By on May 28, 2013

tahoe

Today, dear readers, I come to you with some bad news: Chevrolet is cancelling the Tahoe Hybrid. This is a major event. So major, in fact, that – upon reading it – you probably took a deep breath, sat back in your chair, gazed at the computer screen, and thought to yourself: They still make the Tahoe Hybrid?

The answer is: Of course they still make the Tahoe Hybrid! It’s a great car, provided you ignore the sticker price and fuel economy ratings. Actually, if you ignore those, a lot of things become great cars, although the Acura ZDX is still not one of them.

Chevy says it’s cancelling the Tahoe Hybrid because sales weren’t strong enough to justify its presence in the redesigned 2015 Tahoe lineup. Presumably, this is also true of the Silverado Hybrid, which – really – also still exists. And by “still exists,” I mean there are probably about 80 remaining at Chevy dealers across the country, and they’re all 2011 models.

Truthfully, Chevy is probably making the right decision. Of the 69,000 Tahoes they sold last year, just 533 were Hybrids. That means 99.2 percent of Tahoe buyers found it difficult to ignore the sticker price and fuel economy ratings. The other 0.8 percent, of course, were General Motors employees.

But I’m not here to discuss the Tahoe Hybrid. (This would end badly, with me saying things like “I like the stickers” and you vowing to never again read anything I write.) Instead, I want to discuss the giant hole it’s leaving in the hybrid SUV world.

Not surprisingly, the Tahoe Hybrid’s demise also signals the cancellation of its twins, the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid and the GMC Yukon Hybrid. That means the hybrid SUV segment now consists solely of the following vehicles, listed below with their base prices and fuel economy ratings:

1. Toyota Highlander Hybrid (28/28) – $41,000
2. Lexus RX 450h (32/28) – $47,000
3. Audi Q5 Hybrid (24/30) – $52,000
4. Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid (20/24) – $63,000
5. Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid (20/24) – $71,000

That’s right: there are only five hybrid SUVs currently on the market. And we really should disregard the Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid, since it only sells to Volkswagen dealers who use it as a service loaner and eventually write it off in a mysterious crash that, by coincidence, involved three other Touareg Hybrids and absolutely no diesel Jettas.

touareg

But it’s not the small number of hybrid SUVs that concerns me. Instead, it’s the cost. Not one of these things starts under $40,000, which means that only a select few Americans get to hum down the street and freak out cyclists while driving a huge vehicle that was necessary “because we have dogs.”

That wasn’t always the case. Just a few short years ago, we could buy a Ford Escape Hybrid, which cost $32,000 and got 34 mpg city. But Ford pulled the plug on the Escape Hybrid in favor of its latest strategy, which involves making its engines as small as humanly possible to see if anyone notices.

At this point, I know what you’re thinking, assuming you haven’t already started scrolling down to comment that you really do need a big SUV because you really do have dogs. Your thoughts are: Who the hell cares about hybrid SUVs? I hate SUVs! I hate hybrids! And now, I hate DeMuro!

But, you see, while you might hate SUVs, Americans don’t. We buy them in massive numbers. In fact, I have an SUV, which I bought to take off-road, or, more accurately, to drive on sidewalks past people who won’t turn right on red.

Americans also don’t hate hybrids.  Instead – even though they only make up about 5 percent of the market – it seems we love them.  I know this because every single driver in Atlanta now owns a Prius, a fact they show off by driving the speed limit in the left lane.  Also, I recently saw a Prius with pro-gun bumper stickers, and when hybrid technology has reached the gun lovers, you know you’re on to something.

hybridd

Of course, you may prefer diesel – but most Americans don’t. And let’s be honest: announcing “I’ve got a hybrid” means a lot more than “I’ve got a diesel” when you’re grabbing lunch after yoga. Plus, if the lunch is at Whole Foods, you’ll get to park up front.

So why hasn’t some enterprising automaker started offering a hybrid SUV with a reasonable base price and a 33 mpg EPA rating? And I mean city miles per gallon, not the Mazda CX-5’s “yes I get 35 mpg, provided you buy the stick shift and never use the air conditioning, and oh yes you know you have to tape the grille, right?”

If Toyota can do it with the Highlander at $40,000, can’t Honda do it with the CR-V at $30,000? It would be the Prius of SUVs, driving the speed limit in left lanes across the country. Only this time, it would have dogs in the back.

Doug DeMuro operates PlaysWithCars.com. He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.

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98 Comments on “We, The People, Want Hybrid SUVs...”


  • avatar
    Quentin

    I really hope something comes out of this Toyota and Ford hybrid truck project. I love my body on frame, longitudinal drivetrain, 2 speed manual shifting transfer case equipped 4Runner. It does well on gas, all things considered, at 22mpg over 36k miles, but I drive what is essentially the EPA highway cycle 90% of the time. If a heavy duty eCVT could get me up to 25mpg on the highway and 24mpg in the city, I could probably see a payback relatively quickly if the premium is $3k or so. Toyota’s hybrid SUVs have typically been more powerful than the gas counterparts. Extra performance coming with that premium makes it an easier pill to swallow.

    disclosure: my other vehicle is a Prius wagon… my cars are polar opposites.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      I agree. I would love a hybrid truck that I could idle around a jobsite (or campsite, or trail) for two days without bringing jerry cans. I would love having a 15A 110V outlet in the bed running off the engine, gas, and battery I already have instead of bringing a separate generator. Those conveniences alone would be worth 3K to me. The gas savings on top of that would be close to $1000 a year and that’s for a personal car that’s parked most of the time. A commercial truck that’s on sites 5 days a week would see even more benefit.

      Putting all the development of diesels, hybrids, and unicorn farts towards small cars which cost hardly anything to run in the first place is apparently what the market wants but it doesn’t make much sense to me.

  • avatar
    Bunter1

    You got me with the “dogs” comment. Glad I wasn’t drinking.
    Personally I have discovered a vehicle with more interior room than a ‘Burban and better mpg than a mid-size SUV. It took me through snow that blew over my hood (w/General Altimax winter sneakers) on the way to the ski hill.
    My “wonder vehicle”?-’06 Sienna.

    Chuckle.

    Bunter

    • 0 avatar

      You’ve hit on the idiocy of the whole SUV phenomenon. Anyone’s minivan gets better fuel mileage and holds more people than the truck-based SUV’s. For that small percentage who need the capability to haul a four-ton trailer, the truck is invaluable, for the remaining 95%, any minivan is a superior mode of transportation.

      • 0 avatar
        Conslaw

        Why are there no hybrid minivans for the 95%? Toyota markets (or marketed) two different hybrid minivans in Japan. (The Toyota Estima is a pretty slick looking package.) I’m guessing that the powertrain that yields 28/28 in the highlander could be pushed to 30/30 in the Sienna. I think a minivan that delivered an honest 30 MPG in the city would reignite the whole segment.

      • 0 avatar
        ttacgreg

        Yeah but, minivans are for men who don’t worry about their masculinity, and there appears to be shortage of those here i n the USA.

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          Automakers can get me into minivans by adding lightweight body cladding that makes them look like armored personnel carriers. Add those Mickey Mouse ears lights on the roof that fold flat at highway speeds, and all of us masculine men will be driving them. Plus, cupholders that can hold a Big Gulp.

          • 0 avatar
            FuzzyPlushroom

            GM was only a set of KC Daylighters away from that ideal with the Montana, Aztek, for that matter all of their last-refresh U-body vans with the bulldog snouts… and I don’t want any of ‘em either.

      • 0 avatar
        dolorean

        @edgett, do agree that most Mini-vans get better mileage than most pickups; however, I had to get rid of my ’08 Grand Caravan with the 4.0L V6 due to its 16.4 mpg average swill rate for a more miserly ’10 Mazda 5 GT. My neighbor across the street got better mileage with his ’09 Ford F-150 than the Caravan could on its best day though I do suppose I could carry more inside than he could in the bed.

    • 0 avatar
      Felix Hoenikker

      When you understand substance over style, the minivan always wins.

  • avatar
    zaxxon25

    Was behind one of these the other day, had no idea it was a rarer sighting than the C30 I was driving.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    I’m not a TDI prophet who preaches of oil-burners as our automotive messiah, but I think diesel is a far more appropriate choice for an SUV engine. Something about a highly complex hybrid drivetrain seems ill-suited for a body-on-frame truck or SUV, although that could just be ignorance talking.

    The new Grand Cherokee diesel shows that a torque-rich diesel can provide surprisingly good acceleration and fuel economy in a large SUV. The price premium is as bad as a hybrid, though.

    Anyone here ever considered buying one of the hybrid SUVs?

    • 0 avatar
      jaje

      They make perfect sense in heavy vehicles (5k lbs +) where no matter the powerplant must use a lot of effort to move the large vehicle. Hybrids don’t cut it here where they might make sense in a light urban vehicle where stop / go is the majority of the driving. Diesels will generate from 30-50% better fuel efficiency when under heavy load (like moving a BOF SUV). Too bad GM gouges on them in their HD pickups (customers will pay) as the Tahoe SUV is perfect candidate for the duramax.

      From VW’s perspective it only costs $800 more to produce a TDI over the 2.0T engine. However the TDI is $1.5 k more similarly priced. The hybrid drivetrain in the Jetta costs $4k more than the 2.0T but the Hybrid only costs $3k more over the 2.0T so VW and many other OEMs are losing money on every hybrid sold.

  • avatar
    Petra

    The lesson GM should learn here is not that the Tahoe Hybrid was a bad car. It is that their Mild Hybrid strategy is a failure. The Tahoe Hybrid’s mileage gains were so marginal that it was not worth the extra expense; at 15,000 miles/year, you would save approximately $350/year on gas versus the regular Tahoe- which was over $10,000 less to buy than the Hybrid! Before incentives!

    If GM had priced the Tahoe Hybrid at just a tiny premium over the regular model- like they’re doing with the Malibu- it would have been worth it. Or, if they had delivered truly impressive mileage, maybe people would have paid $50,000+ for it (athough you can only make a box so aerodynamic). As it stands, the Tahoe Hybrid is like a project done by a slacker student who put the minimal amount of work in- knowing that this would result in failure- and is now shrugging his shoulders and saying, “Hey, man, I tried.” And it is painful to see them give up, because you know they have so much potential.

    • 0 avatar

      Great analysis, all very true.

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        All except that part where Petra says the Tahoe is a “mild hybrid.” It’s not; it’s a full-on hybrid, capable of moving on electric alone.

        • 0 avatar

          This observation jumped up on me too: GM hybrid trucks were far from the mild hybrids they also sold at the time (IIRC VUE was one). And the fuel economy figures were far from unimpressive, in fact I think you save more with one than with Prius over Matrix, in absolute numbers (Petra’s number is $350, mine were north of $800, last I checked, while Prius did about $500; of course I drove more than just 15k miles a year). But they were so garn expensive!

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      Consumer Reports got 19 mpg out of the hybrid Tahoe against 14 mpg for the standard one. At 15,000 miles a year that’s about $1000 a year.

      That Tahoe didn’t sell because GM didn’t want it to. They didn’t advertise it, they didn’t push them on dealers, they didn’t put incentives on them. It was a loss leader for green cred and the gesture of selling 50 of them a month was all that was intended.

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        They didn’t sell because GM Marketing is either incompetent or was over-ruled by El Lutzbo.

        El Lutzbo’s genius was in realizing that a real hybrid truck could save a *lot* of gas. This is entirely true.

        However, El Lutzbo failed to consider (or didn’t get warned by Marketing) that people who cared about fuel economy wouldn’t buy a truck like that, anyway, and, if they ever did decide they need a truck but care about gas, they could downsize to a Traverse/Acadia, give up very little utility and save a lot of fuel AND save money. The hybrid feature was a $13K option and the price doomed it.

        The hybridizing drivetrain components were very expensive. The one possible opportunity to sell something like this would be as a pickup to fleet operators (especially if they included 110VAC as a feature). I don’t think GM could drop the price of a bare-bones unit to the point where fleet operators would see it as economical.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        Dan, I’m not familiar with the specific incentives GM offered on the Tahoe Hyrid, but hybrids rarely have the same incentive levels of ICE powered models.

        Ford didn’t even lease hybrids until 2013 models. The C-Max has $500 cash on it right now, when the Escape has $2000.

        People didn’t buy the Tahoe Hybrid because it was pointless. The GM two-mode hybrid is so great, they don’t use it at all anymore. The hybrid system also took away of the biggest BoF SUV advatages: towing.

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          It really did save $1,000 a year on gasoline, which makes it no more silly than any other premium priced gas saver, but your point on towing is key. GM’s two-mode hybrids had no reverse gears. They relied on small electric motors for all reversing, which isn’t compatible with the sort of three-ton towing loads that drive large BOF SUV sales.

          • 0 avatar
            doctor olds

            The Tahoe Hybrid has 6,200 lb towing capacity and those “small” electric motors are 80 HP each! I didn’t recall they were the only reversing mechanism.

            GM Powertrain realized that more fuel would be saved by hybridization of larger vehicles than smaller ones and focused there first with the 2-mode Tahoe/Yukon/Escalade. Despite heavy internal subsidy of the price, they were still too expensive to inspire consumer demand. They provide city fuel economy of a good mid-size sedan and though rare, the one or two I’ve seen for sale did not seem high priced on the used market.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I know it’s 6200 lbs. But the regular Tahoe can tow 8500 lbs. For people that are towing two Jet-Skis or a 20′ boat a few times a year, a Traverse is probably a better option.

            With the 4WD Tahoe Hybrid, you are getting close to AWD Explorer/Flex territory.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “The Tahoe Hybrid has 6,200 lb towing capacity.”

            Which isn’t terrible, but the 6.0L and the GMT900 are capable of WAY higher numbers, which leads me to believe there is some significant degree of fragility (if that’s a word) to the fairly expensive and quite complex Two-Mode system.

            I’d have concerns about it’s long-term viability as a tow vehicle.

          • 0 avatar
            doctor olds

            The hybrid is certainly not for heavy towing.

        • 0 avatar
          Wheeljack

          If memory serves, the only reason these even came to market was because they were developed to meet the California EV mandate that they (state of California) eventually backed off of. By the time California backed off the mandate, the development work was too far along and the money had been spent, so may as well finish the job.

          The Durango (and later the Aspen) hybrid, which used the same GM sourced transmission with the e-motors in it was also brought to market to satisfy the California mandate that was relaxed. Same deal as the GM vehicles – development was too far along and so much cost was sunk into it that they may as well just put them out there.

  • avatar
    ToxicSludge

    Hybrid suv’s are very expensive,very complex,and with just a bit of skepticism,probably very risky to buy used due to the other ‘very’s’ I just mentioned.I’m thinking poor resale value.However if it were a diesel suv,I don’t think there would be any trouble in selling it brand new,or used.Jmho…

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    “The other 0.8 percent, of course, were General Motors employees.”

    As someone who drives by the GM Tech Center or RenCen everyday, I completely agree with this statement. Those two places are the dumping grounds of all GM truck based hybrids.

  • avatar
    cpthaddock

    Hybrids, diesel, SUV, dogs … well, mostly dogs really!

    When I was a kid, the Volvo wagon was the #1 “because I have dogs” vehicle. Somewhere along the way dogs had to still be able to jump much higher in their old age or be lifted into the back of SUVs. Not fun when fido has been playing Hippo in that big patch of mud you didn’t spot in time. It’s happened more than once. Grrrrr.

    Probably because I’m weird and European, I was eventually able to convince my wife to ignore her dislike of the way the Ford Flex looks Not mentioning that in so many ways it’s the spiritual successor to the Volvo wagon didn’t hurt.

    Love it or hate it, there’s no better way to transport multiple large dogs inside a non commercial vehicle than a Flex. Our imaginary dog psychologist also informed us that our most elderly dog would experience a renewal of his youthful vigor by passing most everything he chooses on the highway, so we opted for the Ego-Boost motor – strictly for his well-being of course.

    Would we have chosen a turbo diesel instead given a choice? Definitely, but then I’m weird and European. Hybrid – no thanks, but then there’s that weird European thing again.

    • 0 avatar

      Hah! Love this. The funny this is: look what’s happened to the Volvo wagon. Now you can’t even buy a regular one; you have to buy an all-wheel drive, jacked-up XC70 that’s designed to LOOK like an SUV.

      How do you like the Flex EcoBoost? Seems like such an unusual but potentially awesome car…

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        I have ordered a Flex EcoBoost, but it is being built.

        I drove an Explorer Sport with the EcoBoost, so reasonably similar, a total of ten hours over the weekend. It is a solid, quiet, and powerful highway cruiser. The engine is fantastic. I can’t wait for the Flex, which I think is a better car than the Explorer.

      • 0 avatar
        Power6

        Same thing happened to Subaru, you can’t buy a Legacy wagon here any more. It was a genius move for Subaru though, they sell way more Outbacks than Legacies in the US.

      • 0 avatar
        Chris FOM

        It’s pretty amazing actually. When my wife’s hand-me-down from her parents finally bit the dust and it was time for our first can, we cross-shopped almost every non-luxury 3-row CUV on the market (and a few minivans for completion’s sake, but she just wasn’t ready for the image that comes with a minivan). She, like a lot of women, initially despised the Flex for its looks despite liking how it drove, the space, the comfort, etc. more than any of the others. After I told her “It’s a unique car, either you hate it or you embrace it,” she embraced it. There were no EcoBoost models local to test, so we took a chance on it after trying an F-150 with the same engine. It’s still not what you’d call sporty, but the additional grunt makes a massive difference. Passing on a 2-lane road with lots of hill or curves and limited passing opportunities is a breeze, it scoots ludicrously quickly from ~60 up to 90 to make getting around even 18-wheelers a breeze. If you do a lot of 2-lane roads the passing capabilities alone makes the EcoBoost more than worth it. The fact that I blew the doors off a G37 makes it even more fun (he didn’t take it seriously, and after I launched and he realized I was serious the NA engine didn’t have enough torque to catch up, the look of stunned amazement when he saw the two car seats in the second row sealed it).

        At this point my wife absolutely loves it. I can talk about dream cars, she doesn’t want anything differently from what she has. She’s actually told me that if Ford does discontinue the Flex we’re going to sell hers (even though it’s only a 2012 and 21 months old) and buy one right at the end of production to reset the odometer and let her keep one that much longer).

        • 0 avatar

          Very interesting. Since it’s been a couple days you probably won’t see this but in case you do, I very much appreciate the follow-up with your experiences. Always wondered what it was like. Every single person I know who has driven a Flex or owned a Flex absolutely loves it. Every other person thinks it’s ugly and would never buy it! The R-Class of the Ford lineup.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      You wish it was mud. Usually, Fido found some fresh cow pies.

    • 0 avatar

      You and Doug missed the best part:
      The Flex is based on the Ford D4 platform, a 2nd generation of the D3 platform, which is really just the Volvo P2 platform.

      Viewed by an engineer, you are driving a Volvo wagon:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_D3_platform

  • avatar
    TW4

    The Tahoe Hybrid was about CAFE multipliers. If the SUV marketplace has shrunk, and the Tahoe Hybrid has never sold, what good is a CAFE multiplier? Judging by the sales figures, the vehicle never came close to meeting a market demand. With the CAFE 2025 revisions, Chevy would be better off selling Volts and ELR’s, which are supposedly going to be super-multipliers. GM would be better off using Flex-Fuel and start-stop technology to score CAFE points, rather than playing around with hybrids.

    I’m not sure any vehicle has ever been less relevant than the Tahoe Hybrid, and I doubt its existence/cancellation can be used to glean any information about the hybrid SUV marketplace or its potential.

  • avatar
    turbobrick

    I thought the Tahoe Hybrid was created specifically to haul congresscritters to and from the airport? Is that whole push for more alternate fuel vehicles for government fleets now over? Because that’s what I’ve seen these mostly used for.

    • 0 avatar

      I was curious about this myself. I was in Denver in 2008 when they had the Democratic Convention there that nominated President Obama. EVERY car with DNC plates was a Tahoe Hybrid, save for one or two Malibu Hybrids. I assume a lot of these were sold to government fleets.

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        Oddly enough, that year the RNC was here in Minneapolis and there were fleets of Tahoe/Yukon hybrids lumbering about.

        I’ve also seen them as DOT fleet vehicles (two different states). The only one I’ve seen that might have been in private hands was coming out of the dealership. The giant hybrid stickers had been removed but I recognized the other badging.

  • avatar
    gessvt

    I have seen more than my share of Tahoe Hybrids around my home. They’re kind of hard to miss. “Hybrid” stickers are *everywhere*, even twice on the rear. Makes you want to stroll up to the owner and ask “…soooo, is this a hybrid or something?”

    • 0 avatar

      The car is badged as a hybrid in EIGHT places: both front fenders, both sides (doors), both C-pillars, once on the rear window, once on the rear hatch. Most people elect to remove some of those badges (the window one and the doors just come off with a plastic razor blade and some warm water), but it’s still absurd.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    I still love you Doug ;

    (relax ,not _that_ way) .

    I don’t ever see the point in 90 % of the Silly Useless Vehicles I see driving about , blocking two lanes , backing into parked cars and so on .

    I just put my dogs in the cab of my 42 year old I6 powered Chevy truck that *still* gets an honest 20 + MPG’s on it’s worn out engine .

    I don’t even have pampered designer dogs , just two Junkyard Mutts .

    Instead of wa$ting all your $ on fancy SUV’s you don’t really need , why not pack up your retirement account or buy a house or summat instead ? .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    KixStart

    I only have the figures for Lexus and GM but I thought I might look at the take rate for the hybrid “option:”

    Truck Total Hybrid Take Rate
    RX-450H 28,457 3,113 10.9%
    Higlndr 39,321 1,865 4.7%
    GM 62,889 413 0.7%

    Interestingly, if you break down the GM models separately:
    Tahoe 39,731 148 0.4%
    Yukon 16,311 109 0.7%
    Esclde 6,847 156 2.3%

    That’s all sizes of each of the GM’s. If I considered only the short ones, GM’s take rate would be higher. The take rate on the Escalade hybrid would probably approach that of the Highlander.

    • 0 avatar

      Interesting. Actually I bet it wouldn’t be as close as you think since they sell so damn few Escalades in anything other than short-wheelbase. Still: who the hell is buying all these (all 156!) Escalade Hybrids? Airport limo services? I see them in Atlanta maybe once every two or three months.

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        I see… only the EXT is the SuperSized Escalade. Yes, just 773 of those, so about 6100 of the shorties.

        I included “Suburban” as a version of “Tahoe, to be fair and the Yukon XL. I’ll redo the numbers without the stretch versions:

        Truck Total Hybrid Take Rate
        RX-450H 28457 3113 10.9%
        Higlndr 39321 1865 4.7%
        GM 40392 413 1.0%

        Tahoe 25824 148 0.6%
        Yukon 8494 109 1.3%
        Escalde 6074 156 2.6%

        Yep. Not much different.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    This may prove that hybrid saps… I mean customers aren’t so shallow that they’ll buy anything with “hybrid” glued to it in 9 or so different places, they want something thats decent on gas and gives them the right image.

    At the same time I’d much rather have a diesel, but then again according to VW not many Americas understand what diesel is, truckers aside.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      I wish my C-Max didn’t have any hybrid badges on it. I think there is only three though.

      The only good thing about the hybrid badging is parking lot/garage attendents tell me to park it in EV parking spots. Even when I explain the difference between an EV and a Hybrid, they tell me I don’t have to charge it if I don’t want to.

      • 0 avatar
        Chocolatedeath

        I am glad you mentioned the CMax. I got a chance to drive a rental for a week while I was at the APA convention in San Fransisco this past week. Personally I hate hybrids or atleast the ones that I have driven. Wasnt expecting to get it as I asked for a subcompact (for ease of parking). Did about 400 miles of driving on my “off” days to wine country and SanJose flea markets. I averaged about 44 MPG in the think in very mixed driving. Not Prius beating but really good numbers. I was really pleasently surprised by the driving dynamics of the car. As well as the overall quality of the interior. Ford did well with this one.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    People are always saying they had to get an SUV because they had kids. Like it’s some kind of inevitability. And then I sound like a jerk when I point out that when the baby is born, it’s only going to be the size of a loaf of bread and should easily fit in the back of any small car with plenty of room to spare. It’s not like they need leg room.
    But then they always say, “Have you seen how difficult it is to get carseats in and out?” Apparently having an SUV means you don’t have to bend over to get it or the kid in and out. Who are these people who take their carseats out? Don’t most people just leave them in until the kid outgrows it?
    Maybe I just don’t have perspective because I don’t have any kids of my own. But I do know for a fact that my nephew, who at 9 is much larger than a loaf of bread, fits perfectly in the back of my Subaru wagon. Him and his Gameboy. Though I’m pretty sure my sister would rather be boiled in oil than have to admit to owning a station wagon. That’s why she has a Highlander. Plus sitting up high is great, it means you can see over everyone else’s SUV and you’re protected in an accident from other SUVs.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      It’s not the baby, but everything the baby comes with. I know it’s an American 1st world problem, but I didn’t get it until I had a kid either. We go from the Detroit area to Northern Michigan almost every weekend in the summer. It’s 200 miles each way. The amount of stuff we take with us is amazing. When we have a second child, there is no way we can fit two car seats, a double stroller, two pack and plays,and approximately 377 bags in a Focus hatchback (or Fusion/Sonata/Malibu/Camry/Altima for that matter).

      My, cheaper, solution was to not have another child, but I will accept a Flex Limited as my consolation prize. The Flex is the most wagon like of the CUVs/SUVs though. I would own a Grand C-Max or S-Max instead if we were able to buy one in the US.

      • 0 avatar
        Fordson

        I have one child of my own, but fostered twins last year, and I can tell you definitively that you don’t need two pack and plays for two kids – it’s not a cage match in there.

        Nowadays, most people go more than 2 or 3 years between kids, and unless you are one of these modern parents that keep wheeling the kid around in a stroller right up until pre-k, there is probably not a need for a double stroller.

        When my son was under 2, we took him on a 1500-mile trip in…a Focus hatchback. We were gone for over a week and had all kinds of extra room in the car. 2 kids in a Focus hatchback would be maxed out, yes. Impossible? No way.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          I know, I took it to the extreme. I have no designs on purchasing a double stroller. Right now, we only use the pack & play as a crib. I seem to always be transporting beer, sailing gear, and food as well.

          The Focus works fine for the one kid. Car seats will become the biggest issue. At 6’4″, I won’t be able to fit two car seats and me in the Focus.

          I just understand wanting an SUV now. Before I had a child I though people were insane for buying such a vehicle. Although, the smartest thing for me to do is probably buy a 10 year old truck and leave it wherever the boats are stored.

        • 0 avatar
          Land Ark

          There’s a “gifted and talented” expensive* private elementary school next to my office and based on the line-up of SUVs/CUVs/mini vans if you showed up to pick your child up in a Focus you’d either be shouted out of the parking lot line or arrested for child endangerment.

          *out of pure curiosity I checked into the cost of the place – it’s $20,000 for pre-school and up to $30,000 per year for 4th thru 8th grades. Actually not as bad as I thought.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        All that stuff doesn’t “come with” the baby who arrived naked and without possessions, you’re bringing it along. When my wife did that, I took note of what we had and what got used. It turned out about 97% of it was “just in case” or parent convenience, like the stroller. After the first month, we stuffed the kid into a harness suspended in front of us (mostly me). Junior got to see where we were going and who we were meeting, and spit up on my shoes, not my shoulder. I suggest you take inventory and have a long talk with mom about NOT preparing for Armageddon, since it likely won’t happen.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          I think we have simplified just fine. I don’t like the Carlos carrier and the umbrella stroller works just fine. I was just an example. Once we move more stuff into our place up north I’m sure the car will be less full.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      LWB sedans for all and to all a good night.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        Tell that to a woman after she gets used to a remote power liftgate. I think that feature has sunk many large sedan sales.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I’d be happy too, in pointing out all the blind spots reduced and rollover dangers mitigated by driving a sedan. Although in my analogy I envisioned LWBs with real trunks, I realize families tote around quite a bit of junk.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      Small children seem to require at least 2x their own weight in paraphernalia.

      That said, my first child rode around fine in our Audi 5000 sedan. The second (along with the first) fit comfortably in our Jeep Cherokee (about the size of the previous generation Ford Escape). Number 3 moved us into minivans (Previa).

      But, you’re right about the carseat. It just stays installed, unless you’re using two cars to transport the little one around.

    • 0 avatar

      “Allow me to expound at length about something with which I have no direct experience…”

      Right.

      As others have said, it’s not the kid, it’s the paraphernalia. Specifically, the rear-facing car seat, stroller and pack-and-play that go on almost any overnight trip.

      This all sort of works with only 1 kid, as we made due with our WRX wagon for about 2 years with the rear-facing seat mounted in the middle, poking between the front seats.

      When #2 came along, the WRXagon had to go. Enter the Mazda5. Works well with 2 kids, probably not for 3, as there’s no easy way to get to the back with 2 car seats mounted in the 2nd row.

      The best people mover is a Minivan (none of which are all that mini anymore), but if you want AWD (other than a Sienna) or want to tow, then it’s SUV time.

      • 0 avatar
        Land Ark

        Obviously I admit I don’t have experience trying to live with kids of my own. But I have to say I think you made a perfectly reasonable choice getting a 5 instead of a, say, Suburban Taxi Lexus RX which really doesn’t have any more people room than the ES sedan and likely less room than your “smaller” 5.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Remember the Durango and Aspen Hybrids that Chrysler built for like two weeks before cancelling them?

    Along with the Solstice Coupe and G8 GXP, the Two-Mode Hemis have got to be the rarest sub-$60K vehicles of the last decade.

    • 0 avatar

      Had completely forgotten but yes! I was writing this article and realized more hybrid SUVs have been cancelled than are currently on the market. And I hadn’t even considered those!

      Think about it: ML-Class hybrid, BMW X6 Hybrid, BMW X5 Hybrid, Escape Hybrid, Saturn Vue Hybrid, the Escalade/Tahoe/Yukon bunch… and now the Aspen and Durango. Surely I’m missing some, too…

      • 0 avatar

        I think the GM, ChryCo and BMW(?) ones were all part of some joint development program.

        Pretty interesting tech, IIRC: the electric motor/generator was built into the transmission, rather than a separate unit.

  • avatar
    bnolt

    Nice typically GM understated graphics on the doors. I’m glad to see that made it into the production version. We have one of those in our fleet where I work. I’d wager that 500 of the 503 were sold to utilities and local/state governments. Nothing shouts environmental stewardship like a hybrid three ton SUV.

  • avatar
    Mr.Vice

    I’d much rather see a return to the glory of station wagons.

    I hate SUVs and hybrid SUVs are a huge oxymoron.

  • avatar
    Point Given

    Nissan has the new Pathfinder coming out in hybrid this fall.

    As well, NV200 has to by a hybrid by Taxi of Tomorrow rules (although it wasn’t to be at the start)….so at least the taxi version will be but rumours within Nissan say likely the cargo version as well.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    I have to laugh when people think they need to justify their vehicles.

    You want it, so you buy it, who gives a hell what others think.

    I love all my SUV’s

    In fact one of my H2′s has hybrid badges on it, When people ask I say 30, you’d be surprised how many believe it.
    But yea, I love my hybrid, uses both a mix of petroleum fuel and O2, AKA, hybrid.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      Thank you. After I replied, I thought to myself, why do I need to justify an SUV purchase or any purchase for my family to anyone.

      God forbid I buy something because I like it and find it a good fit for my family.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      “In fact one of my H2′s has hybrid badges on it, When people ask I say 30, you’d be surprised how many believe it.”

      I strongly approve of this humor.

  • avatar

    The late, great (and OTHER managing editor) Frank Williams wrote about this.

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2007/11/in-defense-of-gms-hybrid-suvs/

    Oh wait, that’s not FW. That’s why it took so long to find it! Passed some good birth watches on the way.

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    Incidentally, where is Via Motors these days?

    There’s definitely a use case for Voltec in service trucks and for local delivery, though quick charge (higher-capacity L2 and/or DC) at the depot would be a necessity.

    Putting batteries between the frame members in a BOF truck and routing the genset exhaust out the sides, coupled with a Voltec-style FWD setup and a motor to drive the rear wheels would provide AWD and enough torque for towing or hauling..

  • avatar
    reclusive_in_nature

    Funny how SUV owners don’t go out of their way to belittle owners of other types of vehicles. I’m not even an SUV owner and I can pick up on the underlying envy that the haters are afflicted with.

  • avatar
    Mattsterzz

    Sarah Palin has a Highlander Hybrid. Don’t ask me how I know….

  • avatar
    eamiller

    Although people have mentioned the C-Max, nobody has called out Doug for not mentioning it, which punches a pretty big hole in his argument.

    Ford C-Max: Starting MSRP $25,200. That’s what you get instead of the Escape. And for the life of me, I can’t figure out how the C-Max is materially different than the current Escape (aside from a slight loss of cargo capacity).

    For that matter, the Prius V is kinda/sorta a CUV or at least a CUV without the lift kit.

    • 0 avatar

      Love the C-Max. But don’t you agree it’s more of a wagon than an SUV? There’s a huge mental difference there: people love SUVs. People hate wagons. Note that I am not one of these people.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      Its not much different from and Escape or Focus. It is in between in size with parts from both, and replaced the Escape Hybrid. The Europeans say its an MPV, and that’s probably the best classification. It is closer to a wagon than SUV though.

      It is better than the Escape in every way except towing and cargo room. Real world, the C-Max will double the fuel economy of an Escape.

      The Prius V is a wagon. Most “SUVs” are wagons on stilts anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      brandloyalty

      So far as I know what makes the C-Max NOT a replacement for the Escape Hybrid is that the C-Max has no awd version. I understand it’s in the works, though. But it will be less capable of handling roads as rough as the Escape Hybrid awd could cope with.

      Apparently a 2014 Rav4 Hybrid is also coming.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        According to Ford, it’s the replacement for the Escape Hybrid. If you believe an Escape Hybrid replacement must have AWD, then there is no replacement.

        The C-Max, just like any Focus model, will not be all-wheel drive. Ford doesn’t have a C-Max model anywhere that is AWD. The cost of the option to both Ford and the consumer makes an AWD C-Max DOA. There is a better chance of Ford dropping the hybrid powertrain back in the Escape (But still not likely).

        • 0 avatar
          brandloyalty

          I believe fully half of Escape Hybrids were AWD. So that was a high proportion of Escape Hybrids, but a very low proportion of Escapes. Something like 120,000 Escape Hybrids were built. 60,000 Hybrid AWD’s would be a very small fraction of overall Escape sales. So from that standpoint I can see Ford guiding people to the sedan and C-Max hybrids.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    From the article: “Just a few short years ago, we could buy a Ford Escape Hybrid, which cost $32,000 and got 34 mpg city.”

    The Escape Hybrid was only discontinued as of the 2013 model year.

  • avatar
    brettc

    I would imagine that there have been several hundred mysterious collisions between Touareg Hybrids and Routans that VW dealers own. Just a hunch.

    As for hybrid SUVs, why is there not a hybrid RAV4? Seems like that’s the logical progression for Toyota. Then people can have a slow compact truck-like thing. Because it would be a horrible atrocity for any manufacturer to put a small, fuel efficient diesel in a crossover/CUV and sell it in North America.

  • avatar

    Just found your article, Doug and couldn’t agree with you more. So hard to hear news about hybrids getting discontinued, but I’m excited about several new ones in the pipeline. One that has caught my eye is the XV Crosstrek Hybrid from Subaru. As much as it hurt to lose the hybrid Escape, I’m hoping this one will fill the void.


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