The Tahoe Hybrid Paradox

Dan Neil, the Pulitzer-Prize winning auto journalist of the Los Angeles Times, says the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid deserves praise. “For sheer execution, you can do nothing but throw rose petals at the thing.” But he also poses a long list of questions about GM’s 6.0-liter V8 hybrid, which he calls, “a fantastically fuel-efficient vehicle that’s still a gas hog.”

The EPA estimated fuel economy for the Tahoe Hybrid is 21 miles per gallon in the city and 22 mpg highway. That represents about a 50% improvement of in-city fuel economy over the non-hybrid Tahoe.

Mr. Neil sees a lot of good in the Chevy Tahoe Hybrid:

  • The Tahoe can tow 6,200 pounds, which is “a tonnage that would fatally herniate a Toyota Highlander Hybrid.”
  • The smooth transitions from gas, to electric, and back, is “a astonishing [in its] seamlessness, the absence of shudder or second-order vibrations.”
  • The hybrid’s improved aerodynamic efficiency: “A slippery 0.34 Cd, compared to 0.39 Cd for the standard Tahoe. Not bad for a vehicle that looks like a refugee from the shipping yard at Long Beach.”

But for all this praise, Mr. Neil asks a number of bigger and tougher questions, not just aimed at GM engineers and marketeers, but the general public:

  • Shouldn’t the aerodynamic improvements be applied to the standard-issue Tahoe?
  • Do the super-low-volume sales targets (considering the $8,000 “hybrid premium”), do more for GM’s corporate image than its corporate average fuel economy?
  • Are critics being too harsh on GM?

Mr. Neil wonders, “Could it be we’re being cynical about a good-faith effort?”. He then answers his own question: “What really needs to be re-engineered, of course, is the consumer, who opts for these big, heavy-duty vehicles for personal transportation and light loading when smaller, lighter vehicles will do.”

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  • nick peterson

    My parents are extremely susceptible to this mentality. When I told them about my interest in purchasing a smart car the first thing my mother commented on was how unsafe it would be to get hit by an SUV in one of those ‘little’ cars. I really do not buy into that mentality in the slightest, I have a gut feeling that SUVs fair no better than a decent sedan in crash tests and are more likely to roll at high speeds. Oh well, at least Europeans seem to have the right priorities.

  • Just a comment

    GM could get better than 21 or 22 mpg in this new tahoe by replacing the engine with their new small diesel engine. Why are they going bigger? the current 5.3L has plenty of power.

    I have a 2007 Tahoe 4×4 and I get 17.5 mpg just running around in it. It will get 20 on the freeway driving at around 70 mph. I made 2 small modifications to it:

    replaced the exaust with a less restrictive one and added a better aftermarket intake system to it. It will probably get even better mileage when I have the engine tuned a bit by someone who knows how to tune these new electronic controlled engines.

    If I added the air dam and the new low resistance tires to my tahoe, it may get the same as their hybrid. and the cost is alot less than 8K !!!!!

  • DanielAlan61

    Just more bashing of US auto manufacturers. If you are pro-foreign vehicles/corporations/foreign-mentality maybe you should consider moving to Japan or China, etc… I am purchasing a 2012 Tahoe Hybrid (9 passenger). With a family of 5 (plus guests) a smaller vehicle isn’t practical for us. I would have purchased a Volt if it were. I’m just not the kind of person who thinks it’s a good idea to shoot myself in the foot.