2017 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71 4WD

What It Is: More than 20 years into its life span, the Chevrolet Tahoe is much the same as it ever was: a massive truck-based SUV that can pack in people and haul and tow lots of stuff. It’s become a much more refined beast over the years, though, thanks to newer V-8 engines, continual structural reinforcements, and a barrage of 21st-century tech and luxury features. With the Tahoe and its corporate siblings—the even larger Chevy Suburban, the slightly ritzier GMC Yukon, and the luxurious Cadillac Escalade—General Motors rules the full-size SUV sales charts, with only the Ford Expedition putting up much of a fight. Among the GM trucks, the Tahoe is the least expensive, but that doesn’t mean it’s cheap, starting just under $50,000 and climbing much higher with options.

Why We Tested It and How It Performed: We tested this particular Tahoe because it came equipped with the off-road-oriented Z71 package—the $2630 Z71 Midnight Edition package, specifically (the normal Z71 package is $1850, available only on 4WD LT models). It adds the visual appeal of the blacked-out trim as well as rugged extras such as off-road suspension, a two-speed transfer case, a 3.42:1 rear-axle ratio, and Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac tires on restyled wheels, all of which make the Tahoe more capable off the beaten path. The side effect of the extra kit is worse on-road performance: The Z71 proved slightly quicker than the 20-pound-heavier, better equipped Tahoe Premier we tested last year, beating its zero-to-60-mph time by 0.2 second, but otherwise fell short in our track tests. The Z71’s meaty tires are more comfortable on dirt and rocks than an autocross course, which explains their subpar 0.72-g result around the skidpad, 0.03 g worse than the standard Tahoe. More concerning is the 18 extra feet this Z71 model took to stop from 70 mph. Its distance of 209 feet is alarmingly long, even for a nearly three-ton behemoth. Again, this is a trade-off inherent to off-road-oriented tires.

What We Like: With tons of space and impressive towing capacity, the Tahoe is a capable beast. It’ll easily do nearly everything you could ask of a big truck. Beyond that, its quietness, comfort, and wide range of infotainment features (including in-car Wi-Fi) make the Tahoe an agreeable family road-trip companion. The 5.3-liter V-8 engine paired with a six-speed automatic transmission provides smooth, plentiful power, and the ride is more composed than you’d expect from a truck-based…

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