Behind the Wheel

2021 Chevrolet Tahoe Review: Duramax diesel is the right power at the right place

The Tahoe has three available powertrains.

Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

When I write car reviews, I don't typically say very much about the engine and drivetrain unless there's something particularly interesting or unique about it.

I believe most car buyers don't really care about things like zero to 60 mph times or how many gears a transmission has. Those are features and statistics, and they're an imperfect measurement of an automobile.

I'm a fan of the Good-Better-Best school of cars, and it looks a bit like a bell curve. There aren't any genuinely terrible new cars sold today, so at worst, you're getting something that's Good. I'll call that the bottom 20 percent of the market. Sometimes these cars have engines that really are too weak and should probably be avoided, and I'll mention that in my review.

2021 Chevrolet Tahoe Duramax Diesel Diesel-powered versions of the Tahoe look just like gasoline-powered Tahoes.Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

Then there's the class of Better, or the middle 60 percent. When I review these cars, I'll include a throwaway line about the engine or drivetrain as it's not worth mentioning in depth. They get the job done, but there's nothing to get excited about.

Then there's that top twenty percent where the magic happens. Whether it's the perfect majesty of a Rolls-Royce V12, the throaty bark of a Lamborghini V10, or even the brilliance of a Toyota Corolla Hybrid's effortless 52 miles per gallon — these are engines worth discussing.

And so it is again with my test car this week: the 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe. We've already reviewed two of the Tahoe's sister vehicles, the GMC Yukon and the Cadillac Escalade. Despite being from the same family, they're definitively different branches.

But under the hood of the Tahoe is an engine that is so firmly lodged in the Best category that I can't help but write hundreds of words about it. It's the 3.0-liter six-cylinder "baby" Duramax turbodiesel that was in the works at GM for more than a decade.

It gives terrific fuel economy (for a giant truck, anyway) and fantastic torque in everyday driving. I find it far preferable to the extraordinarily thirsty 6.2-liter V8 that I had in the Yukon and the Escalade and heartily recommend it to anyone buying a GM full-size SUV or half-ton pickup. That's even more impressive because the 6.2-liter V8 is already an upgrade over the smaller 5.3-liter V8 that comes standard in most Tahoe trims.

2021 Chevrolet Tahoe Duramax Diesel The engine is a mighty six-cylinder.Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

It sports 277 horsepower, which doesn't sound like a lot, but horsepower is a poor quantifier of engine performance. Because it's a diesel and because it has a turbocharger, the baby Duramax has gobs of torque with which to pull away from stoplights or accelerate on a hill, or when you're trying to pass someone and you need to accelerate from 55 to 75 mph as quickly as possible.

The Tahoe's diesel engine excels in all these scenarios while delivering an EPA-estimated 21 mpg in the city, 28 mpg on the highway, and 24 mpg combined in the RWD trim that I drove. That's a healthy improvement over the 16 mpg combined from the 6.2L and four-wheel drive-equipped Yukon. It's worth noting that the four-wheel drive diesel fares a little worse, getting 22 mpg combined, but that's still far better than the traditional gasoline engine.

It does all this, and it can even tow up to 8,200 pounds when properly equipped, but most people will never tow anything heavier than a small horse trailer or a boat with their full-size SUV. If you're hauling that much weight on the regular, you've likely opted for a heavy-duty pickup.

The irony of the Volkswagen dieselgate scandal is twofold. For one, some were pulling similar testing shenanigans that Volkswagen was — it's just that VW was the first to get caught. And second, those VW diesel engines were fantastic. They were torquey and excelled in everyday driving, pesky pollution aside.

2021 Chevrolet Tahoe Duramax Diesel Diesel Tahoes are branded with the Duramax name.Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

There's a dirty secret to the horsepower numbers that most carmakers cite: they peak at very high RPMs that average drivers will never reach. But torquey turbocharged engines like this baby Duramax? It generates 95% of its 460 pound-feet of torque at just 1,250 RPM, and then peak torque runs all the way from 1,500 to 3,000 RPM. That means you're in the prime torque band nearly continuously.

In plain English, that means it's way better to drive. It's more fun, it's more efficient, and thanks to all manner of fancy technology, diesel engines aren't weird and finicky anymore.

Yes, you should probably plug it in if you park it outside in frigid weather. But other than that one minor caveat, this diesel is nonpareil.

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Limited-edition pickup truck

Ford offering limited edition colors for 2022 Ranger Splash

The Ranger Splash will be offered in three limited-run colors.

Ford

During its time off the market in the United States, the Ford Ranger remained a popular utility vehicle in global markets. In other markets, the truck is offered in unique special editions, such as the Ranger Raptor and Ranger Storm, but the options in the U.S. are limited. Last year, Ford announced the return of the Ranger Splash, a funky version of the truck that roamed the streets in the 1990s. Today, the automaker outlined another Splash edition, this time to be produced in limited quantities with special color options.

Ford will offer three colors for the new Ranger Splash Limited Edition: Snow Edition, Forest Edition, and Sand Edition. The colors will roll out one at a time "every few months," according to Ford, and the package will add $1,495 to the Ranger's price tag.

Ranger Splash Limited Edition The Snow Edition is based on the Lariat trim, but the other two are based on the lower XLT model.Ford

The Lariat Ranger Splash Snow Edition features a gray paint color with black exterior trim and a unique grille design. Inside, the truck carries ebony leather upholstery with ash gray accent stitching and carbon touches. Ford says it will produces just 750 Splash Snow Edition trucks, with availability starting in spring.

The XLT Ranger Splash Forest Edition (pictured above) comes with Forged Green exterior paint and red grille accents. The interior offers black cloth upholstery with ash gray accent stitching and carbon accents. Just 500 Forest Edition vehicles will be produced, with availability starting in summer.

Ranger Splash Limited Edition The colors will roll out every few months in 2022. Ford

The third and final truck in the series is the XLT Ranger Splash Sand Edition. It gets Desert Sand exterior paint, dark exterior accents and red grill "nostrils." It also gets black cloth upholstery with ash gray stitching and carbon accents. The Sand Edition will debut in fall with a run of only 500 trucks.

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Chevy recently dropped a load of specs and opened orders for the new Silverado EV.

Chevrolet

After months of teases and speculation, Chevrolet took the wraps off its 2024 Silverado EV pickup truck. The long-awaited electric truck lands with impressive range of up to 400 miles, plenty of power, and neat features that improve its ability to do "truck stuff." The $105,000 RST First Edition model sold out in 12 minutes, so we're here to ask the question: Would you line up to buy one?

2024 Chevrolet Silverado EV It's all about the screens in the RST First Edition model. Chevrolet

Chevrolet will offer the truck in two trims at launch: A fleet-oriented WT (work truck) model and a consumer-friendly RST First Edition model. Chevy says it will eventually offer a fleet model with 20,000 pounds of max towing capacity. The WT model will launch first with 510 horsepower and 615 pound-feet of torque, which adds up to a towing capacity of 8,000 pounds and 1,200 pounds of payload. The RST trim offers a Wide Open Watts (WOW) Mode that bumps power to 664 ponies and 780 pound-feet of torque, which is good for a 0-60 mph time of just 4.5 seconds.

The RST model offers advanced features to make daily driving easier for the everyday buyer, including four-wheel steering, automatic adaptive air suspension, a 17-inch touchscreen and 11-inch gauge cluster, a 14-inch head-up display, and Super Cruise with trailering capability. An available onboard generator system can produce up to 10.2kW of power for equipment such as worksite power tools or campsite gear.

2024 Chevrolet Silverado EV Preorders for the $105,000 RST First Edition sold out in just 12 minutes.Chevrolet

Both trucks come exclusively in crew cab format, and will offer an "eTrunk" where the engine bay would be in a traditional truck. The lockable, weatherproof compartment can carry a large suitcase, and adds to the Silverado EV's already impressive interior storage. The RST's center console can swallow more than seven gallons of gear, which is large enough to hold a small lunch cooler, according to Chevy. RST models are also available with GM's excellent Multi-Flex tailgate, but there's a new feature for the electric truck that its gas-powered counterparts don't get: A Multi-Flex Midgate that opens the space between the cab and bed for carrying longer cargo. Using the function won't interfere with use of the back seat, either, so the truck will still carry at least four people.

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