What Is Chevrolet's Z71 Package? And Is It Worth The Price?

Introduced more than 30 years ago, Chevrolet's Regular Production Option Z71 is synonymous with enhancing the off-road capability of the brand's trucks and SUVs. Over time, Z71 has represented both an optional suspension package available across various trim levels as well as being its own unique trim level. In the case of late-model Chevy Tahoe and Suburban SUVs, the latter is true.

For 2023, the Tahoe and Suburban each offer no less than six different trim levels. In light of that, does the Z71 moniker still live up to its reputation for getting these super-sized SUVs off the beaten path or has it devolved into more of a marketing ploy?

Starting with pricing, the 2023 Tahoe Z71 starts at $66,195 which is a $1,600 premium over a well equipped 4WD LT model for $64,595. Similarly, the Suburban Z71 begins at $68,895 versus $67,295 for the 4WD LT trim level. So what are buyers getting for their extra splash of cash?

Z71 SUV specifications

To improve approach angles during off-road driving, the Z71 SUVs feature a taller front fascia for better clearance. Front air dams or valances are frequently installed by manufacturers to increase aerodynamics and fuel economy. But what's good for fuel economy can be a hinderance to off-road driving, as this plastic valance hangs down several inches from the front bumper and can be subject to damage.

Besides a factory valance delete, the front ends of the big Z71 SUVs also receive a beefy metal skid plate to protect chassis components in the event of striking an object, as well as bright red tow hooks for recovery.

And what would an aspiring off-roader be without a special wheel and tire package? In this case, it's machined aluminum 20-inch wheels paired with 33-inch tall Goodyear Wrangler TrailRunner AT tires.

In the appearance department, gloss black trim components such as the grill replace their chrome counterparts, which are found on other trim levels and of course, multiple Z71 badges abound. Black side steps, black roof rails for mounting accessories, a heavy duty engine air filter, and hill descent control round out the hardware aspect of the Z71 package.

The ride height is the same as non-Z71 trucks

The proverbial elephant in the room is the fact that, unlike Chevy's Silverado pickup, the Tahoe or Suburban Z71 trims do not include special off-road suspension components like shock absorbers. The ground clearance is identical to other trim levels. However, ordering the Z71 trim unlocks the possibility of adding the "Off Road Capability Package" which includes, per Chevrolet, "Magnetic Ride Control suspension, Air Ride Adaptive suspension and electronic Limited-Slip Differential (eLSD)." 

The air suspension component of the Off Road Capability Package does add a full two inches of extra ground clearance when raised to its maximum height, but at a cost of approximately $6,000 in addition to the price of the required Z71 trim. Though to be fair, the Off Road Capability Package is bundled together with the Max Trailering Package and Luxury Package, improving the value proposition somewhat. Finally, note that the Z71 is the only trim level that's not available with a diesel engine.

So is the Z71 trim level worth the extra cash when purchasing your new Suburban or Tahoe? By itself, the Z71 trim isn't exactly an off-road beast, but assuming that you were planning to buy a four-wheel drive gasoline model anyway, it definitely lends a sportier, more aggressive appearance and is a mandatory gateway for ordering additional levels of off-road prowess. All for only $1,600.