2018 Chevrolet Tahoe RST First Drive - Power Comes at a Price

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy

As the beyond dominant sales kings of the large SUV segment, the body-on-frame General Motors brutes can afford to mix things up a little and take a chance on something new. Like a sports team whose winning streak assures them a spot in the playoffs, trying a new play no longer carries with it the same amount of risk. After all, its failure is not exactly going to scupper the season.

Chevrolet heeds this advice for 2018, electing to plug a new player into its lineup by stuffing the mighty 420-horsepower 6.2-liter V8 in its Tahoe, creating the Tahoe RST.

Not that the Tahoe and its bulky brethren have any particular problem in the marketplace. GM absolutely dominates the body-on-frame SUV market, with the Chevrolet and GMC tag team accounting for nearly 70 percent of sales in that segment so far this year. The barbershop quartet of Tahoe, Suburban, Yukon, and Yukon XL have harmonized their way to 210,489 sales in the first eleven months of 2017 in a segment that totals only 298,436 units altogether. For comparison, the Expedition has found only 46,425 buyers this year.

The RST trim will be available on both Tahoe and Suburban models. Taking a page from SEMA and the aftermarket, virtually all chrome trim has been binned in favor of detail that’s been spray-bombed either black or body-color. Compared to other Tahoe trucks, the RST wears a body-color grille surround and color-keyed door handles. The grille, mirror caps, window trim, badging, and Chevy bowties have all been dipped in black paint. Enormous 22-inch wheels wrapped in Bridgestone 45-series rubber are unique to the RST.

Brembo-branded brakes are a dealer-installed option on the RST, employing six-piston fixed aluminium calipers sized like a loaf of bread and painted flashy crimson. The discs are larger than stock, said to measure 16.1 inches. I left my portable measuring tape at home but if that dimension is correct, it means those platters are bigger than the ones found on a McLaren P1.

The pads are said to sweep an area 84 percent larger than the standard braking system. In practice, these brakes bit hard and would likely increase driver confidence when towing a large trailer whose electric brakes are often overworked. I recommend them for that reason alone. Interestingly, the same brake package is offered as a stand-alone option on the 2018 Yukon Denali, sans Brembo stickers.

Speaking of towing, a 4×4 RST such as the one shown here can tow 8,100 pounds, not the 8,400 lb figure being parroted by some other outlets. That higher figure is reserved for the two-wheel-drive model. These numbers are goosed by the truck’s 6.2-liter V8, a fabulous unit heretofore only available on high-zoot Denalis and certain hard-to-find SLT-spec GMCs. The optional Borla exhaust is appropriately gruff on idle, roars magnificently at full throttle, and is suitably muted during a highway cruise.

Inside, the RST is standard Tahoe fare, outfitted with beautiful cocoa/mahogany leather-lined chaise lounges acting as front seats and acres of leg- and headroom for passengers. Naturally, storage space in the aft section is pretty much non-existent with the third-row deployed. With this in mind, be sure to spec the no-charge middle bench in place of the standard captain’s chairs because, sans Row the Tahoe is transformed into what might be the world’s largest four-passenger conveyance.

Our tester was equipped with GM’s trick Magnetic Ride Control suspension, an active suspension that is said to read the road every millisecond, triggering damping changes in the electronically controlled shock absorbers in as few as 5 milliseconds. As a result, the suspension delivers both improved body-motion control during cornering and a more comfortable ride while cruising. The new performance calibration included in the Tahoe RST Performance Package does certainly seem to increase body control compared to a standard Tahoe.

To be sure, the RST doesn’t resemble anything close to a sports car, but neither does it toss its occupants into the weeds at the first sign of a turn. Given my proclivity for towing a 9,000 lb travel trailer during the summer, I think the active suspension will pay the most dividends when hauling heavy loads in difficult conditions.

All of this comes at a cost, naturally. Taking a page from the Book of Porsche, all the good stuff – Borla exhaust, Brembo brakes, even the 6.2L V8 – are optional extras. To play in the 6.2L RST sandbox, one must start with the top-rung Premier trim, then add the $2,630 RST package. Not bad … but that just buys you the 22-inch rims, blacked out badges, and other visual jewellery. Gaining access to that wonderful 6.2L V8 and its attendant 10-speed automatic? That’ll cost you another $2,820 in the form of an RST Performance Package. The Brembos are an extra $2,795. And so it goes.

It goes, in fact, all the way up to our tester’s MSRP of $78,450. This is an eye-watering amount for a Tahoe, until one starts looking at its competition. A similarly powerful 2018 Dodge Durango SRT loaded to the gunwales rings the bell at $75,645. Despite my financial protestations, I’m sure Chevy will sell all the RSTs it can build. In fact, the company is already making noises about extending the trim to other nameplates beyond full-size SUVs and into light trucks.

Unmentioned at last week’s event but quickly discovered on GM’s build-and-price tool is the ability to spec a mid-grade 2WD LT Tahoe with the RST appearance package. This does not endow the truck with any mechanical upgrades such as the 6.2L, but it does include all the RST visual frippery, meaning one can roll in a machine that looks like our $78,450 tester for a mere $56,515. Still a heap o’ beans, but a lot easier to digest if one simply wants the RST’s sporty guise. With that in mind, it would give the RST trim more cachet if its appearance was only available with the 6.2L engine.

Having a lock on the full-size SUV market, GM has earned the leeway to experiment with its trim lines. Chevy’s marketers told us RST stands for Rally Sport Truck. Certainly, the Rally Sport trim goes back decades at GM and the brute shown here is indeed more muscular than its workaday brothers. It is a great fit for the extrovert who needs to haul an 8,000 lb trailer while taking along six friends (*raises hand*). But, at seventy-eight large, this RST could simply stand for Really ‘Spensive Tahoe.

[Images: © 2017 Matthew Guy/The Truth About Cars]

Matthew Guy
Matthew Guy

Matthew buys, sells, fixes, & races cars. As a human index of auto & auction knowledge, he is fond of making money and offering loud opinions.

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  • Gtem Gtem on Dec 21, 2017

    I'm not as power hungry as some of the B&B so I find the current 5.3 Ecotec to be plenty. I do think its encouraging that GM took the time to make both an offroad-oriented (sort of) Tahoe with the Z71 package, and also a more on-road sports truck package. The basic vehicle is fundamentally very good as well. My biggest gripe about the current generation is the poor packaging of the cargo area/third row as a way to get that fold-flat third row capability. It eats up a ton of usable cargo room in both the SWB and LWB trucks. That and the very low hanging chins on all but the Z71 package trucks. I took a quick look at used prices on K2XX Yukons after really enjoying a rental in Vegas this summer, these suckers are pricey, even used! Good luck finding one with leather and less than 50-60k miles for much less than $35k. This is where the new Armada really makes a case for itself IMO, on value both new and used. It also strikes a kind-of middle ground size-wise by being larger than a Tahoe with better third row packaging (but you loose the solid rear axle, if that matters), and a stronger than 5.3 motor (again, if that matters). I'm seeing more and more of the new body style Armadas around, word must be getting out!

  • DownUnder2014 DownUnder2014 on Dec 26, 2017

    I like the idea of the RST. But it is a little pricey... However, the 6.2 being in a Tahoe is not new, it has been the standard engine in Russian-spec Tahoes since 2015. The (base) LT is 3.365 Million Rubles (58,282 USD). I wish however, as some have mentioned, a Z71 package for it. It would be nice to see a Tahoe Z71 with the 6.2 and a Front Bench Seat as well!

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