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.”