Automotive Review: 2022 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71
The quintessential full-size American SUV tricked out for offroad outings
‘Super Size Me’, seems to be the American way when it comes to everything from fast food to designing vehicles. Across the Atlantic, they like it big and bold. It’s no wonder that the top three selling vehicles in the US are full-size pick-up trucks. And of course, the relative cost of gasoline and the wide roads allow for that kind of lifestyle; and in some cases, their jobs require it too. The SUV counterparts of these pick-up trucks are no less in demand, the Chevrolet Tahoe is one such example.
What makes it popular is not just its intimidating size, there is also a menacing quality about them. If you’ve seen a convoy of black Tahoe SUVs with heavily tinted windows speeding down the highway (often carrying dignitaries) you’d know what I’m talking about. And much like the US, the Middle East shares a love for these ginormous family movers.
Exterior design & aesthetics
From 2021, we’ve had an all-new 5th-generation Tahoe. Based on the latest Silverado, it comes with an increase in every physical dimension making it one of the largest SUVs out there. For this generation, Chevy has also moved away from the traditional live axle and leaf springs setup at the rear for an all-new independent multi-link rear suspension. Thus, creating more room in the cabin and cargo bed. And it is available in 5 different flavours, namely the base LS, the upgraded LT, the off-road spec Z71, the very sporty RST, and the top dog Premier model.
Style-wise, the new vehicle moves away from the predecessor’s chrome-endowed chunky pulled-back headlamp design to one that is slimmer and less flamboyant, with an expansive grille between them, which is in line with the current trends. While the blocky rear has been replaced with faceted surfaces with new faceted LED taillamps. The Z71 treatment gives it a blacked-out grille and ‘Bowtie’ (as opposed to the familiar golden one), red tow hooks, and all-terrain tyres that wrap large two-tone 20-inch wheels.
Yes, those rugged tyres are encouraging enough to go trail hunting, but Chevy has also got the other basic 4x4 factors on point as well. The approach angle of 34.9 degrees, which is best in class (with the 4-Corner Air Adaptive Suspension at its highest setting) and the 254 mm ground clearance are great numbers to take on steep slopes and rocky terrain. But the trailing cantilever-like rear end needs your attention. It’s also got a bash plate to protect its frontal area and a heavy-duty air filter to keep it running without hiccups in the storm of sand the Z71 can stir up. The air suspension, mentioned earlier, is also capable of lowering itself for better aerodynamics at speed and offloading luggage from the massive boot when parked.
Powertrain & performance
All this adventure-seeking is only made possible thanks to sufficient motivation. All trims get the 10-speed automatic matched with either of two tried-and-tested EcoTec3 engines. The base 5.3-litre V8 workhorse motor puts out 355 PS and 519 Nm which is apt for a cruise around town and for casual desert outings with the family. But if you really want more oomph on and off the road, you got to opt for the larger 6.2-litre V8 which comes with a set of beautiful quad tailpipes. The max. output of 420 PS it produces will not only help get you to 100 km/h in sportscar-like seven seconds, but the 629 Nm of max. torque will help you power through some of the harshest terrains, with a little help from mechanisms like the 2-speed Autotrac transfer case, electronic limited-slip differential and Hill Descent Control.
If you’re new to off-roading, worry not! A XQuarry Complimentary Pass is available with every Tahoe Z71 to help you learn the ropes. This entails an hour of theoretical training followed by 2–3 hours of driving on your own through a 15 km course with 20 obstacles.
And I should say the driver’s seat experience has been pleasurable on and off the road, with the pluses outweighing the negatives. The two-tone interior layout with the leather upholstered surfaces and tasteful sprinkles of chrome masks its utilitarian underpinnings rather well. The steering feel is only as direct as you’d expect of a near 3-tonne vehicle with a truck chassis, but its lightness keeps things stress-free. The button arrangement for its transmission though, is a bad joke that apparently a lot of manufacturers are in on, not just Chevy. Even with this setup, perhaps it would feel more intuitive if we pushed instead of pulled for ‘D’. And this could be its main gripe. But there is a lot to like about the instrumentation and infotainment interface which has simplicity to it, unlike some German systems. Everything is legible and easy to access, right from the menus on the 12.3-inch instrument display to the 10.2-inch Infotainment System. The game changer here is the Google built-in compatibility that gives you access to Google Assistant which helps you make calls and set reminders hands-free and Google Maps with live traffic updates etc. Of course, all of this requires a data trial, plan or personal mobile data hotspot.
Moving on, yes, the large external dimensions come with obvious parking-related problems that often needed the 360-degree camera to get sorted. But on the move, it’s a comfy beast thanks to its optimal driving position and smooth ride which is a result of the Magnetic Ride Control — which automatically and continuously alters the damping rate of the shocks — and air suspension working together.
The additional HD rear vision camera gives you a clear view out the rear, even with passenger heads blocking your sight. This is advantageous, especially when you are towing something, which the Tahoe can and a great deal of. The 3,500 kg max trailering capacity (approx.) allows you to you haul a boat, a few quad bikes, or even an RV to let you plan staycations at remote places.
The internal accommodations aren’t something your companions wouldn’t complain about either. If you can’t get cozy in this, you need something custom-built, like some NBA athletes and Hollywood personalities do. The second row does slide 140 mm forward and backward which helps with making the third row more comfortable. And if you fold all the seats down, you get a flat loading bay easy enough to slide luggage down and a total cargo capacity of 3,479 litres. The rear passengers can keep themselves busy with the unobstructed view of the city’s skyscrapers through the panoramic sunroof or by watching shows via either of the two 12.6-inch rear screens. The remarkable iPad-like design is commendable, but it could use a few apps. Plus, one can get online wherever you are with the built-in 4G LTE Wi-Fi that can support up to seven devices. Expectedly, Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are part of the package. And the wireless charging pad actually fits a large smartphone well. There are also plenty of USB ports littered around the cabin to help with charging your many devices.
Chevy claims a very optimistic average fuel economy of 9.7km/l for the 5.3L, but what we measured out of the 6.2L was a lot less. Yes, it has the Dynamic Fuel Management system that can deactivate a few cylinders in low-load situations and stop/start tech but expect an average range of 600 kms or so. Come to think of it, a hybrid powertrain should be an option for this day and age. And even if you get thirsty during those longs drive, you’d be happy to know that the central cubby doubles as a coolbox that can hold six 500 ml water bottles.
The 2022 Chevrolet Tahoe is an old-school and brutish full-size SUV that can take on road and rut without hesitation, especially in this Z71 trim. And the incredibly lavish interior, good for both people and package, has tasteful aesthetics, filled to the brim with modern digital technologies like Google services and other creature comforts that keep it relevant in the 20th century. And it all comes at a price that is undeniably attractive. The average reliability and residual value are something to keep in mind though.