Big is back, baby, as full-size SUVs are resurging in popularity while gas prices remain relatively cheap. Despite it being several years since the Chevrolet Tahoe got a redo, it’s still top of the charts in terms of sales numbers — and Chevy aims to keep it there with special models like this one, the new 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe RST.
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Related: 2018 Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe RST Preview
Meant to provide the ultimate urban street-themed luxury truck from the Chevrolet brand, RST by itself is an appearance package that stands for rally sport truck. You start with one Chevrolet Tahoe in the Premier trim package, which already includes a fully trimmed leather interior with heated and cooled seats, forward collision warning with a safety alert driver’s seat, lane keep assist, low-speed forward emergency braking and GM’s Magnetic Ride Control suspension. Then check the RST package box, which brings you blacked-out trim, a black grille, a black Chevy bow tie in the grille, 22-inch black-and-polished wheels, black mirror caps, beltline moldings and roof rails. Headlamp accents, grille surround and door handles are all in whatever body color you’ve chosen for the truck.
But the appearance package isn’t what makes the RST interesting (these parts or approximations of them can be had at any Chevy dealership with a parts catalog). What makes the RST special is the option to specify the Performance Package as well, which adds a 6.2-liter V-8 engine that pumps out 420 horsepower and 460 pounds-feet of torque. It’s mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission, the same one found in the Camaro ZL1. The combination is good for zero-to-60 mph sprints of 5.7 seconds and a max towing capacity of 8,400 pounds (obviously not at the same time) according to Chevrolet. The Performance Package also includes the Magnetic Ride Control adaptive suspension with a special performance calibration for the suspension and the steering. There are two more options you can spec as well, independent of the Performance Package: a Brembo big brake kit for the front wheels and a Borla-brand dual exhaust system.
What it all adds up to is a performance Tahoe, a street machine that rumbles like a monster truck and delivers smooth, seamless thrust like a fine German sports car. The 10-speed automatic is brilliant, with shift quality that’s barely perceptible — put your foot down, and you’re rewarded with a long, strong head of steam from the small-block V-8 engine. But getting a big truck to go fast in a straight line isn’t difficult. Getting it to handle and stop is a more challenging matter, and Chevy engineers have done an astonishingly good job of it.
The most immediately noticeable change, beyond the louder rumble from the big V-8, is the on-center steering feel — it’s vastly better than a stock Tahoe, or even the Tahoe Police Pursuit Vehicle that I piloted a few minutes prior to my spin in the RST. Chevy has ramped up the steering effort required to turn the Tahoe RST, but the result is also a truck with exceptional straight-line stability and highway manners. Body control is also impressive, and the ride is exceptional thanks to the continually adjusting suspension that measures the road and instantly adapts the damping levels. The performance calibration does good things for the body’s roll and pitch in turns, and lends the Tahoe a level of confidence that it’s been lacking since … well, always.
The interior is still straight Tahoe, however, albeit a very nice one thanks to the Premier trim level’s leather and wood. It’s screwed together well, features some genuinely nice cowhide on the console and seats, and even smells expensive. But the Tahoe’s truck-platform drawbacks remain, such as a third row that’s remarkably cramped for such a big SUV, a high liftover height for the cargo area and a steering wheel that’s not quite centered on the driver.
Costly, But Competitive
Yet the biggest issue with the Tahoe RST may be its price — it starts with a Tahoe Premier 4×4, which will cost you $66,425 right off the bat, including destination. Add the RST package, the Performance Package, Borla exhaust, Brembo brakes and a sunroof package and you’re looking at an as-equipped sticker price of $78,450. That’s Range Rover money for a Chevy — just above the base Cadillac Escalade trim level, which includes the 6.2-liter V-8, at $77,590. It’s one of the best-looking, best-performing Chevy trucks the brand has ever made, but that’s a bit of sticker shock. Thing is, it’s still competitively priced versus other big full-size SUVs these days — the years of these vehicles being a viable alternative for family minivans is over, and they’re back to being pricey specialty vehicles aimed at a specific buyer. But if your shopping list this holiday season includes a big, expensive, American SUV that both tows boats and hauls ass, Chevy’s created a tasty one for you.