Chevrolet is juicing up its venerable Tahoe and Suburban sport-utility vehicle lineups by adding new Rally Sport Truck street-performance special editions.
The models will be stronger and faster variants of the SUVs.
“When you want to hustle, it is incredibly fast, with significantly higher levels of acceleration, braking and road-holding grip,” said Eric Stanczak, chief engineer for Chevrolet full-size trucks. “When you want to relax, it is very refined, with exceptional ride comfort and interior quietness.”
Other automakers are making similar moves. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Jeep brand will introduce its Grand Cherokee Trackhawk at the New York International Auto Show next week. The high-performance SUV is expected to be equipped with the same massive 6.2-liter Hemi Hellcat engine that comes in high-performance variants of the company’s Dodge Charger and Challenger cars.
“Performance SUVs are a very popular segment and [automakers] are trying to appeal to those consumers,” said Stephanie Brinley, analyst for research firm IHS Markit. “They’re also trying to sustain the momentum of large SUVs and one way to do that is to have something new.”
The new Tahoe and Suburban versions will take styling cues from aftermarket trends – chrome is out. Gloss-black adorns the grille and mirror caps while roof rails, window trim, and Chevy bowtie badges are black. The door handles match the body color of the vehicles. The RST rides on 22-inch wheels exclusive to the trim and Bridgestone tires.
An available performance package adds a direct-injection 6.2-liter V-8 engine – a first for the Tahoe. It has 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque, can tow an estimated 8,400 pounds and posts a zero to 60 mph time of 5.7 seconds. This is paired to an all-new 10-speed automatic transmission.
Magnetic Ride Control is also included in the Performance Package. This active suspension system monitors the road once a millisecond and then adjusts electronically controlled shock absorbers in as little as five seconds. The goal is to improve control in cornering and overall ride comfort during highway cruising, according to Chevrolet engineers.
Additional upgrades on the Tahoe and Suburban RST include a Borla performance exhaust and Brembo brake calipers. The Borla exhaust improves exhaust flow 28 percent for a 7 to 10 horsepower gain. The Brembo brake package adds red, six-piston, fixed aluminum calipers with larger Duralife rotors. The rotors have a hardened surface that reduce corrosion and provide smoother, quieter braking. The 84 percent increase in brake pad area and 42 percent increase in rotor area increases overall system thermal capacity for improved performance.
Pickups, crossovers, and SUVs are all part of the booming light truck segment. Those vehicles accounted for 61.8 percent of U.S. auto sales in the first quarter of this year. That compares with 57.4 percent in the same period a year earlier.
Their share of the U.S. auto market is expected to grow this year as many new or refreshed crossovers and SUVs reach the market, Brinley said. In addition to the new Tahoe and Suburban trims, other new or refreshed vehicles entering the segment include the Chevrolet Equinox, Toyota C-HR, Nissan Rogue Sport, Mazda CX-5, GMC Terrain, Alfa Romeo Stelvio and Volkswagen’s Atlas and new Tiguan.
Ford recently unveiled it the first fully redesigned Expedition since the vehicle’s introduction in 1996. The second-generation of the Expedition gets a new turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6 engine, 10-speed automatic transmission, and technologies to make it more competitive within the segment.
The Tahoe and Suburban are the best-selling SUVs in the segment. Sales for the first quarter of the year are up 11 percent for the Tahoe and 25 percent for the Suburban.
The 2017 Chevy Tahoe comes in three trim levels each with a choice of either two-wheel or four-wheel drive. The base LS has a starting price of $48,510 while the top Premier comes in at $65,410. Power comes from a 5.3-liter EcoTec3 V-8 engine with 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of torque paired to a 6-speed automatic transmission. It can tow up to 8,500 pounds with room for an additional 15.3 cubic of cargo even fully loaded with passengers.
It’s a tech-savvy SUV with Chevrolet MyLink radio that has SiriusXM, an 8-inch color touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and 5 USB ports. New this year is Teen Driver mode, which lets parents customize settings to a specific key fob to limit and turn off select vehicle features and even receive a report to keep tabs on their teen’s driving habits.
Then there’s the Suburban, with its longer wheelbase. It’s offered in the same trim levels with a starting price of $49,915 and similar features to the smaller Tahoe. The big difference is cargo capacity. There’s 39.3 cubic feet behind the third row with a total of 100.3 cubic feet when the first and second rows are folded. Cargo capacity is increased, but maximum trailering drops slightly to 8,300 pounds.
Pricing on the new Tahoe and Suburban RST has not yet been released. Expect to see both models available for sale this fall.