2022 Chevrolet Tahoe: What's It Like to Live With?
In an expanding world of midsize SUVs, where does the full-size Tahoe fit in? We have 20,000 miles to decide.
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Latest Highlights (updated 11/23/22)
- Sometimes the best three-row isn't a minivan
- Sometimes it isn't a midsize crossover either
- The full-size SUV still has a place in the family-hauler market
- We bought a Tahoe to remind shoppers of what it brings to the table
- And we took it camping to break it in
What We Bought And Why
• Our test vehicle: 2022 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71 4x4
• Base MSRP: $63,000
• MSRP as tested: $69,090 (including destination charges)
• What we paid: $71,049 ($79,200 including taxes and fees)
Rather than go the safe route with another minivan, or shop for a midsize crossover (as we've done so many times in the past), we decided to fill the gap with a vehicle in a segment underrepresented in our long-term fleet — the large, three-row truck-based SUV.
While these vehicles have mostly been supplanted by the three-row crossover in terms of sales, they still make sense for a lot of people. Body-on-frame SUVs have higher tow limits than car-based crossovers, and generally taller ride heights mean they have more ground clearance, too. And, as you'll see with the vehicle we chose, some have off-road hardware for when you want to take the whole family adventuring off the beaten path.
With the benefits of a three-row truck-based SUV planted firmly in our minds, we began the search for a new example of our top-rated large SUV, the Chevrolet Suburban. And that's where we hit our first snag.
What Did We Get?Let's start with what we didn't get: the aforementioned Suburban. Our team scoured Chevrolet dealer websites across the Southern California area, and try as we might, we couldn't find a single Suburban for sale without a five-figure dealer markup. No amount of negotiating from our crack team significantly moved the pricing needle in our favor — the inventory crunch is real, Suburbans are in demand, and our accountants were unmoved by our pleas to increase our budget. Back to the drawing board.
We wanted the Suburban thanks to its roomy third row and substantial cargo area, but underneath it's essentially a stretched version of the Chevrolet Tahoe. So if we like the underlying vehicle, why not go with its slightly smaller sibling? So went our logic, and we found the markup situation for Tahoes was far less dire than with the Suburban. Once we decided to target a Tahoe instead, it was time to settle on a trim level.
Given that part of the appeal of a body-on-frame truck is the promise of greater capability off-road (compared to a car-based crossover), we decided the Z71 model would be a good fit. Its midtier status in the Tahoe lineup means it comes with a generous set of features and doesn't break the bank, while additions like skid plates, a revised front bumper for a better approach angle, low-range four-wheel-drive system and all-terrain tires mean that it's ready to hit the trail at a moment's notice.
Our search for a suitable candidate yielded a hit at Premier Chevrolet of Carlsbad. We drove south to the San Diego suburb to check out a Z71 Tahoe decked out in slick Dark Ash Metallic paint. It was also equipped with the desirable Luxury package ($2,525), which includes driver's seat memory settings, heated second-row seats, power-folding third-row seats, a 360-degree parking camera, and a blind-spot warning system. Further down the options list we saw the dealer had checked the boxes for the panoramic sunroof ($1,500) and second-row bucket seats ($370). And since GM has certainly not been immune from the ongoing microchip shortage, the window sticker also included a $50 credit for a missing steering column lock and a $50 credit for the missing front and rear parking assistance — which includes a later retrofit once it is available. The vehicle price with options and destination totaled $69,090.
But as anyone who has shopped for a car in the last two years can attest, the manufacturer's suggested retail price was ... different ... from what the dealer was charging.
Markups are the name of the game with inventory levels at all-time lows and demands being fairly stable. Tahoes move pretty well on a regular basis in these parts and we were not immune to the market ills. Our original out-the-door cost was $83,815 — which we knew our accounting team would not be happy about. Thankfully, Premier Chevrolet were the negotiating types and with a little back-and-forth between us and their sales team, we were able to land on a more palatable $79,200 (of which roughly $7,300 went toward tax).
Why Did We Get It?While some buyers of full-size SUVs gravitate toward these vehicles for their presence on the road, for others they are the natural choice when considering a number of wants and needs. Do you have a large family but can't imagine driving a minivan? Need an SUV with more room than a Toyota Highlander provides? Have to get your boat to a lake, or race car to a track, and the Honda Pilot just doesn't have the tow rating to back it up? These are all scenarios that would lead you to gravitate to one of these brawny beasts. Though not as comfortable or as fuel-efficient as its crossover brethren, a full-size SUV is far more capable and can tackle most obstacles you can throw at it.
So here we have the Tahoe Z71, a smaller version of our top-rated full-size SUV, and it's in our long-term fleet for the next 12 months and 20,000 miles. Along the way we'll answer some of our most pressing questions. Can you easily drive one of these brutes in LA's punishing metro area? Are the Z71's off-road upgrades worth the price? And, perhaps most importantly, if you aren't taking it off-road or towing, does it really make sense to buy a Tahoe over a Kia Telluride? Stay tuned as we find out.
Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purpose of evaluation.
Average lifetime mpg: 16.7
EPA mpg rating: 17 combined ( 15 city / 20 highway )
Best fill mpg: 17.8
Best range (miles): 360.9
Current odometer: 11,507
How is the Tahoe at holding a bunch of stuff?
"The Tahoe needs to be good for holding gear and I can confirm it is an accomplished gear holder. The bottom of the lift gate sits at about hip-height for me (I'm 6' 1") and both rows fold down using an easy to use mechanism in the back of the truck. Best of all? The seats fold to create a flat loading space. Nirvana."
"Word to the unwise: If you want to take advantage of the household-style outlet in the second row of the Chevrolet Tahoe (or the Suburban or GMC Yukon for that matter), you need to turn it on first. How do you do that? You press the "plug" button that sits to the left of the steering wheel." —Jake Sundstrom, editor, CarMax
"I like the big lock/unlock buttons on the door handles. They're at the perfect height to push with my elbow when I've got my arms full." —Will Kaufman, CarMax senior writer and strategist
"With all the seats folded, the cargo space is massive, but it's kind of a pain to use it all. The load floor is just above my hip-point, so when I needed to scoot a box all the way back I had to jump up and crawl in. Just a couple inches lower so I could just sort of sit and scoot, and it would have been so much easier." —Will Kaufman, CarMax senior writer and strategist
"The V8 in our Tahoe is neither engaging nor satisfying. It is sluggish when leaving the line at stoplights and is noisy and labors when driving up hills. This is not a particularly heavy vehicle, but the Tahoe often sounds out of breath." —Jake Sundstrom, editor, CarMax
How's the transmission?
"As Colonel Sherman T. Potter once said, "There aren't enough Os in smooth for this." The transmission is really, really smooth in normal driving...except for the 1-2 shift. And that shift isn't rough or clunky, it's merely noticeable. But that's enough to make it stand out when the rest of the shifts are only apparent if you're listening for them." —Will Kaufman, CarMax senior writer and strategist