By on January 7, 2008

x08ct_ta059.jpgWhen the Chevy Tahoe Hybrid was named "Green Car of the Year" at the Los Angeles Auto Show last year, we had a "WTF?" reaction. Unlike the maudlin mainstream media, we didn't see the logic of putting that much effort into a gas-guzzling behemoth with lagging sales when it could be better used in smaller, more salable vehicles. The LA Times' Dan Neil had a similar reaction when he drove it. While the Pulitzer-prize winning auto critic found the execution of the technology flawless, he questioned the claimed milage imporvements. "What would the mileage of this vehicle be with all the improved aerodynamics [the hybrid has a Cd of 0.34 as opposed to the standard model's 0.39], low-rolling resistance tires and aluminum body panels, yet without the fretful weight (and cost) of the hybrid system?" Echoing a sentiment expressed on this site several times, Dan the Man asks, "Does this super-low-volume program do more for corporate image than corporate average fuel economy?" In his final analysis he concludes, "For now, we have this paradox, a fantastically fuel-efficient vehicle that's still a gas hog. A hybrid that's simultaneously good (promise) and bad (reality). Matters can only get more muddled when the Hybrid Hummer comes rolling out." Meanwhile, GM has announced they'll introduce a scaled-down version of the Tahoe's "dual mode" system in the '09 Saturn Vue Green Line.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

15 Comments on “Dan Neil: Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid Great Landing, Wrong Airport...”

  • avatar

    Let’s hope, by some miracle, this hybrid is refined and developed over its lifetime, like the Prius, instead of withering on the ranch like the Insight. I seem to remember the first Priuses not having the greatest mileage ever, but they’ve been refined with each generation, making significant efficiency gains with each revision. Perhaps GM will follow the Way of The Prius in more than technology. Large SUV are GM’s lifeblood, so they consistently update their large SUV’s, and since this vehicle is part of that program, it probably, hopefully will be updated too.

    “We’ll See,” said the Zen Master.

  • avatar

    I’m having a hard time envisioning a typical SUV purchaser as being so concerned about fuel economy that he’ll cough up an additional $8K (or more, if the hybrid option is tied to a high-buck option package).

    It will be very interesting to see how many GM moves.

  • avatar

    It’ll allow Hollywooders to both drive Escalades and get greenie points. It’s an $8,000 “Look at me I care but not that much!” bumper sticker.

  • avatar

    I’m sure this will be met with even less consumer excitement than the Accord Hybrid (RIP). The saddest part of this is to imagine the development money that was diverted from producing fuel efficient cars, or something relatively simple like making an Eco-tec four cylinder that was similar in NVH to a Honda or Toyota four-pot.

    No doubt they will sell all they produce, even at an $8,000 premium; somehow the fringe market to get the largest vehicle to carry one’s Nordstrom packages just keeps going.

    I think Dan’s correct, however, that a judicious diet and low rolling resistance tires would probably have similar effects without the technological penalty of the hybrid system. Add a diesel option and you can still impress your friends at the mall.

  • avatar


    I was also going to mention the Accord Hybrid in the context of the Vue 2-Mode.

    The Vue has impressive acceleration as well as towing capacity, but looks to get real-world mileage in the mid-high 20’s at best with a price of $30k. The Accord Hybrid didn’t tow 3500lbs, but the rest sounds awfully familiar.

  • avatar

    Wait, you mean that the production vehicle actually includes that awful badging? I was thinking that it was only for the prototypes.

    By the way, has anybody heard how the Tahoe Hybrid tows?

    Clearly this is not how GM should be applying its green efforts. Leave the Tahoe and Suburban alone, they have a valuable place in the market as haulers. They’re the last full-size truck-based SUV’s and that’s a good thing. They are made to pull, not run around town every day (although they do). GM ought to be putting their effort into a sedan, marketing it like they did the Malibu and getting some the market share away from Toyota.

  • avatar

    GM always puts it greatest effort and resources into those types of vehicles which produce the greatest profit margin. Thats why they have these giant SUV hybrids and thats why they don’t have a small car hybrid.

  • avatar

    “Leave the Tahoe and Suburban alone, they have a valuable place in the market as haulers. They’re the last full-size truck-based SUV’s … ”

    Uh, then what is a Ford Expedition ?

  • avatar


    I was just on the Chevy Website and found out that they do in fact have a Malibu Hybrid. So I was somewhat wrong in critisizing them for not putting efforts into this market. What I can’t figure out is why they aren’t marketing the heck out of it like the conventional-powered ‘Bu. It probably has lower profit margins, as you suggest.


    Yes, the Expedition is a Full-sized SUV with lots of similarities to the F-series, but in 2003 it shifted to an independent rear suspension and has drifted further away from its F-150 stablemate. The IRS setup is not known for its load handling or off-road ability. Perhaps it is just a personal issue I have, but once a vehicles goes IRS, it is intended for uses other than those of a truck-based vehicle. The Hummer H1 is an exception and the Honda Ridgeline is most certainly not. In the last redesign, GM wisely kept the Tahoe and Suburban live-axled realizing that many commercial operators need truck-based vehicles most consumer customers wouldn’t know the difference. Suburbans and even old Excursions remain popular in the oilfield and with railroads. You don’t see newer Expeditions out there.

  • avatar

    Lot’s of the Tahoes and Suburbans are used as kid haulers. I think you could sell more CUV’s for this if you could really show they were safer, and market them that way.

    Unfortunately, I think if GM did that, they would lose market share, and perhaps dollars.

    What I can’t figure out is whether it is cheaper to build body on frame or unit body. All we hear about the big SUV’s is how profitable they are. OTOH, you hear Landy saying they can’t build the Defender profitably because it is body on frame.

    What’s the deal?

  • avatar

    The impetus behind body on frame is to reuse a platform on which engineering has been already amortized; they are by nature heavier than a unibody of the same capacity. Unibodies are generally developed from car platforms and are thus lighter and more efficient for all but heavy trailering.

    As for kid haulers, the RAV4 now offers third row seating and, along with the ubiquitous mini-van, offer far more space per unit weight and length than the traditional body-on-frame truck-based SUV.

    From a cost standpoint, the lack of development money for trucks helps to make them enormously profitable. Because of ridiculous tax incentives on >6000 lb GVW vehicles, however, the gang in Detroit were able to put off their day of reckoning until now. Had cars and trucks been subjected to similar tax, safety and fuel laws, the thriving SUV market would never have existed.

    This is not to say that the large SUV/Pick-em-up does not have its uses, only to suggest that without huge tax incentives, GM Ford and Chrysler would have been forced to put development money into cars much earlier. They might have been in a better market position today had they not been reaping incentivized truck profits.

  • avatar

    @ Kixstart: I’d pay $8k for a more efficient SUV, but only if it delivered the goods. But I wouldn’t pay a nickel to be a stooge in GM’s tone deaf “green” PR campaign. FWIW, GM charges about $8400 to upgrade to a diesel on its Silverado 2500 pickup, and plenty of buyers do that.

    My wife uses our SUV (it’s an Escalade ESV, so shoot me) to haul the kids and I use it to tow my race car. We need the big rig but we certainly aren’t happy about the mileage. Downsizing isn’t the right answer for everybody, but greater fuel economy clearly is. So yeah, I’d be interested in a hybrid SUV. I’d be interested in a diesel, too, if I didn’t have to buy a monster pickup to get one.

  • avatar

    “What would the mileage of this vehicle be with all the improved aerodynamics [the hybrid has a Cd of 0.34 as opposed to the standard model’s 0.39], low-rolling resistance tires and aluminum body panels, yet without the fretful weight (and cost) of the hybrid system?”

    To answer that question; Hiway mileage would go up a bit, city mileage would revert almost to the standard Tahoe numbers. The fact that the city mileage improved really shows that the gains are due to the hybrid system, not so much the other improvements.

  • avatar

    Jazbo123, OK. Do those things and then replace the gasser with a modest diesel. Maybe even a V6 diesel. Then what would you have?

  • avatar

    KixStart: “OK. Do those things and then replace the gasser with a modest diesel. Maybe even a V6 diesel. Then what would you have?”

    90% of the drivers would have a slower and more fuel efficient means to get to the mall or take the kids to soccer practice while chatting up their therapist on the phone. Ba-da-boom…

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • la834: Laying down electric wires is much easier than building an oil pipeline. And once those wires are in place,...
  • la834: To people who can’t fathom buying a car that cant be fully refueled in 5 minutes at a gas station, I...
  • redapple: BEV – No way. Dont want one. 1- doesnt fit my needs. 2- Alja RE PHEV comments spot on 3- We already...
  • teddyc73: Um, no, they didn’t say “nah”. Can we just stop with the whole stupid “nah”...
  • pmirp1: Hard to trust EVs when our grid has blackouts. Right now the one thing you can trust is having your car fill...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber