But around it, spilling out for hundreds of miles in every direction, is desert, trackless and tracked, rocky and sandy, carpeted with sharp, spiky things that want to stab you and populated by poisonous reptiles just waiting to chomp their spiky fangs into your unsuspecting ankle bones. Las Vegas is the main and only attraction out here for the millions of flyover-state slack-jaws who stare like dime-store monkeys at its inefficient lighting and for whom the slightly cross-eyed crooner Wayne Newton is surely gawd. But to others, the desert carries its own beauty — at least it does for those willing to go out and look for it.
Yours truly was one willing to go look. While walking across the desert may be fine for biblical figures and certain hearty souls with good shoes, I was happy to accept a Chevy truck and a Polaris. Chevy, of course, makes a full range of large and comfortable trucks and SUVs with four-wheel drive. Polaris makes the RZR side-by-side, the sales leader in that class of small, tall, short-wheelbase pseudo-dune buggies craved by everyone from deer hunters to desert racers. You know about the Chevys; you may not know as much about the side-by-sides.
The Chevy Tahoe Custom can haul 6600 pounds, or 8600 with the max trailering package.
First, the Chevy. Last month, Chevrolet introduced the newest, most affordable and, you could argue, most utilitarian version of its ginormous Tahoe SUV: the Tahoe Custom. Starting at $44,995 (which includes destination!) the Custom is the cheapest way to buy a Tahoe. It’s “… for customers who want the cargo and towing capability of a full-size SUV to go camping, boating or off-roading but don’t necessarily want all of the option content offered on a Tahoe Premier.” Even though it’s the most affordable of the Tahoes, it still comes with lots of the stuff you want in any vehicle you own: Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, 4G LTE connectivity with Wi-Fi hotspot, 8-inch color touchscreen, rear-vision camera and up to five USB ports. More importantly, you also get 6,600 pounds of towing (more if you buy the max trailering package) and 112 cubic feet of cargo space.
That towing capacity would be used on this trip to tow the next item on our adventure list, the mighty and sophisticated Polaris RZR XP Turbo EPS Dynamix Edition. That’s a mouthful, that name, but it’s the most performance-oriented side-by-side of the whole Polaris line, sort of the Polaris Corvette. It also costs the most — $25,999, starting U.S. MSRP, Polaris says. For that, you get a mid-rear-mounted two-cylinder turbo that displaces 925cc and spits out 168 hp. Polaris lists curb weight at 1,500 pounds dry. You hit a button on the dash to switch from two- to four-wheel drive, which is handy, but the key and most newsworthy ingredient in this dirt destroyer is that Dynamix. That name sounds like it was made up by marketing professionals to dazzle the side-by-side crowd in much the same way Dynaride was made up for Buick. Dynamix is the name of the new and first-ever “smart” suspension in the side-by-side market. An onboard computer samples seven inputs of data 200 times a second and decides how stiff or firm to set the Fox shocks. If it senses that you’re flying through the air, for instance, it sets the shocks to full hard. We’re here to tell you Dynamix that is a good thing.
Thus equipped, with a Chevy Tahoe Custom towing two Polaris RZRs, some colleagues and I left the frankly frightening confines of Las Vegas, glad for any excuse to do so, and set off into the vast American Southwest.
First, the trailer-towing Tahoe: Every review you’ve ever read about a tow vehicle says, “You don’t even know the trailer’s back there.” Well, with every trailer I’ve ever towed, I always knew it was back there. This is no different. But the Tahoe seems well up to the task. While there’s always that push-pull-tug motion when you’re starting or stopping, the actual rollout of speed up through the gears isn’t bad at all. I’m guessing the whole load weighed over 4,000 pounds (two RZRs at 1,500 pounds apiece and a 1,000-pound double-axle trailer?). It was well within the Tahoe’s parameters.
But you already knew that a Tahoe could tow. As I said, the big news is that Dynamix electronic suspension on the RZR. This is worth the $3,000 premium over the next closest RZR in the lineup. I spent an hour or so driving the short-wheelbase (90 inches) Dynamix Active Suspension and letting it soak up bumps and bangs in the Nevada desert, from Jean to Goodsprings, all the way to the Pioneer Saloon, where one of the Earp brothers met his untimely end and where Clark Gable waited in Goodsprings’ Pioneer Saloon for news of the plane crash that took his beloved Carol Lombard. There’s a lot going on out in the desert.
The trick is to not hit the power poles…
But back to the Dynamix. Why do I say it’s worth all that money? After driving a RZR with Dynamix, I got into one without it and did the same route. Hitting the same gully-whumper I’d just sailed through at the same speed resulted in the whole suspension crashing to the bump stops and my back, particularly the mid-thoraxical vertebrae (a medical term I just made up) taking the full wallop of kinetic energy. It knocked the wind out of me and my back still hurts as I type this a week later. Maybe I should see a doctor. Or self-medicate.
So, for the sake of your own wind and your own back, I say, pay the money. Or drive more cautiously, which is no fun.
After that, we got back into the big bruiser Tahoe and returned to Vegas, which, with its showers and air conditioning, suddenly seemed a whole lot more palatable.
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