Chevrolet’s extra-large SUVs can get a bit more attitude for 2018 with the addition of the RST Edition package. Available on both Tahoes and Suburbans, the RST (for “Rally Sport Truck”) appearance package brings a body-color grille surround and door handles in place of chrome, as well as blacked-out mirror caps, grille, window-trim, badging, and roof rails. The finishing touch is a set of exclusive 22-inch wheels on Bridgestone tires.
That all adds up to a “street performance appearance” (as Chevrolet calls it), but check off one more option box on the Tahoe and you get more than just cosmetics. The 6.2L Performance Package adds GM’s 420-horsepower 6.2-liter V8 paired with the new 10-speed automatic transmission, a 3.23 rear-axle ratio, an active noise cancellation system, and a performance-calibrated version of GM’s adaptive Magnetic Ride Control suspension.
If you’d like to go further still, a Borla performance exhaust system and Brembo-brand front-brake package are available as dealer-installed options. Chevrolet says that the Borla exhaust offers a 28-percent improvement in exhaust flow for a 7-10-horsepower gain at the rear wheels. The Brembo front brakes feature six-piston fixed aluminum calipers (finished in red) on 16.1-inch Duralife rotors; Chevy says they provide an 84-percent increase in brake-pad area and a 42-percent increase in rotor area.
At a recent Chevrolet press event, we took a short test drive in a 4WD Tahoe Premier optioned up with almost all the RST goodies. The 6.2 delivers robust acceleration in most any situation, especially considering the Tahoe’s heft. Chevy claims a 5.7-second 0-60-mph time, and the seat of our pants agree. The the wonderfully responsive 10-speed automatic transmission is another highlight. It’s smooth and unflappable, and we never caught it hunting for the proper gear—something we can’t say for some 9-speed transmissions we’ve tested.
Our test vehicle wasn’t equipped with the optional Borla exhaust, but you could have fooled us. Under throttle, the RST emits a gratifying muscle-car growl that’s quite pronounced, but things settle down nicely when cruising—thanks in part to the active noise cancellation system that’s included with the 6.2 package.
The Magnetic Ride Control suspension enables the Tahoe RST to corner quite crisply for a 5500-pound SUV, and the steering feel is likewise direct and communicative for a vehicle this size. The ride was fairly smooth overall, but it wasn’t quite as absorbent as we’d hoped it would be over sharp bumps and rough pavement. The 22-inch wheels on low-profile tires allowed a fair amount of wheel patter and the occasional jolt to be felt, but most RST buyers will probably consider it a fair trade-off.
Theoretically, the biggest plus of the RST Edition is that it enables you to get Cadillac Escalade power without spending Escalade money, but as it turns out, this hot-rod Tahoe is not as good a deal as it could have been. The base RST package is available on the midline Tahoe LT or topline Tahoe Premier, but the 6.2 Performance Package is available only on the Premier. So, you have to step all the way up to the topline model—base price: $65,130 in 4×4 form—if you want the big engine and the excellent 10-speed.
From that $65K baseline, the base RST package tacks on $2630, and the 6.2L package adds another $2820. Our test vehicle was also equipped with the Brembo front-brake kit ($2795), the Sun, Entertainment, and Destination package ($2385 after a $500 discount; includes sunroof, a rear entertainment system, and nine additional months of XM satellite radio), an upgraded instrument panel with head-up display ($850), and all-weather floor liners ($250). Add in another $1295 for destination, and the bottom line was a sobering $78,155. Had our vehicle been equipped with the Borla exhaust, we would have been even closer to $80K. For reference, a base Cadillac Escalade—which comes standard with the 6.2—starts at $75,290 including destination.
As a whole, shoppers of XXL SUVs are not penny-pinching types, so we don’t doubt that Chevrolet will find buyers for fully-loaded Tahoe RSTs… we just wish Chevy saw fit to offer the real performance goodies on a Tahoe LS model without all the luxury gear.