Test Drive: Chevy Tahoe Hybrid Gets 24.8 MPG

When the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Two-Mode Hybrid was named ‘Green Car of the Year’ by Green Car Journal last November, a lot of folks scratched their heads. Sure, the super-sized hybrid boasts relative benefits over comparably sized gas-powered SUVs, but is that enough to regard the Tahoe Hybrid as eco-friendly? The official EPA fuel economy ratings are 21 in the city and 22 on the highway, which represents a 30 percent increase in overall economy, and a 50 percent improvement in city driving.

We had an opportunity to drive the Tahoe Hybrid over the last few days, and to conduct two separate real world mileage loops in order to determine the vehicle’s fuel economy. The first was a highway drive from Cape May, New Jersey to Falls Church, Virginia. The 238-mile stretch ate through a little more than three-eighths of the 24.5 gallon gas tank, and yielded just over 21 miles per gallon, right on par with EPA estimates. Driving style was on the conservative side, as the vehicle stayed in the right hand lane for most of the road trip.

The second drive loop was comprised of mixed suburban driving in and around the Baltimore metropolitan area. Here, we tested the Tahoe hybrid in the type of traffic that 90 percent of Americans experience everyday. The result was surprising. The 151-mile drive test gave us 24.8 miles per gallon, beating GM’s numbers by 15 percent. Again, driving style was very conservative.

The Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid, powered by its 6-liter V-8 gas engine in conjunction with electric motors, surpassed expectations for efficiency. For those who cannot live without a large vehicle, the Tahoe delivers the promised fuel economy. But the question still lurks: Is that enough to call it a green car, much less the “Green Car of the Year?”


  • uktiger

    Now they will make four of them a quarter. Couldn’t they roll this technology into a model that they could manufacture 250k per year?

    Come on GM, you don’t need any more freaking press releases. Show us some results. The world knows you are dying and without your spare parts business you would be dead already. I hope you can make it but you should really apologize for all of the crappy cars you sold us over the years.

    Chevy Monza? 1977 Buick LeSabre V6? I grew up thinking internal combustion engines had to be hard to start and that it was natural that they would die at every intersection. The Japanese proved this was not the case.

  • uktiger

    Hey hybrid cars, I am glad that you are giving GM a chance. This website is an important source of research for consumers of new technology. Now that you have their ear, please pass along some information…

    Technology in itself is not valuable. Toyota and Honda have built value by creating a market for new products. they now have a bankable revenue stream that would not have been there had they not released Hybrid technology. The fact that GM built a technology and will sell 100 cars is meaningless. Rather than boasting about the billions in R&D, invest in sales and marketing. Sell a $20k hybrid (or re release the EV1), even if you lose money on it for the first couple of years. That is the place you need to invest! your building in Detroit with high priced engineers is not building ANY shareholder value.

  • jboss

    Sir- You need let go of the 1970′s. This is an impressive acomplishment- Don’t you think Toyota would have applied this to the new Sequioa or that big SUV they sell if they had teh technology.

    The heroic Japan Stance is so very tiring.

    Can’t we all just get along – lol

  • sean

    jboss,

    “… Toyota executives have said they plan to offer a hybrid version of everything the company sells worldwide, perhaps as soon as 2010…”

    I think Toyota is working hard behind the scene for that committment.
    lol if you want, jboss. For me, w8 n c
    : )

  • jerome

    what a crying shame- green car of the year?? My 4 cyl. 1999 mazda 626 gets that kind of mileage – except better on the highway. If you win green car of the year you should be pushing the envelope – not figuring out how to push a gas hog for a bit better gas mileage.

    How about getting creative and doing something that can be massed produced – give us an electric car – I am sure someone there knows where you stored away the plans!

  • PatrickPunch

    1) 25 mpg is less gas guzling. Real fuel economy starts from 35 mpg. In Europe the target is approx. 50 mpg.
    2) Choose the right size of vehicle for the daily needs. Rent a vehicle for special occassions (e.g. boat towing, fully packed holidays, …)
    3) What this test shows is that a good driving style can help you save fuel and costs you nothing. By low rev driving (possible on an automatic) and avoiding unnecessary accelleration and braking (let the vehicle coast when you see an obstacle ahead) you can save already 10-15% of fuel.

  • Boom Boom

    GM deserves kudos for building an efficient full-size SUV. It saves gas (though, no other field tests I could find had such high MPG as the article above..). HOWEVER, two important points:
    1) GM isn’t making enough of these to sell more an a couple per state per month. The vast majority of consumers who would want one, couldn’t buy one. GM is using this as a marketing ploy.
    2) GM’s other Hybrids (Aura, Vue, Malibu) don’t save much gas at all and are hybrids in name only. They need to put the kind of effort they put into the Tahoe into their other cars.
    Toyota does not need to have a lock on the Hybrid market, but if this is the sort of thing that the US auto is going to put forth, Toyota’s only competition is going to be from Honda, Nissan and VW.

  • changetheworldnow

    I see both sides

    Good: They did improve efficiency and it is nice to see at least a token presence of American Car makers doing more to help get less gas dependent.

    Bad: You can have your cake and eat it too mentality. I have a Prius and a Highlander gas version but realize that SUV are not the answer; they tip over , they weigh too much, they crush other vehicles in head on collisions.

    Less SUV not more.

    No matter how great your technology as long as vehicles stay so very heavy we will never achieve
    decreased dependence let alone independence.

    Solar powered EV or Solar Powered Plug in Hybrids are the solution but I am afraid we have a long wait for these

    Tom

  • uktiger

    Governments should tax gross vehicle weights on new cars (maybe an annual licensing tax also). Big cars eat up more precious road real estate and they endanger other drivers.

    time for big suv drivers to pay their fair share.

  • Shines

    Green car of the year? NOT – Green truck of the year – OK that would be fair. It is a good technology. I’m not sure GM should be making more of these beasts anyway. The US is consuming WAY too much oil period. At $100 a barrel plus the defense costs in the Mideast we need much more drastic changes than big SUVs that get 25 mpg. I’m sure we can come up with better alternatives.

  • VaPrius

    A mall-tank that gets 25MPG is impressive — but still a gas guzzler. That said, give them the Green Car of the year award. Whatever it takes to get the people who buy these monsters thinking a little more about other people.

  • 38MPG

    uktiger, Actually the govt. offers tax breaks for buying massive tanks in the US. If you own a business, you can buy a truck (like Hummer) and write off $25,000 for that purchase.

    For the record, I drive a 2008 Toyota Corolla 5 speed which averages 38MPG.

  • Ron Noe

    A recent e-mail to Jack Cafferty at CNN:
    Jack, a while back Kiran on AM did a bit with a GM exec about the Chevy Tahoe Hybrid. The main line out of the spot was 50% Better Mileage. Which is absolutely a lie! The old Tahoe had an EPA listed MPG of 14-19 MPG on the sticker. The Hybrid’s EPA listed MPG is 21/22. I will agree if you do only city driving and nothing else there is speculation that it gets 50% better mileage. Routinely they have not met the estimated mileage! But the over all estimated mileage is around a 2-3 mile per gallon difference! And on top of that, come-on, 21 miles a gallon is nothing special at $350.00 a gallon!

    Just like the Bush Administration, the Big Three Automakers are oblivious to current events! Instead of making a little money on a lot of small cars getting 40 to 150 mpg harnessing electric motors, they would rather make a lot of money on each of the few SUVs they can sell.

    The US in desperate times and the people in positions to help, won’t! Congress is no better, Pelosi took Impeachment off the table and no one has the guts to prosecute Bush. Speculation keeps oil inflated?????? What speculation and how is that legal? We have to pay high prices because someone thinks supplies may get low? Has the world turned upside down where right is now wrong? Something is wrong with the United States and the middle-class and poor are suffering. And sadly, and once again, Obama can’t fix it! I’m not sure anyone can. Is it really written that we can’t last and will suffer for our sins?

    It’s getting pretty scary out here Jack, and no one’s paying attention!

  • me&6

    Hey all

    I have been looking into hybrids recently and have read many comments and reviews. Gas milage this emissions that, big cars vs small cars. But at the end of the day I have a family of 7 not counting the dog! So what do all you smart go green people suggest I drive. I currently have a suburban and at times it is hardly enough to carry all the people and their stuff. The Tahoe seems the closest to what to fit my needs.

  • NoWay

    I would take a Ford Escape hybrid before I purchase this gas guzzling monster. Add another 10+ mpg to both city and highway and then we can talk.

  • Mike3843

    Did you test the odometer for accuracy? I know Chrysler is notorious for adding extra miles to each actual mile to get better MPG numbers, expire the warranty sooner, charge extra for lease, etc. Wouldn’t surprise me if GM cut the same corners.

  • Cody

    I have to agree with most of the outraged people on this message board. Why reward these companies that just give the problems (big SUVs) a little better rating. Look at Sweden if you want to see what a country can do for the environment. Sweden is the greenest country with the happiest citizens. Man does America have a lot of ground and special interest to overcome. As soon as our politicians quit giving the oil companies and their cronies’ preferential treatment can we even start to think about having a green country and auto industry. An example of this that I am sure you all are aware of is the diversion that E-85 ethanol is to our country. I live in Colorado where it may cost less but because of the fuels efficiency in the engine you will end up spending more money and diverting the cost into our food supply, which the world is having bigger and bigger shortage of every year. That is one step back to stopping starvation and poverty ibecause of our gas tanks.

  • Father

    you can’t tow 6 thousand pounds with an Escape hybrid or a Prius. the increase in mpg offered in the hybrid version of this vehicle offers an average of 40% increase in fuel efficiancy… the Prius for example, offers only a 30% increase in fuel efficancy over a compairable toyota that gets 35mpg highway. I can’t believe the arrogance of the people’s comments here. People like me, people who actually work for a living, need vehicles like this (hybrid or not) to work with us. we need to tow, we need to carry equiptment, etc. this is a huge fuel savings for us.

    Even if it isn’t, even if there was no hybird, or even if I didn’t use my SUV (read TRUCK) for work, who are you to prevent my Vehicle Freedom of Choice? I spend my money the way I want to. I don’t purcahse a $1300.00 bike, I don’t own $800 gutars… I have no place to force you to spend your money on another hobby or activity that you take pleasure in much like you have no place to do the same for me.

    According to Perdue, “The motor vehicle sector has been estimated to produce 32% of the US total fossil fuel CO2 emissions.” So what are you doing to reduce the other 68%?

    If you are upset about fuel prices, then drill for the stuff. If you are upset about emissions, then you should be rooting for Nuclear power to replace Coal. (what else is uranium good for becides Nuclear power, Weapons, and Ammunition?)

    also, I don’t see anyone mentioning this:
    according to the tests, the Hybrid Tahoe outperformed MPG expectations set by the manufacture, unlike the Prius that underperformed by over 12mpg from what the manufacture stated.

    Becides, is buying a NEW manufactured vehicle with hundreds of pounds of batteries good for the environment?? (prius anyone?) No. If you realy cared, you would put your arrogance asside, not care what people thought when they saw your car, and buy a USED automobile… preferably one that was wrecked froma salvage yard. Repair it, and sleep well knowing you did more real world recycling in one action then anyone who buys a new automobile to show off to people could do in their lifetime.

    then again, the number one reason people buy the prius isn’t to get better mielage or help the environment, but its because “it makes a statement about me”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/04/business/04hybrid.html

    picking up a used Tahoe is using far less energy then buying a brand new Prius. Stop making statements, and start actually thinking about what your doing.

  • RH

    You can’t compare a full sized SUV to the mileage of a sedan…that is like comparing apples to oranges. If an SUV is getting an 30% increase in fuel economy isn’t that better when it seems that everyone is driving these big suv’s….a push in the right direction?
    But we keep complaining about getting 35 mpg or asking stupid questions of “Why would I buy one of these vehicles when my sedan gets that gas mileage?” Hello can you sedan pull a boat? NO!
    It is great to see a company trying to develop a SUV for us Americans who have to keep our “Gotta have that big suv to look good” attitude and give us better fuel mileage.
    cheers

  • Shodan

    I have to agree with the Fullsize lovers. There is a reason why we need to drive the big vehicles. Families are getting bigger, towing our boats and trailers with a vehicle that won’t pop under stress is needed.

    I will use more gas driving a gas saving sedan, to realize I have to carry something big and go back back home to get my truck. Kudos to GM for their accomplishment.

    All it means is that everyone including GM will keep trying to better help all who need the fullsize vehicle.

  • batman

    this thread is just like the rest. a bunch of people crying about things they don’t fully understand or are so self involved that they can’t stand to see any other point of view or situation. i bought a new tahoe a few months before the hybrid was availiable. i am now selling it to get something that costs less at the pump and is just flat out cheaper. i came to this web site to to try and get valuable info on what a good choice would be. i thought people would be posting real world reviews and evaluations about their experience. NOT telling people that their 4 cyl. 1999 mazda 626 gets great mpg. wow. what a boring car to drive. just like the prius. how do i know its boring? because i actually went out and drove one! cars are not just transportation and mpg isn’t everything. the automotive aftermarket is a multibillion dollar industry. and i don’t think the prius is helping the economy by trying to kill a major industry!

    now after all that…

    can someone out there with a real world experience tell me what would be a fun, gas friendly, reliable car that would be worth looking into. i don’t have a boat to haul and i will be buying a truck in a few months to pickup the slack that my daily driver can’t do. i need a 4 door because my wife and i do plan to have kids in the very near future so it would be nice to have a decent trunk. and i know that horsepower and acceleration isn’t going to be race car like but i also don’t want to get run over by all those “evil” suv owners that have a family of 7 and can’t pull a clown act and put them all in a prius.

    so… any ideas??

    and just so you know. imports are alot more expensive on insurance and repairs than domestics. thats money i could spend on gas. and personally, i like oil companies alot more than insurance companies. oil companies have supplied me with a way to run 11 sec 1/4 mile times in my camaro and they provide the blood that makes one of my favorite sports possible… racing!

  • batman

    ok i found a few comments with real reviews.

    thank you to the people that have something real to say

  • beni

    Some people need size and utility and live in snow country. SUV’s, which are essentially four-wheel drive pick-up trucks converted to “station wagons”, meet this transportation need. Decreasing energy consumption while satisfying this demand is sensible and necessary.

    Unless we all truly “go green”, live in low carbon footprint cities (e.g., NYC) and hand in the keys to the ignition permanently (highly improbable given the massive taxpayer-financed government subsidy to the auto industry (domestic and foreign) in the form of roads and other infrastructure), the consumer will continue to purchase autos and determine which are best within this transportation model. And, in turn, the market will determine which companies survive (remember Selden, Studebaker etc.?).

    To each his / her own.

  • HVA

    At both sides of the margins, vehicles with really good gas mileage or really poor gas mileage are both very difficult to forecast right now,” said Clark. “But if you’re doing your cost of ownership calculation—which more people are doing right now—the impacts are significant.”
    —————————————————————————————–
    If I have to buy a new car at this time, it would not be Honda Fit or Toyota Yaris or Big SUV either. Fit or Yaris are too small/unsafe for me for highway speeds, unless we reduce speed limit to 55 MPH. Big SUVs are out of question for me even if I may be loaded with cash, that I am not anyway! May be Civic or Corolla, but surely 4 cyl Accord or Camry and these cars in hybrid version are a plus. GM/Ford/Chrysler has to do much better with their quality, grew up driving these brands. Who wants to pay repair bills and almost $4/gallon?

  • Way to go GM

    You have to crawl before you can walk. Same goes for making fuel efficient SUV’s. Of course these are expensive, they are the first and only suv’s of their size and ability to offer over 30% more fuel economy than any other SUV out there.

    Did everyone expect this SUV to roll out with 50% more economy and cost 50% less?

    The people saying that GM should not make this vehicle are being ridiculous. Their is a very large market for vehicles of this size and capability. Maybe everyone does not need an SUV but many people do. The need is still very large and I applaud GM for taking the worst example of fuel economy and making it better. Regardless of whether they did this or not, there is still a big need for SUV’s and everyone just can’t go out and buy a prius to hall around their four kids.

    Think of it this way. A prius can hall four adults comfortably. A tahoe can hall roughly 8 adults as comfortably. It takes two priuses at what, 40 mpg to do what a tahoe can do at 20 – 21 mpg? That comes out to be the same mpg in the end.

    This is a great thing for businesses with transportation and hauling needs as well as large families. As this technology improves and prices come down, this will be a huge leap forward. Again, we have to crawl before we can walk.

    The technology in this vehicle was derived from the same two mode hybrid technology GM has implemented in large city buses for public transportation. Whether you like it or not, its a very good thing that GM has pushed the envelope (along with Daimler Chrysler and Mercedes who partnered on this project and will release their own hybrid SUV’s in the next year.)

    If you love your Prius or Yaris, then thats great, but don’t bag on GM for trying to do something better with the worst offender of fuel consumption in mainstream transportation.

  • busymom

    I love my Chevy Tahoe Hybrid and with four children- it fits my needs. I agree with you, what type of vehicle do they expect us to fit in and be kind to the environment. Kudos to CHEVY!

  • Shawn

    Did anyone know that for 08 the large pickup trucks still outsold all Hybrid cars? Americans don’t want or need small useless cars. They want big trucks.

  • David Abram

    I own a 2008 Chevy Tahoe Hybrid. When I was purchasing the vehicle last year, I tested a few other SUVish cars that would have suited my needs similarly. The two that stood out were the Tahoe and the Toyota Highlander Hybrid–though it’s obvious which one took the prize for me.

    As a technology, the hybrid system Toyota uses is bounds ahead of GM’s. My wife drives a Toyota Prius and even its tech was lacking when compared to the options the Highlander brought to the table. With buttons like Econ to force gas saving, and more electric-mode runtime, the Highlander definitely keeps up as a SUVish car. The Tahoe fails in this department.

    From any standstill, the electric motor meerly assists the gas hog of a V8 off the line. Unless you’re very delicate with the throttle, the gas engine kicks on immediately even though it is marketed as electric-only from 0-26mph.

    What really saves gas in the Tahoe is the 2-mode engine underneath the hood. This removes the use of 4 cyclinders at any point in time that they are not being used. From testing this, I can easily go from 18-19 mpg in v8 mode on the highway to 24-30 mpg in v4. Unfortunately for practicality, when you use cruise control at normal speeds of 65-80 mph, the v8 mode is almost always on. When you take it out and manually throttle, it’s a lot easier keep the v4 mode on. If only there was an “econ” button that kept the motor in v4 mode while interstate driving, the Tahoe could easily pull 25-30 mpg highway.

    In-town driving, as I said, is generally mostly on gas. When I TRY to be economical or just testing, I can keep the electric motor going. But at the slightest acceleration the gas kicks in.

    All-in-all the vehicle is fantastic. It’s loaded with comfort and beauty, and was my choice over the Highlander. I sacrificed a few mpg’s for a little more room, but about equal amenities. It’s a great truck and I always try to support American-made, so it was my final choice.

    Good luck

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