INDIANAPOLIS — Summer is finally here and many of you will be heading off on your version of The Great American Road Trip. You’ll need a vehicle that is comfortable for you and those you consider family, have the capability to get your kit almost anywhere, and preferably do it with a great deal of efficiency. If that’s the kind of vehicle you desire for your adventure, go for a drive in the 2021 Chevy Tahoe Premiere with the diesel engine.
Especially with gas prices on the rise, I have an extreme aversion to pumping petrol into fuel-guzzling SUVs. Buy a crossover and save fuel. But the Tahoe’s available 3.0-liter turbo-diesel, mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission, changes the math and achieves 20/26-MPG city/highway with all-wheel-drive (21/28-MPG without) – about the same as a mid-size crossover and beyond impressive for a full-framed, three-row SUV that can tow 8,000 lbs. of RVs, boats, or horses. Then again, with 277 horsepower and 460 lb.-ft. of torque underfoot, it should be capable…and comfortable.
With the Premiere package, interior luxury rivals Cadillac in features and style that begins with plush perforated dash coverings lined with woodgrain trim and extends to comfy quad captain’s chairs – heated/ventilated up front, heated in the rear. Tri-zone climate control, heated steering wheel, and panoramic roof elevate this ride further. This generation’s longer body adds 10 inches of legroom in the third row and 66% more space behind it, though passengers will travel more comfortably in two rows than three.
Luxuries don’t end with the physical space. Devices connect to the 10-speaker Bose audio system through wireless Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Wireless charging pad, Bluetooth, and 4G Wi-Fi add device connections while rear seat media screens keep big and little kids entertained. Comprehensive safety protects precious cargo with forward crash mitigation braking, lane keep assist, rear cross path detection, and blind zone warning that extends to trailers. Adaptive cruise maintains a safe distance while the 15” head-up display looms large over the hood for speed, navigation, and safety systems status.
Out on the road, the Tahoe is transformed by a four-wheel independent suspension system with Magnetic Ride Control that finally replace the old-school solid rear axle of previous generations. It’s not as smooth as a crossover, and the Escalade’s air suspension would be a welcome addition, but does a good job of smothering rough roads, sweeping the truck’s 5,904 lbs. through curvy backroads, or wafting them down the Interstate for mile after mile. There’s not an overwhelming amount of power when stomping onto freeways, but the torquey turbo-diesel is very happy cruising significantly above posted speed limits.
You’ll identify the luxury version by its bling and wind-honed shape. A big chrome grille wraps under LED headlamps and into sculpted fenders housing 20” wheels. The side profile is immense, but the kicked-up windowline is more playful than the previous generation’s formal straight lines. Clear lens taillamps with “Chevrolet” formed into chrome seem lifted from a concept car. It definitely looks expensive.
You would be hard-pressed to find a better vehicle for crossing continents (or just getting to dinner) than the Tahoe Premiere diesel. It will pamper you to and fro while providing surprising fuel economy. Of course, that all comes at a price. While Tahoe starts at $49,600, ours came to $75,165. If that’s too steep, consider the excellent Chevy Traverse three-row crossover from $29,800.
Casey Williams is former auto correspondent for WFYI and the Indianapolis Star plus a contributor to the Chicago Tribune’s Sunday Auto Page. He has reviewed vehicles and covered the auto industry for over 25 years. He lives with his family in Broad Ripple. Email him at AutoCasey@aol.com; check his reviews on YouTube at AutoCasey.
2021 Chevy Tahoe Diesel
2021 Chevy Tahoe Premiere
7 passengers, 4WD SUV
Powertrain: 3.0L I6 Diesel, 10-spd trans
Output: 277 hp/460 lb.-ft.
Suspension f/r: Elect Ind/Ind
Wheels f/r: 20”/20” alloy
Brakes f/r: disc/disc
Must-have features: Style, MPGs
Towing: 8,000 lbs.
Fuel economy: 20/26-MPG city/hwy
Assembly: Arlington, TX
Base price/As-tested: $49,600/75,165