens in the seat backs. The kids can even send navigation instructions to the nearest banana split shop up to the driver. Other options include panoramic sunroof, power running boards, and a power center console that moves back 10 inches for storage options as clever as Russian nesting dolls. Those options vault the Tahoe over the $80,000 mark.
A 3-year/36,000-mile limited warranty comes with one scheduled maintenance visit in the first year.
2021 Chevrolet Tahoe
Fuel-saving technology can’t fool physics in the larger 2021 Tahoe.
With three engine choices paired to a more efficient 10-speed automatic transmission, as well as cylinder deactivation and automatic start-stop, the 2021 Tahoe gets modestly more efficient around town. On the highway, its larger size makes it less efficient.
The most-efficient gas model is the 5.3-liter V-8 in rear-wheel drive, which gets an EPA-rated 16 mpg city, 20 highway, 18 combined. That’s an increase of 1 mpg city, but a decrease of 2 mpg highway, and the same combined figure from 2020. Fortunately, four-wheel drive is the same 16/20/18 mpg. It gets a 3.
For context, the 2020 Ford Expedition gets 17/23/19 mpg in four-wheel drive.
The 6.2-liter V-8 in rear-wheel drive drops only one mpg with an EPA-rated 15/20/17 mpg; four-wheel drive drops one mpg across the board to 14/19/16 mpg. That is one mpg less than the old model as well.
The most efficient Tahoe comes with a 3.0-liter inline-6 turbodiesel that gets 21 mpg city, 28 highway, 24 combined with rear-wheel drive. Shuttling power to all four wheels drops it to 20/26/22 mpg.