Did you hear? Redesigned versions of the Tahoe and Suburban full-size SUVs were just revealed on Tuesday evening. These 2021 models promise to be a huge step up from what Bowtie stores are selling today, with more interior space and better dynamics, two things partly enabled by a new independent rear suspension.
Showing confidence in its latest utility vehicles, at a technical presentation before the vehicles' formal unveiling, GM engineers took members of the media, including Roadshow, for back-to-back rides in the 2021 Tahoe and a similarly equipped Ford Expedition, arguably the Chevy's fiercest opponent. Somewhat ironically, Dearborn has fitted this hefty SUV with independent rear suspension since about the 2003 model year, though its Mustang pony car didn't really gain this ride-and-handling enhancer until 2015. (Yes, a small run of Cobras did feature IRS before the S550-generation Mustang came out, but the feature was not standard across the lineup until 2015.)
First, we were chauffeured around in a 2020 Expedition. For the most part, the SUV tackled GM's ride-and-handling course with confidence, though some larger surface imperfections, when taken at speed, resulted in passengers bobbing around quite a bit. These motions were digested relatively quickly by the suspension, but not before they could jostle us riders.
Possibly because of stiffer springs, or maybe heavier wheels, the Ford also seemed a bit jiggly, like the underlying frame was flexing over harsh surfaces including expansion joints and railroad tracks. Again, nothing major here, the Expedition is still an excellent SUV, but by comparison, Chevy's latest appears to really be bringing its A-game.
After a lap in the Ford, we switched to a similarly equipped 2021 Tahoe in range-topping High Country trim, one fitted not only with an independently sprung rear, but also magnetic dampers and an adjustable air-suspension system, the ultimate arrangement GM will offer on this truck and its larger sibling, the Suburban.
While driven at similar speeds on the same course, Chevy's latestfelt noticeably softer than the Ford. Not only was the ride a touch smoother, it also seemed more controlled. The body, and passengers inside, moved around less while traversing irregular roadways. The interior also seemed a bit quieter, though the sweet music produced by its 6.2-liter V8 was a welcome soundtrack, something Ford's turbocharged EcoBoost V6 could never quite match.
For consistency, I occupied the second-row, passenger-side seat in both trucks. As for comfort, it's a toss-up between the two, but the Chevy likely has a slight edge over its rival in this area, though it will be interesting to see how the Tahoe, when fitted with the standard, coil-spring suspension compares to a similarly equipped Air bags and magnetic ride control dampers are major technical advancements that should deliver a superior ride.
One interesting observation from this regrettably short comparison, the Chevy appears to have less ground clearance than the Ford, though no official figures were included in the press materials shared by GM. Parts of its rear suspension hangs unexpectedly low, noticeably closer to the Earth than the Expedition's. It's unlikely many customers do hardcore off-roading in Tahoes or Suburbans, but this could be an issue for the few who do.