When General Motors was shedding brands a decade ago, just about everyone assumed that GMC, their trucks-only brand, would be among the first to walk the plank. After all, GMCs pretty much defined the epithet “badge-engineering” – create a new vehicle by changing some badges and the grille.
But some genii in marketing figured that the GMC label could somehow command higher prices, so GMC was spared.
This came to mind while I was driving the all-new 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe SUV. Earlier this year I drove the 2021 GMC Yukon SUV – same platform, same engines and same technology. So is the Tahoe pretty much the Yukon with different badges and grille? For, as best I can figure out from the GM Canada website, about $1,500 less than the GMC equivalent?
Let’s find out.
The 2021 Tahoe is on sale now. Prices start at $56,498 for the base LS trim with rear-wheel drive. Add an additional $3,300 for part-time switchable dual range four-wheel drive.
My tester was a new range topping trim called High Country, which brings the 6.2 litre V8 engine (420 horsepower at 5,600 r.p.m. / 460 lb-ft of torque at 4,100 r.p.m.). All Tahoes come with the corporate 10-speed automatic transmission.
My tester was an early production model, and final pricing for some of the options – and my truck pretty much had them all – had not been determined. But you wouldn’t be getting much change from a $90,000 bill, if there were such a thing. And that’s before taxes.
A virtual presentation by GM Canada’s national marketing manager Doug Kenzie followed by an in-person walk-around familiarized me with some of the details.
My test drive was a short one – effectively, from Oshawa, home to Milton, and back to GM a day later. So I didn’t have time to fully explore all that this truck has to offer.
But a handful of Doug’s points were well taken.
The first major change to the truck (and its Yukon twin) is its overall size – wheelbase up by 125 mm and overall length by 169 mm. Much of this goes to the benefit of third row legroom, up by a significant 254 mm. Third-row riders no longer sit in quite as small a penalty box. Actually, I was able to fold my 5′ 10″ frame in quite comfortably, this made easier by the second row seat being easily and significantly slide-able. Total cargo space is up by 28 per cent and the space behind the third row is up by a whopping 66 per cent.
The second big change is an independent multi-link rear suspension. This not only provides vastly better ride and handling, but it’s also more compact, freeing up even more passenger space.
GM Canada’s Kenzie noted that historically, the sales split between Tahoe and the stretched-wheelbase Suburban has been about 70/30. They figure that ratio will stay about the same, although the increased interior space in the new Tahoe may increase its sales percentage against its bigger sibling.
My tester also had GM’s fourth-generation magnetic ride control dampers that can change their damping level almost in real time to deliver excellent right and handling, on any road (or off-road) surface. It also had the “air ride suspension”, which again improves ride quality, and also offers up to 102 mm of ride height adjustment.
Some of this is automatic – select low range in the 4×4 system for off-roading and it will crank itself up for better ground clearance; on the highway in normal mode it will lower itself about 2 cm to reduce drag and fuel consumption. A demo of the 4×4’s capabilities during that Yukon drive showed how clever this system is. It will start on a steep uphill split-mu surface (one side of the truck on glare ice; the other on dry pavement) and easily pull away no problem.
Like all recent General Motors products, the Tahoe shows vast improvement in interior trim materials and finish. The gauges and the central main screen are big and bright, and while the minor controls will take some getting used to – they always do – they’re better not only than many competitors, but also better than GM itself used to offer. Of course, there’s a massive colourful head-up display and like any safe driver, I shut this off. You should be looking where you’re going, not at the base of the windshield. I’ve written before about GM’s dash camera views. You can select from a wide array of them – behind, ahead, to the sides, bird’s-eye, various combinations of the above – to help you manoeuvre this big truck through tight spots.
Trailer towing is often a big deal for this customer, and while I didn’t try any of that during my brief test, experience in other GM trucks – for example, that Yukon – showed me that this system also makes backing this truck up to hitch a trailer is vastly easier than before.
GM’s on-board WiFi will be handy for the kiddies, and for business people needing to stay in touch wherever they go. One feature I was happy to be re-acquainted with – the shift mechanism has been moved off the centre console and onto the dashboard. It’s a series of pull-buttons – no, you actually do pull them rather than push them, which probably prevents some unwanted changes. In many vehicles these days, it’s too easy to randomly push the wrong button; this design eliminates that problem.
The centre armrest hides a massive storage bin, which can be easily reconfigured to handle loads of varying sizes. It can also be locked and only opened with the “real” key fob; you can leave the “valet” key with, well, the valet and know your stuff is safe.
One feature I was not so happy to be re-acquainted with – the four-way flasher switch is way over in front of the passenger where it’s much too hard to get to if you need to warn following traffic of an incident up ahead. There’s a blank spot right between the two central dash vents that would be perfect. This, and the fact that like far too many vehicles, the Daytime Running Lights don’t turn on the taillights, and the headlights don’t automatically shut themselves off when you shut the car off. An appropriate time delay to allow yourself time to get from your garage to your house, then off they should go.
So, the Chevrolet Tahoe versus the GMC Yukon – is the latter worth fifteen hundred more than the former? Admittedly, my tests of these trucks were not back-to-back.But the technology is exactly the same, and frankly, I couldn’t tell any difference in how the two drove.
Still, if I still need a truck this big, I’d opt for the Chevy for sure.
The vehicle was provided to the writer by the automaker. Content and vehicle evaluations were not subject to approval.