TROY, Mich. — Few brands are better than Chevy at taking something unassuming, even boring — and making it go faster and feel special. Following in the lineage of things like the 1990s Impala SS, the Bow Tie dips into a familiar playbook — increased V8 power and police-style chassis enhancements — to create the 2023 Tahoe RST Performance Edition.
A word of caution: the RST Performance only adds 13 ponies to the already-potent 6.2-liter V8. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Chevy borrowed heavily from the Tahoe Police Pursuit Vehicle, which is fortified for turning quickly and taking off fast, to give the family hauler a new edge.
We’re talking bigger brakes, Torch Red Brembos that are 25% larger in diameter and improve stopping distance by more than 6 feet, Firestone Firehawk police-spec tires, a 10-mm lowered ride height, and tighter spring and damping tuning. A performance intake and catback exhaust are where the extra power comes from, lifting the V8 to 433 horsepower and 467 pound-feet of torque. This model also has the Hydra-Matic 10-speed automatic, four-wheel drive and mechanical limited-slip differential. All told, it will hit 60 mph in 5.8 seconds (the base RST is 5.95 seconds) en route to a top speed of 124 mph (+12 mph), which would come in handy in pursuit. It can run the quarter mile in 14.2 seconds. Despite all of the changes, towing remains the same at 7,600 pounds.
A bit reminiscent of the mid-90s Impala SS (and even the later 2000s edition, which still has its supporters due to that 5.3-liter hearty aluminum small-block V8), Chevy designers used color and trim to dress up the already-beefy Tahoe. Building on the Rally Sport Truck lineage (RST), the Performance trim adds black 20-inch aluminum wheels and black badging.
I tested a Tahoe RST Performance Edition that stickered for $81,305, including destination charges. Technically, the Performance Edition is a $8,875 package exclusive to the RST trim level consisting of the performance-oriented upgrades described above as well as the automatically added Luxury package that includes driver memory settings, a heated power-adjustable steering wheel, heated rear seats, blind-spot and cross-traffic warning, and adaptive cruise control. Basically, it’s a loaded Tahoe that’s been tuned for performance. Don’t be confused, there’s also a Tahoe Sport Performance that slots below the RST version. That’s essentially a way to upgrade to the 6.2-liter V8 with dual exhaust for $3,820 without the rest of the police running gear. Most people would likely choose that path.
The RST Performance is for Tahoe owners who want a little something extra in their daily drivers and perhaps have an old SS-badged creation in the garage. I don’t have an Impala in a shed, but I did use the RST Performance for its intended purpose, running around town with a bit more verve than necessary. The catback exhaust sounds good, rumbling at idle and feeling the part of a large displacement American V8 upon hard acceleration. I noticed the performance-tuned brake pedal feel, though it’s subtle. With the improved stopping power thanks to the large Brembos, this sportier Tahoe offers better dynamics and more confidence for the driver. I felt that vibe in the steering and handling. The lowered ride height helps. The hulking, truck-based Tahoe can be a lot to maneuver, but the Performance Edition’s enhancements actually made it a little easier and more fun to drive.
So why would you want this? You can step up from the base 5.3-liter V8 to the 6.2-liter unit for less money. You can certainly get the safety and premium features without signing up for all of the cop stuff. Do you want your Tahoe to ride a little lower and look a little flashier? It’s ironic that the most eye-catching Tahoe is loaded with police running gear. You can also get a lot of Yukon for the RST Performance’s 81-grand sticker.
Let’s put it a different way. You’ve already made the decision to get a Tahoe. Cool. You’ll like it. If you’re thinking base Tahoe, this isn’t for you. But if you’re already planning on checking a lot of the option boxes, money is a little looser and you’re cross-shopping with things like the Jeep Grand Wagoneer, well, the RST Performance edition could be for you. The tipping point is where the logical decision of buying a family hauling SUV can merit the slightest whiff of emotion. That’s where this flavor of Tahoe comes in. It’s not the ‘90s Impala SS, but if that car conjures a hint of nostalgia and you want something sportier for Target runs, the RST Performance offers a unique proposition that’s worth it.