2010 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid Road Test Review

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If there is one thing to say about the 2010 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid, it's that this truck isn't shy about being "green."  With gas prices on the rise and conspicuous consumption a serious social faux pas, the "HYBRID" stickers and badges that cover just about every square inch of this truck seem to be both proud and defensive.  "Please don't slash my tires!" the Tahoe Hybrid's garish decals beg.  "I may be a great big truck, but I'm a hybrid, too!" 

All kidding aside, it's good to finally see a two-mode hybrid system applied to the vehicles that need the fuel economy boost the most:  full-size SUVs.  The new Tahoe Hybrid features a two-mode electric-assist system that provides additional power at both low and high speeds.  Like the Toyota Prius, it can also run on full-electric mode up to fifty kilometers per hour (30 mph), and the engine will run on eight, four or no cylinders depending on demand.  All of that fuel-saving technology is applied to a vehicle that sacrifices little of the conventional Tahoe's drivability or utility. 

Standard power is provided by a 6.0-litre V8, hooked up to GM's electrically variable transmission and a 300-volt nickel-metal hydride Energy Storage System (ESS).  The ESS enables the Tahoe to shut the gasoline engine down completely when the vehicle is at a stop, and to run on electric power at low speeds.  The big V8 is also equipped with GM's Active Fuel Management (AFM) system which shuts down cylinders when they're not needed, and thanks to the ESS the Tahoe's V8 can operate in four-cylinder mode for longer periods of time. 

Does the combination work?  Two-wheel drive Tahoe Hybrids can get 11.2L/100km in the city on the more conservative EPA cycle.  Opt for the available four-wheel drive, and it goes down to 11.8, but that's still respectable for a big SUV.  Freeway fuel economy increases over the conventional gasoline version are in the 25 to 30% range.  Like many modern hybrids, the Tahoe's operation is seamless.  A sensitive driver will be able to feel the engine cycling on and off at low speeds, but it doesn't affect the power delivery at all.  Other than a tendency to be preternaturally quiet, the Tahoe doesn't betray its fancy drivetrain. 

Of course, the exterior makes up for that.  My tester featured no less than six decals, badges and stickers proclaiming it to be a HYBRID.  While probably not a part of the standard Tahoe Hybrid package, it seemed a bit like overkill.  A fancy, high-tech green badge and discreet "hybrid" badges on the fenders suffice nicely.  Sharper eyes will notice aerodynamic tweaks that make the Tahoe a bit slipperier on the freeway, including a lower front air dam and specially sculpted running boards.  Apart from those details, the boxy and handsome Tahoe is the same as its conventional siblings. 

Interior differences are subtle; at a glance, the cabin is the same spacious, comfortable Tahoe environment that we know and love.  The large console is ready to swallow small items, the dash nicely laid out and trimmed with luxury-car attention to detail.  The Tahoe Hybrid's front seats are slightly thinner, to reduce overall mass, and this makes for a slight improvement in second-row knee room.  Most obvious is the silent ride; many passengers remarked that the Tahoe was incredibly quiet, even when the V8 engine was running.  Low rolling-resistance tires and a specially tuned exhaust are a big part of the reason the Tahoe is so calm on the freeway.   The Tahoe Hybrid is also available with all of the comforts of home that make the standard Tahoe a great place for traveling; a navigation system, heated mirrors, XM Satellite Radio and rear view camera and a rear-seat entertainment system are available. 

The Tahoe is impressively easy to drive; Chevrolet has done a fantastic job of making the big SUV "drive small."  The Tahoe uses an independent coil-over shock suspension up front and a five-link coil-sprung rear that give the Tahoe a confident and stable feeling on the road.  The fully electric power steering is responsive and light, and around town this 2,630-kilo (5,800-pound) vehicle never feels ponderous. 

The "green" badge and family-friendly road manners haven't affected the Tahoe's truck abilities in the least, as the Tahoe Hybrid can tow up to 2,721 kilograms (6,000 pounds). 

If there's a downside to the Tahoe Hybrid, it's just that modifier, "for a big SUV."  Its 11.2L/100km fuel economy is good… for a big SUV.  In most other automotive arenas, 11.8L/100km is nothing to write home about.  And considering the Tahoe Hybrid's $68,625 starting price, the significant premium over the conventional models isn't quite justified by the fuel economy boost.  That said, for buyers who need a real truck and want to improve their efficiency a bit, the Tahoe Hybrid offers the best of both worlds.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: SUV, Hybrid, HEV, Chevrolet, Tahoe Hybrid, $50,000 - $74,999,

Geographic location: Tahoe

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