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2023 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71 Review: Chevy’s Big SUV Heads for the Dirt

For Chevrolet, Z71 means off-road. But unlike in the pickups, the Tahoe's package is largely cosmetic. With the best features not included in the package, the 2023 Tahoe Z71 has a tough time living up to the promise of that badge.

2023 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71(Photo/Evan Williams)
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If you want to take five people deep off road and tow a big boat or camper with you, you can pick from a handful of full-size pickups. If you want to add another couple of people, things get a lot more complicated. In that segment, there are fewer choices. One of the biggest standouts is this one, the 2023 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71.

In short: The Chevrolet Tahoe Z71 does a great job at moving people and cargo, but if you want all the off-road tools and safety tech, you’ll need to tick more option boxes.

2023 Chevrolet Tahoe


  • Engine 5.3L V8
  • HP 355
  • Torque 383 lb.-ft.
  • Mileage (4WD) 21/27 mpg; 36/32 mpg; 26/27 mpg
  • Cargo 25.5" behind third row, 72.6: behind second row, 122.9" all folded
  • Towing 8,200 lbs.


  • Smooth V8
  • Cushy ride
  • Cavernous interior
  • Excellent infotainment


  • Everything is an option
  • Lacks real off-road features
  • Throttle response
  • Awkward rear seat slide

Z71 Means Off Road

2023 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71
Tahoe Z71’s special front bumper lets you get up close and personal with obstacles; (photo/Evan Williams)

Z71 is Chevrolet-speak for more off-road capability. The name is part of the brand’s clever marketing effort to capitalize on factory codes that caught on with enthusiasts. Then, the marketing team takes the random combo from production and makes it sound cool — see Corvette ZR1 and Camaro 1LE. But, it does usually come with some actual hardware, unlike the old Cavalier Z22 models if you’re old enough to remember those sticker packages.

Extra hardware, like a low-range transfer case, makes the Z71 the only version of the Tahoe to get that feature as standard equipment. It also has hill descent control for slow going down grades and a heavy-duty air filter for protection when you’re pounding down dusty trails. All-terrain tires on 20-inch rims are another very useful component for off-road driving, although smaller wheels would be better.

As an aside, that two-speed transfer case is the only way to flat tow a Tahoe. So, if you want a big rig behind your RV, this one’s the way to go.

But the Upgrades Are Mostly Cosmetic

2023 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71
The 2023 Tahoe Z71 has steel springs with limited suspension articulation; (photo/Evan Williams)

Z71 includes cosmetic upgrades like black emblems and roof racks and bright red recovery hooks. It also adds tubular side steps that are wide enough to be useful when getting in or out, but don’t hang down and ruin ground clearance.

What the Z71 model doesn’t come with is more of that ground clearance. Approach angles grow, from 24.5 degrees to 31.5, thanks to the cutaway front bumper which hugs the nose and lets you get up-close and personal with rocks and ledges, but the rest of the off-road dimensions are exactly the same as every other Tahoe.

You can transform the Tahoe Z71 into something more capable, though. A quick walk through the options list drops the Premium Smooth Ride suspension and replaces it with the Off-Road Capability Package.

Serious Capability Is Optional

2023 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71
(Photo/Evan Williams)

The Off-Road Capability Package has a height-adjustable air-ride suspension that drops for getting in and out and climbs for an extra 2 inches of ground clearance. The 10-inch figure is usefully larger than the standard 8.0 inches.

It also includes GM’s Magnetic Ride Control, magnetically adjustable shocks that do an amazing job of taming this big SUV’s ride on the road and off. The package is rounded out with an electronic limited-slip rear differential replacing the standard mechanical LSD.

Currently going for $2,995, this package is almost a steal. But my tester didn’t have it, instead getting a $1,995 rear seat entertainment system that I couldn’t figure out how to power up. The system is probably cool, but what kid doesn’t have a tablet (or phone) these days and instead relies on a seatback TV?

The Z71 package Chevrolet offers on the Silverado pickup comes with a lift and off-road shocks. On the Tahoe, it doesn’t.

Tahoe Manages Rough Road Comfort With Steel Springs

2023 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71
(Photo/Evan Williams)

Still, Tahoe’s standard suspension is up for some pretty serious rough-road driving. Although the steel-sprung Tahoe wallows on the highway, that soft suspension does an excellent job of soaking up not only highway expansion joints but also the kind of rocks you’ll find when driving quickly down a dirt road or a rough trail. The chunky Goodyear all-terrain tires do a good job of giving this hefty SUV grip and resisting cuts from rocks, gravel, and other trail debris.

Tahoe has enough ground clearance for the kind of obstacles you’ll find in most places that you’d want to take a full-size seven-seat SUV. It won’t go over everything, but, well, neither will your family, or the camper you’re towing. And it offers little in the way of suspension articulation for dropping into and getting over rough terrain.

The two-speed transfer case is also great when you’re trying to climb up or down steep grades. Especially with a load of passengers and cargo. But it does bring to light one serious driveline shortcoming that I’ll get back to when talking about the transmission.

Though it is competent, all of my time in this Z71 has me recalling driving the same roads in a Yukon AT4 where the biggest mechanical difference was the parts that come in the Off-Road Performance Package. The air springs and magnetic dampers make a world of difference to the ride on and off pavement and hugely improve the capability and usability of GM’s big SUVs.

Many Z71 Features Offered on Other Tahoe Models

2023 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71
(Photo/Evan Williams)

Because the low-range transfer case is available on every other trim that the Tahoe offers (the T-Case is part of the tow package) and the magnetic shocks and air ride are offered on other trims, a steel-sprung Z71 seems pointless.

Skip the bumper and save some cash with an LT or get a swankier RST trim for almost the same coin. With the air ride, though, this is about as close as you can get to a Silverado ZR2 or Ford Raptor with seating for seven and the ability to tow up to 8,200 pounds. Sorry, Toyota, but Sequoia TRD Pro is quite a bit smaller inside.

2023 Tahoe Still Enormous Inside

2023 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71
Up to 123 cubic feet of cargo space; (photo/Evan Williams)

The rest of the Z71 is what you’ll find across the Chevrolet Tahoe lineup, which carries over from a complete redesign in 2021. That year, the Tahoe grew much longer in the wheelbase and overall, making what was already a capacious SUV even better for passengers.

Its 38.2 inches of third-row headroom and 34.9 inches of rear knee room beat what many large crossovers can offer in row two. It does that while still having 25.5 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row and 122.9 cubic feet with all of the seats folded. That’s up to 1,746 pounds of payload for 4×4 models if you’re counting.

2023 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71
Still spacious, even with the seats up; (photo/Evan Williams)

Both rows of rear seats fold completely flat, leaving a huge space for transporting the mother of all Costco runs or most of an REI. If you can’t lie down in the back of this with room for your dog to sleep at your feet, there’s approximately a 17% chance you’ve played in the NBA. If it’s not enough, then get a Suburban. Or a box truck.

Z71 Offers Big & Bigger V8s

2023 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71
(Photo/Evan Williams)

Chevrolet offers three engines on the Tahoe, including a 5.3L V8, the go-fast 6.2L V8, and a 3.0L inline-six turbodiesel. The I-6 you can’t get on the Z71 thanks to cooling issues surrounding that off-road bumper. My tester had the 355-horsepower, 383-pound-foot 5.3L V8, and it’s an engine with enough shove to make me think I had the 6.2L version.

General Motors designs great V8s, and for the most part, this one is no different. The engine is smooth across the rev range and aside from a gentle V8 burble, it is quiet. It’s also, as I mentioned, quite powerful.

My problem with the engine, one that really showed up off road, is in the programming. The short of it is that when you lift off the throttle, especially in 4Lo, the throttle butterfly doesn’t close right away.

The engine keeps making power. Even if it’s only for a moment, when this nearly 3-ton beast doesn’t immediately stop accelerating on a tight trail it is a sphincter-tightening moment. It’s less noticeable on pavement in 2Hi, but it is always there. Likely related to emissions tuning, it’s still a hard sell in a truck aimed at slow off-road driving.

Aside from that little hiccup, the driveline is a good one. The standard 10-speed goes a great job of not hunting for gears. Plus, you can sort of select gears yourself using the dash-mounted controls — it just limits the highest allowed ratio — and there is a tow-haul mode for more trailer-friendly shifting.

The engine is reasonably efficient considering the size of the Tahoe, rated for 15 mpg city and 20 mpg highway. I saw 20-21 mpg in my time with the Tahoe Z71, with numbers closer to 14 when I was off-roading and using four-wheel drive.

Fast & Friendly Infotainment

2023 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71
(Photo/Evan Williams)

A 10.2-inch center screen runs a Google-based infotainment system that has wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. I liked the last-gen GM system, and I like this one even more. It’s sharp-looking and fast-acting. Yes, it’s more familiar to Android phone users (like me), but it’s not much of a stretch for Apple users either.

LT and upgrades get a 12-inch digital dash that is highly configurable. There are more gauges available than I know what to do with (air filter life, anyone?), and you can pick layouts that range from only a speedometer to space shuttle levels of real-time displays.

Just like on the pickups, you can configure a Tahoe with up to 13 camera views. They let you see over, around, and “through” a trailer, and nearly every possible angle you could want on and off road. But in order to get all of those views, you need to add option packages. Even on the top-spec High Country, they aren’t all included.

Best Driver Assists Aren’t Standard

2023 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71
(Photo/Evan Williams)

The same goes for the active safety features. Automatic emergency braking, forward collision alert, lane keep assist, and auto high beams are standard. But blind spot alerts, rear cross traffic, park assist, and even adaptive cruise are never standard. New this year, you can add Super Cruise, GM’s hands-off highway driving assistant, but only on High Country.

The thing is that Chevrolet knows you’ll want the driver assists. And that they’re especially important on a vehicle this large and that is likely to be towing or hauling. So, it’s disappointing that they’re extras. And it’s not likely that a dealer will order one without, so you’re paying for them anyway.

Toyota and Ford both offer models that are nearly this size and are in some ways more capable. They also both include the best driver assists (like adaptive cruise and blind spot warnings) as standard equipment. They’re all extra-cost on Wagoneer, but they’re available in one package on even the base spec, which makes ordering easier, at least.

2023 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71
(Photo/Evan Williams)

2023 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71 Pricing

The 2023 Tahoe Z71 I tested rang the bell at $73,680 with freight, and it was still missing out on adaptive cruise and all but the basic reversing camera. I would have ignored the rear-seat TVs and the sunroof, picking the off-road suspension instead and ending up around $1,500 cheaper.

For comparison, a similarly equipped Wagoneer is about the same price, as is a Ford Expedition Timberline, but both have those extra driver assists. A TRD Pro Sequoia is just over $79,000 with shipping. So, the Tahoe Z71 is competitively priced, depending on what you’re looking for.

2023 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71 Review: Conclusion

2023 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71
(Photo/Evan Williams)

Tahoe is one of the longest-running nameplates in this segment, and it continues to deliver massive space and high levels of towing capability. It offers that big space with a well-finished cabin and crossover-like driving manners.

Z71 does a good job of looking tough, too, but the package alone doesn’t do all that much. It just gives you access to packages that do. I think that Chevrolet would have a more appealing vehicle if it simply added all the off-road bits to the model from the go. As it is, buyers need to look for the height adjustment button to make sure they’ve got the 2023 Chevrolet Tahoe Z71 that they likely wanted in the first place.

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Evan Williams

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