If there’s a word that describes the new Chevy Tahoe with the RST 6.2L Performance Package, it’s “gratifying.” That was my first response and one that lingered every mile I drove this model, the first Tahoe to be fitted with General Motors’ 6.2-liter V8.

Few would say the standard Chevy Tahoe, with its 5.3-liter V8, is underpowered. With 355 horsepower and 383 lb-ft of torque, that engine is well-regarded for its ability to move Chevy’s full-size SUV. But with the bigger 6.2-liter that makes 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque, the Tahoe feels more potent.

A first for the Tahoe

This 6.2-liter V8 has already been optional in the Tahoe’s GMC sibling, the Yukon, and is standard in the upmarket Cadillac Escalade. But this marks the first time the big V8 is available in the Chevy Tahoe (it’s also offered in the 2018 Suburban with the RST Performance Package). For Chevrolet fans, it must feel like a “finally!” moment.

The RST 6.2L Performance Package builds on–and requires–the standard RST Edition package. And here’s where things can get a little confusing. The basic RST Edition is available on LT and Premier trims, but it doesn’t include the big V8. Rather, it’s more of an aesthetic package that bundles 22-inch wheels, darkened grille, black bowtie badges and other blacked-out elements. If you just want your full-size 3-row Chevy SUV to look more menacing, the approximately $2,600 RST Edition package will make it so.

But if you want the extra oomph to back up the aggressive style, then add the $2,720 for the RST 6.2L Performance Package, available exclusively on the topline Premier trim. In addition to the bigger and more powerful engine, the RST 6.2L Performance Package adds a 10-speed automatic transmission in place of the usual 6-speed, performance-calibrated and Magnetic Ride Control suspension. The big-dog engine can mated to a rear-wheel-drive or 4-wheel-drive Tahoe. You can up the performance ante more with Brembo front brakes and a Borla performance exhaust.

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Notable upgrade in real-world driving

Upon acceleration, the added power is immediate. Turning left with too much exuberance on one rain-soaked road, the Tahoe’s rear end easily got loose and began to fishtail before traction management kicked in and quelled the antics.

In more normal cruising environments, this powerful Tahoe proved just as solid and steadfast as a standard version. But when passing power was needed, it had extra grunt to make it happen without a second thought. As for initial acceleration, Chevy pegs the Tahoe RST’s 0-60 mph time at less than 6 seconds, a figure that seems accurate judging by the seat-of-the-pants test. For the most part, the new 10-speed transmission is smooth, with the ability to kick down surprisingly quick when the throttle is stabbed. I must admit, I enjoyed stabbing the throttle. My test model had the optional Borla exhaust, which provided a fantastic growl that added to the sensory excitement of this big SUV.

While the Tahoe RST with the 6.2-liter V8 certainly feels quicker in a straight line, don’t expect to go carving up mountain roads alá high-performance crossover. This is still a body-on-frame SUV that weighs well over 5,000 pounds.

You also shouldn’t think that the higher power means higher towing figures. In reality, the Tahoe 6.2L RST is actually rated to tow less than the standard Tahoe with its 5.3-liter engine: 8,400 pounds for 2-wheel drive (vs. 8,600 pounds for the standard model), or 8,100 pounds for 4-wheel drive (vs. 8,400 for a standard 4-wheel drive Tahoe).

Added power and features, added price

You’ll have to dig deeper into your pockets if you want the RST’s extra performance. As with its sibling the GMC Yukon, you’ll be required to step up to a higher trim. For the GMC that means going Denali. For the Chevy, it means the Premium trim, which starts around $63,500 and comes with features like 12-way power adjustable heated and cooled front seats, blind-spot monitoring, high-intensity headlights, hands-free liftgate, 10-speaker Bose audio system and navigation.

Factor in the $5,350 for the two RST packages and you’re looking at a bottom line of nearly $69,000 for a 2-wheel-drive Tahoe RST or nearly $71,000 for one with 4-wheel drive version. Options can drive these figures higher still. For example, the performance front brake system that adds 6-piston Brembo calipers runs nearly $2,800. Add it all up, and a top-line 2018 Chevy Tahoe can nearly reach the mid-$70,000 starting price of a Cadillac Escalade. That can be considered a lot of coin for a Tahoe, or a Chevy with the luxurious touches–and now, higher power–of a Cadillac for a lower price.

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