Mar
19
2021 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71

2021 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71 in Shadow Gray Metallic

Consumer Guide Test Drive

2021 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71

ClassLarge SUV

Miles driven: 118

Fuel used: 6.9 gallons

CG Report Card
Room and ComfortA-
Power and PerformanceA-
Fit and FinishB
Fuel EconomyB-
ValueA-
Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.
Big & Tall Comfort
Big GuyA
Tall GuyA
Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.
Drivetrain
Engine Specs355-hp 5.3L
Engine TypeV8
Transmission 10-speed automatic
Drive Wheels4-wheel drive

Real-world fuel economy: 16.9 mpg

Driving mix: 50% city, 50% highway

EPA-estimated fuel economy: 16/20/18 (city, highway, combined)

Fuel typeRegular gas

Base price: $59,200 (not including $1295 destination charge)

Options on test vehicle: Z71 Off-Road Package ($5735), Rear Media and Nav Package ($2490), power-release second-row bucket seats ($370), power-sliding center console ($350) Z71 Off-Road Package discount (-$500)

Price as tested: $68,940

More Tahoe price and availability information

 

Quick Hits

The great: Cavernous room for both people and cargo; pleasant road manners for such a large vehicle

The good: Long list of standard and available features; satisfying acceleration

The not so good: Extra-large dimensions can make close-quarters maneuvering a challenge

 

John Biel

If you need a large, V8-powered, body-on-frame sport-utility vehicle, there are lots of choices. If you want it to be in the subluxury price class, the field shrinks. If you want one that Consumer Guide says is a “Best Buy” then the decision has practically been made for you.

The 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe will probably do.

2021 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71

The Z71 is the most off-road-oriented model in the Tahoe lineup. It comes standard with a two-speed transfer case (with low-range gearing), a front skid plate, red tow hooks, and hill–descent control.

Longer and better riding for ’21, the Tahoe moves to the head of the class—along with its bigger-still Suburban sibling and the related GMC Yukon/Yukon XL. It has new looks, new features, and more passenger room, and it comes in an expanded model lineup with starting prices that range from $50,295 to $73,895, delivery included. For this test, CG drove one from near the middle of stack, a Z71 that jumped from $60,495 to $68,940 with options.

The Z71 is an off-road-oriented, 4-wheel-drive-only job that comes with a 355-horsepower 5.3-liter V8. (A 420-horse 6.2-liter V8 is reserved for the line-leading High Country model, and a 3.0-liter turbodiesel straight six is optional for all but the Z71.) It surpasses lesser Tahoe 4x4s by virtue of its standard “Autotrac” automatic 2-speed transfer case with shift-on-the-fly capability and hill-descent control, and stands apart from all other models thanks to a nipped and tucked front fascia that increases obstacle approach angle, a front skid plate, red front recovery hooks, a heavy-duty engine air filter, all-terrain tires on distinct 20-inch alloy wheels, and black tubular assist steps.

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Chevrolet Tahoe Z71

Though the basic Tahoe cabin doesn’t look or feel particularly upscale, the controls are nicely laid out and easy to use–even the unconventional push/pull-button shifter located to the left of the infotainment touchscreen. To the right of the screen is a small covered storage bin. We like the infotainment system’s clear graphics and quick response times.

Foremost among the options packed on to the tester was a $5735 Z71 Off-Road Package with a few luxuries, trailering and safety assists, enhanced cooling, and Magnetic Ride Control and adaptive air suspension.

The closest this driver got to off-roading was busting out of a “berm” that a snowplow left at the end of his driveway—which the Z71 easily dispatched. Snowy neighborhood streets were no match for it, either. Like other ’21 Suburbans and Yukons we’ve driven, the ride quality was impressive from the combination of new multilink independent-rear suspension, Magnetic Ride Control’s constantly changing damping calibrations, and the air suspension’s positive influence on body control. Jolts and wallowing were kept well in check.

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Chevrolet Tahoe Z71

There’s ample room in the Tahoe’s first and second rows. Our test vehicle was equipped with the $2490 Rear Media and Nav Package, which includes dual color LCD high-definition touchscreens mounted on the front seat backs.

This test was our first of one of the new General Motors big SUVs with the 5.3 V8. It performs well in the Tahoe with fluid power delivery. If equipped with the Max Trailering Package, the Z71 can tow up to 8200 pounds. With a 10-speed automatic transmission and “Dynamic Fuel Management” that permits the engine to run on two, four, six, or eight cylinders depending on power need, it is quite a bit easier on gas than the 6.2s previously tested. This reviewer saw 18.5 mpg from a stint of 66 miles that was 40 percent city-type driving—almost 4 mpg better than what he got from a Yukon with the bigger engine. EPA estimates for the Tahoe Z71 are 16 mpg in city driving, 20 mpg on the highway, and 18 combined.

With the redesign, Tahoe gains 4.9 inches of wheelbase and grows 6.7 inches overall for ’21. That translates into three additional inches of legroom for second-row seats and up to 10 inches more legroom in the third row. (Second-row seats can slide fore and aft up to 5.5 inches.) Headroom is excellent in the first two rows and even most adult third-row occupants won’t feel hemmed in from above. Cargo space is abundant. The new configuration pumps 10.2 more cubic feet of cargo capacity behind the third row, and 28.2 additional cubic feet of load volume overall. The added length of the vehicle is only partly responsible for that. With the new rear suspension design, Chevrolet says the load floor is both flatter and lower when the seats are lowered.

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Chevrolet Tahoe Z71

Cavernous cargo space is a selling point of large SUVs. The Tahoe boasts 25.5 cubic feet of volume behind the third-row seats, 72.6 cu. ft. with the third-row seat backs folded, and 122.9 cu. ft. with both the second and third rows folded.

Between standard equipment—things like heated leather front seats, tri-zone automatic climate control, wireless charging, 9-speaker Bose audio system, and hands-free liftgate—and the option packages and individual extras, the Tahoe Z71 need not lack for much. However, in some ways, it’s not particularly plush. Considerable areas of hard plastic are obvious and even some soft-surfaced portions are thinly padded—if padded at all. For storage of incidentals, there is a big glove box, an ample covered console box, pockets in the sides of the console and in each door, and pouches behind the front seats. A power-sliding console box that tracks back to expose a large tray and hidden drawer is a $350 option. There are exposed cup holders in the console, middle-row pull-down center armrest, and sidewalls flanking the third-row seats.

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Chevrolet Tahoe Z71

Chevrolet’s 355-hp 5.3-liter EcoTec3 V8 is the lone powerplant available in the Z71, but it supplies satisfying power. Z71s come standard with 20-inch machined aluminum wheels mounted on all-terrain tires.

There’s a full complement of actual and virtual gauges to keep drivers informed, though the virtual ones occupy a somewhat-crowded row above the speedometer and tachometer dials. The Rear Media and Nav Package provided—among other things—a 10.2-inch touchscreen for the Chevrolet Infotainment 3 system that also works with external tuning buttons for quick, intuitive audio inputs. Front climate controls have handy, direct dials with some function buttons.

Not everybody needs the kind of size and power embodied in stout body-on-frame sport-utilities. If you happen to be one of them, however, the ’21 Chevy Tahoe most certainly will do.

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2021 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71

The Tahoe’s road manners, cargo space, and all-around refinement get a lot better with its redesign for 2021, and the Z71 model offers notably enhanced off-road capabilities.

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2021 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71 Gallery

(Click below for enlarged images)

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