2018 tahoeBy Lesley Wimbush, Driving.ca - Enormous size, stump-pulling power and comfortable trappings used to be enough for fans of these rolling behemoths.  Who knew that a full-size SUV that sprints from 0-to-100 km/h in 5.7 seconds while still maintaining the ability to tow up to 8,400 pounds was what they really wanted?

Introduced at the New York Auto Show earlier this year, the Chevrolet Tahoe RST - which stands for Rally Sport Truck - starts with an appearance package and builds all the way up to a bad-ass performance truck with powertrain and suspension components borrowed from the Camaro ZL1.

With 49.3 per cent of the market share, the full-size SUV segment is an important market for GM: one out of every two sold is either a Tahoe or Suburban.  A three-row, eight-passenger, body-on-frame vehicle available in either rear- or all-wheel drive, the Tahoe competes against the Nissan Armada, Toyota Sequoia, sister vehicle GMC Yukon and its biggest rival, the Ford Expedition.  Tahoe sales are nearly double that of the Expedition's in the U.S., but in Canada it trails the Ford by a few hundred vehicles.  While the rest of the segment is powered by big V8 engines, the Expedition has a twin-turbo V6, and near-premium luxury features.

For 2017, the Tahoe lineup received more equipment and interior features, and a Premier model to replace the LTZ as the top trim level.  New standard equipment includes the Teen Driver System (allowing parents to monitor their youngster's driving habits), back-seat reminder, active grille shutters and an updated MyLink infotainment system.  The options list was also expanded, with an upgraded rear entertainment system, more USB ports, automated emergency braking, the illuminated bow-tie grille emblem from its pickup siblings, new 22-inch rims and a Midnight Edition appearance package.

And now the most powerful Tahoe ever: the RST.

While the base RST starts as a dechromed appearance package available on mid-level LT trims, retaining the standard 5.3-L V8 and six-speed powertrain and adding blacked-out grille and 22-inch rims, the top-spec Premier model can add the 6.2-L Performance Package, available on both rear- and all-wheel-drive Tahoes.  The package consists of the L86 6.2L V8 with 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque mated to the same 10-speed automatic transmission found in the Camaro ZL1.  Available are six-piston Brembo brakes, and the Magnetic Ride Control adaptive suspension system, which can assess road conditions and respond within milliseconds.

A 30-mile loop of not-very-inspiring Fort Worth suburban landscape is all we've got to evaluate our fully loaded Tahoe RST.  There's no RST badging anywhere on the vehicle: a glimpse of red Brembo calipers peeping from behind the spokes of the blacked out, 22-inch wheels, and two steely black tips from the optional Borla exhaust (which reportedly offers a 28 per cent improvement in flow) are the biggest visual clues.

Inside is a low-key leather interior: functional, comfortable but not particularly memorable.  There are other colours available that are more striking than our tester's black.  The infotainment screen is somewhat small in these days of panoramic display.

Seating is comfy, with room for seven or eight, depending on whether you opt for a second-row bench or available captain's chairs.  Our tester features the optional power release that easily drops the second-row seat for easier access to the third row, a rather cramped but admittedly useful space.  In all, there is a maximum of 2,681L of cargo space.

Despite its bulk, the Tahoe has very good road manners.  It is quiet and composed over bumps, without allowing any disturbances to enter the cabin.  It's fairly quiet until you tromp the gas pedal, when the small-block EcoTec3 V8 roars to life and the Borla exhaust answers with a deep-throated rumble.  This is the first time this engine has been available in the Tahoe, and if it doesn't quite offer Corvette-style performance, it does move the nearly 6,000-lb (2,720-kg) vehicle along with surprising swiftness.

We weren't able to confirm the sub-six second 0-to-100 km/hr sprint time, but suffice it to say the RST is pretty quick.

The Brembo brakes do a great job of reining it back in.  Once off the freeway, we travelled over some rather ratty pavement.  Although the big rims were wrapped in performance rubber, the suspension absorbed most of it without any harshness, yet at the same time the vehicle felt nicely planted without exhibiting any wallow.

Our U.S.-spec vehicles were rated at 17 mpg city/22 highway (13.8L/100 km city/10.7 highway) but featured active cylinder management, shutting down half the cylinders when not under heavy load and effectively converting it into a more efficient four-cylinder.

So, is there really a demand for such a special-edition, high-performance utility vehicle?  Well, in addition to the Tahoe RST we just tested, and its sibling the Suburban RST, Mercedes has been relentlessly churning out new AMG-badged crossovers, Chrysler has a 700-hp Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk powered by a Hellicat engine, and its new Dodge Durango boasts 475 hp, launch control - and a towing capacity of 8,600 lbs.  Suddenly the Tahoe RST sounds almost reasonable.

Available now in Canadian dealerships, the 2018 Tahoe starts at $64,045 for the LT 2WD, $67,345 for LT 4WD and $75,070 for the Premier 4WD ($1,795 destination/freight charge included).  The RST appearance package is $2,995.  The RST 6.2-L Performance Package is an additional $3,395, for a total of $6,390.  Add $4,130 for the Brembo Brake Package, and $1,620 for the Borla Exhaust.

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2017 Tahoe

By Clayton Seams, Driving.ca - It was one of those blizzards where the snow mimics the view outside the Millennium Falcon as it goes warp speed and the stars blur.  The ditch was lined with cars less fortunate, and the worried voice on the radio urged people to stay off the roads if at all possible.  Hitched behind me was 5,000 pounds (2,270 kilograms) worth of double-axle trailer and muscle car.

There wasn't a place in the world I'd rather be.  That's because my lucky behind was plopped in the driver's seat of a 2017 Chevrolet Tahoe LTZ.  Not only was said behind heated by the comfy leather seat, but far underneath that seat sat a capable 4WD system, self-leveling rear air suspension and a torque 5.3-litre V8 to power it all.  I don't like towing trailers in the snow, but if you had to do it, this is one of the best choices.

This kind of foul-weather, heavy-hauling worst-case-scenario is where the massive Tahoe excels.  It feels cumbersome on tiny city streets, like an elephant being walked on a leash through a living room.  It has a remarkably small turning circle for its size and the sight lines over the dashboard are good, but thanks to the high belt line and small rear window, reverse parking is a graceless manoeuvre that involves squinting out the rear window and shamelessly relying on the rear-view camera, hoping that there are no unseen obstacles.  This is not an easy vehicle to park.

The Tahoe is happiest on the highway, there the six-speed automatic allows the V8 to chug along at a whiff over 1,500 rpm.  The ride on the highway is superb for something with a 10,000-pound towing capacity, and the sound insulation is better than many luxury cars.

Of course, that should almost be expected as the fully loaded tester costs a luxurious $82,900.  Loading up a Tahoe with this many options gets you close to the price neighbourhood of the GMC Yukon Denali, with its superior 6.2-litre V8 and eight-speed automatic transmission.  But the interior of the Tahoe LTZ is sumptuously appointed with nearly flawless attention to ergonomics, and all cheap plastics are well hidden from the driver's normal view.  The premium Bose sound system is impressive and the interior is littered with USB ports.  Yes, it's a lot of money but it feels like every penny of it.

You're going to need a lot of money to fuel this thing, too.  Driving like an absolute saint at a steady 105 km/h, the big Tahoe achieved a mere 13.8 L/100km.  When towing a 2,270-kg trailer, the mileage dropped to a truly dismal 21.4 L/100km.

My own 1999 Suburban averages 12.4 L/100 km on the highway and returns about 23.5 L/100km when towing a 2,270-kg trailer.  I know the 2017 Tahoe makes much more power and has 4WD, but that's not a huge improvement for an 18-year gap.

I grew up in a Chevrolet Suburban household.  My father owned in succession a 1975, 1983 and a 1999 Suburban, the latter of which I bought from him and still own and drive today.  After an entire life spent riding in the back of Suburbans, which are just long-wheelbase Tahoes, I've always though the newer models felt smaller inside despite growing outwardly.

Compared to a 1998 Tahoe, the 2017 model is 11.2 centimetres longer and 9.4 cm wider.  The two are within 1.5 cm of each other in height, and yet the 2017 model has a 22 percent smaller cargo area than the 1998 model.  Stronger pillars for rollover protection and more airbags have exacted their toll on interior space.

Part of the problem lies with the third-row seats.  They have an ingenious (and very entertaining) motor system that allows them to fold flat at the touch of a button.  The seats fold, but at the cost of a low, flat loading floor.  A removable third-row seat would offer better flexibility between seating capacity and cargo space.

The Tahoe is a flawed creation, but it remains one of the best bridges between a full-size pickup and an SUV.  It offers real-truck towing capacity, 4WD and extremely comfortable seating for seven.  I'd like to see more efficient interior packaging, but otherwise the Tahoe impresses on all fronts.

Pros:  Excellent interior materials, real truck-spec capabilities.

Cons:  Fuel use, interior volume, giant chrome wheels make ride more harsh than it needs to be.

Value for money:  Good

What I would change:  Smaller chrome wheels, removable third-row seat

How I would spec it:  Fully loaded LTZ trim with 4WD and that great maroon paint.

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