Drive: Chevrolet's 2021 Tahoe handles well in Connecticut's winter weather

More than once over the years, we’ve lavished praise on Fiat-Chrysler’s Ram pickup trucks for their comfortable ride and crisp handling — qualities attributable mostly to the trucks’ independent rear suspensions.

Other automakers, notably General Motors, have persisted in equipping their pickup trucks and large, truck-body SUVs with solid rear axles, endowing them with riding and driving qualities that are, well, trucky.

That all changed with the 2021 model year in one of Chevy’s most popular models, the Tahoe. It now has an independent rear suspension, and the difference is noticeable.

Yet the new Tahoe gives up nothing to its predecessors in terms of passenger room, cargo-carrying capacity and towing ability. In fact, the new Tahoe has 122.4 cubic feet of cargo room with the second- and third-row seats lowered, compared with 94.1 cubic feet in the 2020 model. It also can tow 8,200 pounds.

For people who don’t intend to tow a horse trailer or drive into the back country, Chevrolet’s midsize Traverse has many advantages over the Tahoe.

A big crossover, not a truck, it provides a car-like ride, significantly better fuel economy than the Tahoe, and only a little less cargo room. But people who need a truck will find a lot to like in the big Tahoe.

Our test truck was an off-road-oriented Tahoe Z71 with loads of luxury as well as conventional all-wheel drive, a 2-speed transfer case enabling high-range and low-range 4x4 operation, and 2-wheel drive.

2021 Chevrolet Tahoe 4WD Z71

Price: $68,940

Engine: 5.3-liter V-8, 355 horsepower, 383 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: 10-speed shiftable automatic

Drive: all-wheel

Weight: 5,661 lb.

Suspension: magnetic ride control, air ride adaptive (optional), 4-wheel independent

Ground clearance: 8-10 in.

Wheels: 20x9-in. machined aluminum

Tires: P275/60R20 all-terrain

Seating capacity: 6

Luggage capacity: 25.5 cu. ft.

Maximum cargo capacity: 122.9 cu. ft.

Towing capacity: 8,200 lb.

Fuel capacity: 28 gal.

Fuel economy: 16 mpg city, 20 mpg highway

Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline

The truck is powered by a 355-horsepower V-8 engine with a 10-speed shiftable automatic transmission. Rated at 16 mpg city, 20 highway, it delivered just 16.1 mpg overall, in mixed highway and urban driving — often in snowy conditions.

With a base price of $59,200, it had a sticker price of $68,940. The Tahoe comes in several trim levels, ranging from the base LS with rear-wheel drive ($50,295) to more than $70,000 for the luxurious High Country.

We were thoroughly impressed with its smooth, quiet ride and competent handling. As it happened, we drove the Tahoe through all manner of western Connecticut winter weather without a moment’s concern or uncertainty about its ability to handle the next challenge.

Visibility in every direction is good in this tall SUV, which also was equipped with blind-spot monitor, lane-keep assist and rear cross-traffic alert.

Unfortunately, these desirable safety features were part of an expensive Z71 Off-Road Package ($5,735). A number of much less-expensive vehicles we’ve driven recently included these features as standard equipment.

Competition is fairly light in the truck-body sector, as consumers continue to gravitate to crossovers like the Traverse. In addition to the Tahoe’s GMC cousin, the Yukon, the Tahoe competes with the Ford Expedition.

Of the three, the Tahoe is the top seller, cracking the 100,000 barrier in 2018 and ’19. But among Chevy’s seven SUV models, ranging in size from the subcompact Trailblazer to the giant Suburban, the compact Equinox SUV and midsize Traverse lead the pack.

Steven Macoy (semacoy@gmail.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel.