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Big SUV Shootout: 2021 Chevy Tahoe vs. 2021 Ford Expedition

Big SUV Shootout: 2021 Chevy Tahoe vs. 2021 Ford Expedition

Which heavyweight family hauler finds the right balance?

  • Goliath vs. Goliath results in a near tie
  • Expedition offers higher tow ratings and more horsepower
  • Tahoe provides smoother ride and newer tech

The 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe and 2021 Ford Expedition are the biggest, baddest and most capable full-size family/toy haulers you can get. The Tahoe (and longer-wheelbase Suburban) was redesigned for this year, now featuring a wide selection of engines and newer technology features. The current-generation Expedition (and its longer Expedition Max variant) has been on sale for longer but has received regular improvements over the years.

Both SUVs offer comprehensive family-friendly features, expansive interior space and plenty of giddyup. To determine why you might choose one over the other, we brought in an example of each for a full evaluation and comparison.

Engines and fuel economy

The Ford Expedition is only available with one engine — a turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 — but with two power levels. Most trim levels have 375 horsepower; the top-of-the-line Platinum offers 400 hp.

The Chevrolet Tahoe engine choices include two V8s (a 5.3-liter and 6.2-liter) and a turbodiesel six-cylinder, but there are limitations on availability. The 420-hp 6.2-liter is only available on the top-of-the-line trim level, and you also can't get the turbodiesel with the Z71 off-road trim level. Most Tahoes use the 5.3-liter V8, which makes 355 hp. Both the Tahoe and the Expedition use 10-speed automatic transmissions.

The Expedition's power advantage is obvious when you slam the gas pedal, but its extra grunt also shows up at lower speeds, like on residential or city streets, making it slightly more pleasing to drive. Conversely, the Tahoe's V8 soundtrack is a joy, even if it's lacking in power.

Regardless of configuration, the Ford Expedition gets an EPA-estimated 19 mpg combined, and Chevy's 5.3-liter V8 gets 18 mpg combined. In our experience, it's harder to match the EPA's numbers with the Expedition. Your mileage will vary, but the takeaway is that 1 mpg is not that big of a difference here. If you seek the ultimate in fuel economy, Chevy's turbodiesel offers up to 24 mpg combined.

Winner: Ford

2021 Chevy Tahoe vs. 2021 Ford Expedition.

2021 Chevy Tahoe vs. 2021 Ford Expedition.

Suspension and comfort

Both the Expedition and Tahoe have available adaptive suspension dampers on most trim levels, but the Chevy goes one step further by also offering air springs on its Z71 and High Country variants. When equipped with this suspension combination, the Tahoe rides far more smoothly than the top-trim Expedition, with added stability that makes it easier to keep within its lane. The Chevy's air suspension can also lift the suspension for better ground clearance and lower it for easier access and improved aerodynamics.

The Tahoe's ride pairs well with the seats. Though they can feel too firm at first, the seats offer fatigue-free driving over long distances. The Expedition has softer front seats that make a more plush first impression, and they seem to absorb some of the bumps from the busier ride. Both SUVs offer heated and ventilated seats, but the Expedition goes one step further with available front seat massage. Alas, Ford's massage function and the seat ventilation systems in both SUVs are unpleasantly loud.

Winner: Chevy

Phone connectivity, technology and driver aids

The most recently updated of the two, the Chevy Tahoe features more sophisticated technology features. It comes with a larger center screen on all trim levels (10.2 inches versus the Ford's 8-inch screen used on most trim levels) that's nicer to look at, and it's available with wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, as well as wireless charging.

Though not as impressive initially as the Chevy, the Expedition's center screen remains highly functional and supports modern phone integration needs — so long as it's wired.

While both SUVs are available with exterior camera systems, the Tahoe's is the more comprehensive of the two, offering multiple views that help in a variety of situations. You have traditional forward, aft and top-down views, but you also get side angles that show the front wheels relative to painted parking lines or curbs. The tow package also includes a camera angle to help align a trailer hitch.

Winner: Chevy

2021 Chevy Tahoe.

2021 Chevy Tahoe.

Interior space, storage and towing

The Chevy Tahoe has a bit more cargo space per row than the Expedition, and its third-row folds down more quickly too. For its part, the Ford Expedition features a clever folding storage system that can switch between a two-shelf tray or a barrier, so items don't fall out when you open the rear hatch.

Both SUVs have exemplary seating space for all three rows. Differences are minor, like how the Tahoe's second row has a touch less headroom when it's equipped with the sunroof or the additional comfort afforded by the Expediton's available power-reclining third row.

The Tahoe's power-sliding center console and its secret agent-style hidden compartments are neat but seem fussy. And don't get us started on the Tahoe's shifter either. It uses a combination of buttons and levers to change gears and adds needless anxiety to three-point turns on busy roads.

As always, towing figures vary by configuration and options, and both of these SUVs offer a tow package that increases their capabilities. A 4WD Expedition with its tow package has a 9,200-pound tow rating, while an equivalent Tahoe with the 5.3-liter V8 has an 8,200-pound rating.

Winner: Ford

Edmunds says

Both of these large SUVs have considerable strengths and only small downsides. While the Expedition receives our overall recommendation, the difference is close enough that we could see buyers choosing one over the other depending on their needs.

The 2021 Tahoe offers broader engine availability (including a diesel), newer tech appointments, more cargo volume and a nicer ride. On the other hand, the Expedition's simplicity, both in regard to available configurations and interior functionality, is attractive, as are its stronger and smoother engine and higher max tow figure.

To see more about these SUVs and others like them, visit our SUV rankings page.

2021 Ford Expedition.

2021 Ford Expedition.