Road test: the new Chevrolet Tahoe Z71 seats seven adults in style

Revamped interior and exterior features make this a smooth ride around town and in the desert

How many times is a press release sent out boasting that a car is “all-new"? How many hours are there in a day?

However, when Chevrolet dropped the well-worn gimmick on the new Tahoe, it happened to be true. This fifth-generation model – and the Z71 variant in the Mena region – is fresh from the ground up, built on a new platform with independent rear suspension that frees up more room for cargo and third-row occupants.

Room for more

Featuring a more contemporary look outside with 170 millimetres added to its length, including a 122mm longer wheelbase, it also houses a new interior. This is roomier and comes with a host of goodies such as a full-length panoramic sunroof and a power-operated folding third row of seats. These also include decent footwells rather than sitting flat on the floor, thanks to a new suspension.

This alone is a big win as it makes the third row a genuine place for adults to sit for long journeys, helped by easy access to the back, with enough head and leg room as well as air vents. It justifies the car as a proper cruiser for seven adults, especially when you add in an additional 26mm of legroom in the middle row, too.

Smooth on and off the road

It wouldn’t be a Tahoe or worthy of its Z71 badge, though, without V8 power, and so the tried-and-trusted 355-brake horsepower, 5.3-litre motor – that develops 519Nm of torque – sits under the hood. What is new is that it is backed by a 10-speed automatic transmission, in place of the old six-speed box, and includes hill-descent control.

While other Tahoe models can be ordered as rear-wheel drive, the Z71 is available only as an all-wheel drive and comes with a two-speed transfer case for off-road purists.

It sits on 20-inch wheels wrapped with all-terrain tyres and has plenty of underbody protection, including a front skid plate with well-placed tow hooks to make for a practical and highly usable desert truck. The new rear suspension gives the Tahoe a much smoother ride around town, plus more leverage over rocks and sand dunes when off-road.

Intuitive performance

While it does reduce its payload weight capacity, that’s rarely an issue for family transport. The old live axle can carry more weight, but it comes at the expense of comfort that works for commercial pickup trucks, but is definitely the right move for the seven to nine occupants in the Tahoe.

For the first time, air suspension is also available, and for towing a trailer the package adds a bigger radiator and cooling fan, as well as hitch guidance with hitch view in the backup camera.

Performance was adequate, with GM saying 7.5 seconds to 100 kilometres per hour, and it has a governed top speed of 185kph that, given its size, would feel every bit of that and more. But that’s not really the point of this car, and for those concerned about fuel consumption, it has cylinder deactivation that shuts down four of the eight pots when cruising.

A small light on the dash lets you know when you’re saving fuel, and it’s surprising how often you’re happily loping along with only four cylinders. As soon as it’s needed, though, and with absolute seamless integration, the full force of the V8 kicks in the moment you touch the throttle.

Cushy cabin

Priced at Dh236,900 ($64,506), the Z71 is at the premium end when you compare it to the full-sized Japanese options, but delivers more space inside and includes some superior interior features as standard, so the extra-cost options list is not as extensive.

A large 10.2-inch touchscreen infotainment interface sits in the centre and the column shifter is a push-button arrangement on the dash, freeing up a bit more room around the steering column.

The bigger screen houses the usual navigation features, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There’s also no shortage of USB plugs; five C-type plugs are dotted throughout the rear and there are several traditional USB plugs up front.

The centre console houses the phone tray, which not only wirelessly charges when you’re on the go, but also mirrors on to the infotainment screen without having a mess of charging cables. The 8.0-inch digital gauge cluster in front of the driver is nice and clear, along with the lucid rear-view and surround-view cameras.

Our test car also came fitted with a rear-seat entertainment system featuring twin 12.6-inch displays mounted behind the eight-way powered front seats to keep children engaged on long trips.

There are also rain-sensing wipers, tri-zone climate air conditioning and remote engine start, which is magic for summertime.

Safety features

On the safety side, all models include forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking. The latter system works by first warning of a potential frontal collision and, if necessary, the vehicle can automatically jump on the brakes to prevent or lessen the impact of a frontal crash.

There’s also the option to include lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and rear parking sensors that are well worth a tick of the options box (and, depending on the insurance company, might result in a drop in your annual premium).

The Tahoe has long been a favourite in the Middle East, but it needed to be refreshed in all areas. Thankfully, with this 2021 model, it now faces up to the competition in terms of ride, handling, interiors, safety and comfort – yet still retains that chunky American look so loved in the region.

The specs

Engine: 5.3-litre V8

Transmission: 10-speed auto

Power: 355bhp

Torque: 519Nm

Price: Dh236,900

Updated: September 16th 2021, 10:46 AM