Revealed: The all-new 2021 Chevy Suburban and Tahoe mega-utes
Chevrolet premiered the all-new 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe and Chevrolet Suburban on Tuesday evening. Appropriately, the mega-utes were unveiled in Little Caesars Arena, where giant Detroit Pistons basketball players roam the floorboards.
Based on the Silverado pickup, the twin SUVs have traditionally been the biggest in the land. So it’s not surprising the all-new models are the largest that General Motors has ever made, with the Tahoe increasing cargo room behind the third-row seats by a whopping 66% — and its stretched brother, the Suburban, increasing its total cargo space a healthy 19%.
But taking a page from Pistons' Goliath-like center Andre Drummond, the twin Chevys also promise to be nimble as they ride on a smooth, independent rear suspension for the first time. Combined with magnetic shocks and air suspension available on the off-road Z51 and High Country trims, the Tahoe-Suburban offer an astonishing range of on-road and off-road capability.
"With the air suspension you can actually lower the truck for people to get in, or you can raise it to go off-road in the snow," GM President Mark Reuss said in an interview. "But then at speed the truck will lower for better aerodynamics and fuel efficiency. We are were the only ones doing that with MagneRide and air suspension."
On stage at Little Caesars, Chevy displayed the range of suspension options with a jacked-up Z51 Tahoe and lowered High Country.
Responding to the equally out-sized Ford Expedition (new in 2018), the Suburban and Tahoe have gone on a 300-pound diet from their predecessors. They will share an electrical “digital vehicle platform” with the Corvette so they can receive over-the-air software updates like a smartphone.
Celebrating its 85th birthday as GM’s oldest nameplate, the Suburban has always been the headliner of the pair with its ocean-liner proportions. But the shorter, more affordable Tahoe has been the best-seller, dominating its full-size SUV class sales.
Based on platforms shared with GM’s high-volume Chevy and GMC pickups, the big SUVs are cash cows with prices starting in the low $50,000 range and ballooning to over $80,000 for upper-trim models. They pay tuition for a lot of the General’s nascent electric-vehicle education. The Suburban and Tahoe will go on sale in the middle of the 2020 season.
Tahoe led the way in large SUVs in last year in sales of more than 104,000. The Suburban followed at 60,633 and the Expedition was a distant third at 54,661. Among foreign brands, only Nissan (the Armada) and Toyota (the Sequoia) try to compete, but with much smaller sales numbers.
This year is a different story: Remade with a twin-turbo V-6 and upgraded technology, the Expedition – based on the F-150 pickup — has come roaring back through the first three quarters of 2019. It has leap-frogged the Suburban in sales, and trails the Tahoe by 62,155 to 80,103.
The new Tahoe and Suburban aim to put the Expedition back in its place.
The big tanks will fight on a considerably lighter, stronger platforms courtesy of the Silverado which countered F-150’s move to aluminum with an athletic, lightweight, mixed-metal architecture. The new chassis allows for lower load floors for batter cargo and seating position. The second-row seats, for example, gain a whopping 10 inches in added legroom with segment-first sliding second-row seats for even more flexibility.
“With an increasing number of SUVs on the market, we knew the all-new Tahoe and Suburban needed to reach higher than ever,” said product chief Tim Herrick. “We transformed Tahoe and Suburban to offer all-new technologies and features.”
While both vehicles gain over 4 inches in wheelbase, the Tahoe’s overall length stretches a yawning 6.7 inches to claim 25% more cargo space than the Expedition.
These big beasts are motivated by familiar push-rod V-8 engines — a standard 5.3-liter dynoed at 355 horses, and a 6.2-liter boasting best-in-class 420 horsepower.
The eight-cylinders will be joined for the first time by the class’s only turbodiesel: the same Duramax 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder offered in the Silverado 1500. Chevy expects it will receive an EPA best-in-segment mpg rating (Silverado makes a best-in-full-size-pickup 33 mpg highway). The diesel's stump-pulling 460 pound-feet of torque equal the 6.2-liter V-8.
The interior will bristle with technology, including a standard 10-inch console touchscreen with standard Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, WiFi hotspot connectivity and up to nine cameras for enhanced towing capability.
"The interior 10.8-inch screen is really nicely integrated from a design standpoint," said Reuss. "Everyone assumed we’d have the same interiors of our pickup trucks, but we don’t. Between Chevy, GMC and Cadillac the interiors are all completely different. They are different and we spent the money to be different."
Work through a record six trims — double the last generation — and a toy chest of goodies are available including a 15-inch color head-up display and dual 12.6-inch rear-seat LCD touchscreens.
All this brain and brawn is wrapped in an exterior that is a mild face-lift over the current version. Like the Silverado pickup, the Suburban fascia gets thinner LED headlights atop its massive split grille with signature LED running-light “cheeks” giving the big brute a cheery appearance.
In addition to the familiar volume LS and up-level LT trims, Tahoe and Suburban will be available in four more distinct personalities:
- RST: A sporty look like the RS grade found on the Chevy Blazer crossover with liberally applied black mascara on the grille and exterior highlights, 22-inch wheels and contrasting seat stitching.
- Z71: Chevy’s signature off-road package gets knobby tires wrapped around 20-inch wheels, standard all-wheel drive, skid plates and a higher approach-angle for the Outback.
- Premier: The premium package is a rolling Manhattan condo with magnetic-ride shocks, navigation, Bose 10-speaker audio system, 12-way vented front seat, and enough tech to fly an airliner.
- High Country: Borrowed from Silverado, the top trim gets the 6.2-liter V-8 standard, plus the segment’s first air suspension allowing for up to 4 inches of ride-height variability. Touches include expanded color choices and High Country badging, sill plates and seat embroidery.
"We're offering multiple trims, like our pickups. No one else is doing it," said Reuss. "RST, Z51, High Country. We’re looking to grow the segment."
The Tahoe and Suburban will roll off the assembly line in Arlington, Texas, alongside the GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade. They are the product of a $1.4 billion plant investment that supports 4,800 employees, 1450 body-shop robots and daily production of 1200 vehicles.
Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at email@example.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne.