Ten. My local Chevy dealer has ten Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrids on his lot. At $56K. Each. That ain’t right. GM was going bankrupt when they unleashed this beast. They should have said screw it; let’s show those sanctimonious greenies who’s King of the World (Ma). Let’s peg the price of the Tahoe Hybrid to the Toyota Prius and run ads saying Yippie Ki Yay, Motherfucker. Have one last line of four-wheeled blow before everything goes to Hell. Instead, once again, GM walked away from a terrific vehicle in pursuit of the Next Big Thing. You heard me: the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid is a technological marvel that rocks. Deal.
The Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid looks like a Tahoe slathered in hybrid logos. Exactly right. The Tahoe’s super-abundance of Hybrid stickers, badges and decals may be as jarring as Warren Sapp in a tutu, but they move the gas-sucking truck’s image in the right direction. I mean left. That said, the gas – electric logo is an H created by two arrows pointing at each other—or a pair of Easter Island sculptures standing nose-to-nose—forming an X, with imprinted circuit boards. GM working against itself inside Tron? GM vs Toyota? All I know is that this bestickered behemoth is perfect platform for cognitive dissonance. I’ll take mine with a “Proud to be everything the right wing hates” or “I’d rather be a conservative nut job than a liberal with no nuts and no job” bumper sticker. Better yet, how about both?
Inside the test Tahoe, life is more about shades of gray. I think there’s a bit in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy where a UK trucker realizes rain follows him everywhere; he gets paid to leave the country. The Tahoe Hybrid’s gray-on-gray cabin is equally unrelentingly depressing. In terms of toys, the General’s Hybrid SUV is a high zoot Tahoe with all the boxes checked, minus a few heavyweight items (e.g., sunroof, roof rack, two-piece electric tailgate). The Tahoe Hybrid’s third row seating remains a minivan salesman’s best friend. How can something so heavy, clumsy and bulky be so uncomfortable? But the Tahoe Hybrid’s trailer hitch (6000 lb towing capacity) is a convincing counter. Provided you tow stuff.
It was my second time helming a Tahoe. My second first impression: Honey, who shrunk the steering wheel? Chevrolet must have taken the “car” part of the “Green Car of the Year” award a bit too seriously. With visibility issues an issue, the Tahoe Hybrid is one of those vehicles that doesn’t seem to shrink around you as you drive. An inattentive Tahoe Hybrid pilot would do well not to take that “High and Mighty” thing too literally. The Tahoe Hybrid moves away from rest to a claimed but not observed (by Mr. Lead Foot) 30 mph powered entirely by its 300-volt nickel-metal hydride battery. Aside from some whining, whirring and (yes) graunching noises, you’d never know you’re driving the world’s heaviest golf cart. And then, magic. The drivetrain doesn’t suck.
The Tahoe Hybrid transitions seamlessly from battery power to V8 mode to V4 mode to stop to start. A Prius-like animation keeps you in the electric vs. gas loop; a digital dash display appraises you of the cylinder count. But who cares when two 60 kW electric motors, three planetary gearsets and four traditional hydraulic wet clutches work in harmony (with four fixed gear ratios under an Electronically Variable Transmission) to create gas engine-like dynamics? Not me.
Chevy’s 5835 lb body-on-frame hybrid is not slow. Hammer the Hybrid’s go pedal and the eco-worrier takes off like a big ass SUV powered by a 6.0-liter V8—mostly because it IS a big ass SUV powered by a 6.0-liter V8. Bonus! The drive system delivers a touch of battery juice when needed, bumping up torque from 367 lb·ft to some unspecified level. The Tahoe Hybrid handles well enough on its 18″ pothole thumpers, but the slimmed down seats allow for little lateral latitude.
There are off-their-meds paranoid schizophrenics who aren’t as sensitive as the Tahoe Hybrid’s regenerative brakes. Even worse, the stoppers are massively powerful. As the press release helpfully point out, “braking distances will be noticeably shorter than [those generated by] the standard Tahoe.” In other words, buckle up. And don’t be surprised when your breath mint bounces off the windscreen.
Any such exuberance limits mpg bragging rights. Still, in “mixed driving” on highway and byways, our four wheel-drive tester clocked in at 17 mpg. That’s not enough to give tree huggers a hard on, and it’s bound to trigger arguments about sledgehammers and walnuts. But hey, it works! And it’s a start. Well, it would have been . . . . At $35K, Chevy would have sold these SUVs all day long. They would have lost less billions than the electric – gas vaporware Volt cost to develop. At $50K, the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid’s orphaned technology makes the SUV a collector’s piece waiting for the collection agency.