DALLAS, Texas — My 2017 holiday season couldn’t have worked out better. Chevrolet trucks celebrated its centennial in Dallas with an extensive piecemeal program that incorporated classic drives, riding shotgun with law enforcement at a training center, and an early glimpse of the all-new 2019 Silverado. As part of the program, media were offered the opportunity to drive back to their respective cities in a 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe RST.
The sunny shores of Los Angeles may serve as my current stomping grounds, but this writer grew his roots in Texas. My parents and a large portion of my extended family call Dallas home, so this was the perfect opportunity to spend not only the holidays with loved ones, but allowed me to celebrate my dad and my grandmother’s birthday.
There’s something so satisfying about GM’s full-size SUV family. From the Tahoe to the Escalade, there’s a lot to love. With a customer loyalty rate of over 70 percent, these SUVs are four-wheeled multitools. It hauls everything from kids to boats, crosses muddy bogs while cosseting passengers, and remains an ideal road trip cruiser.
For 2018, the Tahoe/Suburban lineup diversifies even further with the introduction of the new RST package. You’ll have to look quite hard to pick an RST out from the dealer lot, considering there isn’t a single RST badge to be found on the entirety of the car. For the keen-eyed among you, keep an eye out for Tahoes that wearing darkened trim with black Bowtie badges instead of chrome.
There’s also a set of more stylish wheels at all four corners, but the RST’s real arsenal is underneath the skin. For the first time, the Tahoe is now available with the 6.2-liter L86 V-8 found in GMC Yukons, Cadillac Escalades, and Silverados. Power is managed by the new 10-speed automatic transmission co-developed with Ford. 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque sent through this quick-shifting box means the monstrously large Tahoe hustles to 60 mph in a shocking 5.7 seconds, enough to pick on those hooligans in VW Golf GTIs.
This means you’re going to be scuttling a little faster than you would in a regular Tahoe, necessitating some extra hardware to make sure you don’t hurl yourself off a cliff. To wit, the RST adds a new performance tune for the standard Magneride magnetic ride control. Unlike the system on the Camaro and Corvette, this is non-adjustable, at least by the driver. It’s an adaptive system, stiffening or softening the ride depending on the situation.
As a final perk, buyers can opt for two dealer added extras that I believe should be mandatory. For extra stopping power, Chevy will slot in bigger front brakes from Brembo. Trust me, they make a large difference with that new 6.2-liter and the bright red calipers look excellent. They will also install a Borla exhaust system right out of the box. It’s not as aggressive as a Camaro SS, but the buttery lublublub is a perfect middle ground.
Despite the working class badge up front, the Tahoe can still be priced out to eyewatering heights. My particular tester was part of the Premier option group, adding a healthy dollop of handy features including keyless access with remote start, power tilt wheel, and HID headlamps. Even so, the $78,000 price tag was a hard lump to swallow without a GMC or Cadillac badge in sight.
Following the Centennial festivities at the Texas Motor Speedway, I surprised my dad in the driveway of our house as he was packing up their RX 350 for a roadtrip to Bentonville, Arkansas for his birthday. The plan was to celebrate his (and my 92-year-old grandmother’s) birthday with a trip to the fabulous Crystal Bridges art museum five hours away.
Unsurprisingly, with the third row folded down, the Tahoe swallowed four people’s luggage with room to spare. My passengers in the second row enjoyed their captain’s chairs, which provided them with plenty of legroom and a valuable dead space between the seats that served as snack central. If they were of the younger sort, an infotainment screen folds down from the headliner of the truck, complete with two pairs of accompanying headphones.
On the way up to Arkansas, it was as uneventful as we hoped. With the semi-sport-tuned Magneride suspension, it’s admittedly stiffer than the regular suspension, but it’s far from uncomfortable. Other unsurprising non-revelations – the fuel tank is sizable, compensating for the 6.2-liter thirst, and the extra power provides quick merging speeds.
Once in Bentonville, the RST continued to play the role of school bus effortlessly. The entire family was a big, big fan of the remote start function, keeping us toasty when temperatures dipped beneath the 30-degree mark.
Museum enjoyed and birthday steaks consumed, we saddled the Tahoe up again for a southbound journey to home. We took the scenic route this time, cutting through the breathtaking Ozark mountains. It was wet and misty most of the way up the snaking hill, eventually transitioning into a full-bore rainstorm by the time we began our descent. Through the drenched swtichbacks, the RST was as confident as a full-size, body-on-frame SUV can be. Cornering was indeed flatter than its model siblings, and the big brakes were a godsend as I hauled the truck down from speed. It’s not as sharp as a Range Rover Sport SVR or a BMW X5M, but it’s not meant to be.
Unfortunately, we overestimated how long the scenic route would take, so we ended up cutting the fun portion short and cutting through myriad tight two-lane highways in Oklahoma and Texas. it was pitch black in the boonies, so the narrow wet roads were treacherous to navigate. The RST was surefooted, and comfortable enough for my passengers, and we made it home safe, albeit a bit grumpy from the long drive.
The Tahoe remained in my control for the following two weeks. I gladly played the family chauffeur, shuttling close and extended family to meals, movies, and visits. It was comfortable, fast, and utilitarian, and most importantly, it made the holiday season perfect.
2018 Chevrolet Tahoe RST
ON SALE: Now
PRICE: $78,155 (as tested)
ENGINE: 6.2L SOHC 16-valve V-8 / 420 hp @ 5,600 rpm, 460 lb-ft @ 4,100 rpm; 1,750 – 2,500 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 10-speed automatic transmission
LAYOUT: 5-door, 7-passenger, front-engine, RWD/4WD SUV
EPA MILEAGE: 14/22 city/hwy
L x W x H: 203.9 x 80.5 x 74.4 in
WHEELBASE: 116 in
WEIGHT: 5,631 lb
0-60 MPH: 5.7 seconds
TOP SPEED: N/A