2018 Tahoe Custom: Recreation-Tested, Checkbook-Approved

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2018 Chevrolet Tahoe Custom Towing Polaris RZR

Chevy Tahoe’s newest ‘Custom’ trim level is value-packed, which means more money for recreational toys that make you feel alive.

I’m ripping across the desert floor in the Polaris RZR XP Turbo Dynamix Edition at wide-open throttle. Along the same path in a Z71-spec Chevy truck, I’d be lucky to hit 25 mph. In my turbocharged, two-seat side-by-side, my foot is suffocating the throttle pedal as I climb beyond 65 mph.

Polaris RZR XP Turbo DYNAMIX Edition Motion Blur

When your foot is on the RZR’s accelerator as though you’re pressing forth on fingers hanging onto a skyscraper’s ledge, repercussions tend to happen. The back end squirms like it’s backing away from the head master’s disciplinary hand. I dial about seven degrees of opposite-lock to keep the butt in line with the front wheels. The throttle remains pinned as I push past 70 mph. The RZR’s rump is squirming more now.

As soon as I start dialing about 12 degrees of counter-steer, I back off the throttle, and for good reason. Any more drift angle at that speed while traversing ill-complected desert vastness results in three certainties: flipping a $25,999 ATV, lots of pain and tremendous embarrassment.

And that’s the game you play with the 168-horsepower, 1,500-lb. RZR side-by-side. Between those seven and 12 degrees, you must summon all your driving talent to remain nestled between the thrill of being within degrees of death and actually risking entry through the pearly gates. The Polaris RZR XP Turbo is one of the few legal devices on the planet that can plunk you close enough to the Grim Reaper that you can feel the sauna of his breath. But only within the scythe’s striking distance can you truly feel alive.

What does this all have to do with the 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe Custom? Quite simply, money. Nowadays you can sneeze three times to get a Tahoe to shoot north of $70,000. Really, all it takes is three option-box clicks on the Chevy Tahoe configurator to see “$70,610” and make your eyes pop out of their sockets.

 

In 2018 with $44,995 in your pocket, it’s impossible to buy a new Tahoe that isn’t nice.

 

Despite how expensive these behemoths can become, they’re still burning rubber off dealer lots. For every two full-size SUVs sold in the U.S., one is a Chevrolet Tahoe. Furthermore, four out five new full-size SUVs sold today in America is a GM product (Chevy Tahoe, Suburban; GMC Yukon, Yukon XL), so high prices aren’t making people scurry out of showrooms, especially when, according to Automotive News, the year-to-date average transaction price of GM’s full-size SUVs was $59,100 as of October 2016.

Why introduce a $44,995 Chevy Tahoe, then? Because there are a lot of people out there who want reasonably equipped full-size SUVs for reasonable money. Up until the 2017 model year, the lowest the Tahoe would go was $48,510 in LS trim. While it came reasonably equipped with a 355-hp, 5.3L V8; Chevrolet MyLink audio with eight-inch touchscreen; SiriusXM satellite radio; OnStar with 4G LTE and a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot, it was still close to 50 grand for a stripper Tahoe.

2018 Chevrolet Tahoe Custom Interior

Tahoe Custom to the rescue. It undercuts last year’s base model by $3,515, and includes all the LS’s standard features, plus 18-inch painted aluminum wheels, and a chrome-accented grille so it doesn’t look like you’re driving a stripper Tahoe. The only thing you’re losing when you opt for the Tahoe Custom is a third-row seat.

What’s great is that Chevy has come out with a “stripper” Tahoe that doesn’t look or feel like a stripper at all. It still has an inviting interior befitting a vehicle in the mid-$40,000 range, and it offers a quiet and comfortable driving experience. My only issue with the Tahoe Custom (and the LS as well) is that the base cloth upholstery feels cheap and scratchy. It looks OK, but as soon as you touch it, you start thinking “sub-$15,000 subcompact.”

Despite this, the entire Tahoe Custom package, inside and out, is a huge contrast to how things were back when I was a seventh-grader in the 1990s. Back then, if you wanted to save money on your full-size GM SUV, you had to deal with the unadulterated wretchedness of roll-up windows and manual door locks. It may have been a full-size SUV on the outside, but ostensibly it was a farm truck on the inside.

 

Fully loaded, $70,000-plus Tahoes are nice and all, but what’s nicer is saving 25 grand, buying a Tahoe Custom, and then throwing that savings onto a Polaris RZR.

 

Around that time, I remember people would make fun of a friend of mine behind her back because her parents drove a stripper Suburban. I felt kind of bad for her, but due to peer pressure I just had to laugh along with the chiding. If she were growing up today, and her parents bought one of these, she’d be lauded. In 2018 with $44,995 in your pocket, it’s impossible to buy a new Tahoe that isn’t nice.

Today’s SUV-buying demographic is image-conscious, and the good news for them is that the 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe Custom passes the “look at me” test. This SUV will turn heads on the Las Vegas strip when it’s got two Polaris RZR UTVs in tow. As I was driving under one of Las Vegas’ myriad pedestrian overpasses, I saw a guy enviously lock eyes on my RZR-saddled ride. That bit of head-turning made me feel rich, even though I was driving the “cheap” Tahoe. More importantly, it made me feel smart because if I were in the market for a Chevy Tahoe, this is the one I’d buy — not necessarily to save money, but because of the Polaris RZR XP Turbo Dynamix Edition.

Fully loaded, $70,000-plus Tahoes are nice and all, but what’s nicer is saving 25 grand, buying a less-optioned Tahoe Custom, and then throwing that savings onto a RZR so that you can have something that makes you feel as heroic as a Baja 1000 champion. In that regard, then, the most economy-minded Tahoe is actually the nicest new Tahoe money can buy.

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