- High-tech hybrid powertrain
- Impressive fuel economy
- Truck-based SUV capabilities
- V-8 engine power and towing
- Being green can be expensive
- Accessing tight third-row seats
The 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid uses high technology to improve fuel mileage without compromising the capabilities of this full-size sport utility vehicle.
The 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid includes all the goodness that comes with the nonhybrid Chevy Tahoe model. So perhaps the greatest accolade we could bestow upon the Tahoe Hybrid is that in most every respect, it drives like a standard nonhybrid Tahoe equipped with a big V-8. Operating and benefiting from the advanced gasoline-electric two-mode technology requires absolutely no special knowledge or skills: Hop in, tumble the key, pick a gear, and get rolling. In some cases, the gasoline engine may not start, as this Chevy is capable of running up to 32 mph on only electric power.
The big news about the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid is fuel economy. Chevy achieved EPA ratings of 21 mpg city/22 mph highway for the Tahoe Hybrid two-wheel-drive model. This handily outperforms its less powerful 5.3-liter V-8, which manages 14 mpg city/20 mpg highway. Towing capacity is not compromised, as the Tahoe Hybrid is rated for 6,000 pounds. The Tahoe Hybrid's mileage nearly equals that of mid-size sedans in city driving cycles. For example, the efficient 2008 Chevy Malibu with the 2.4-liter Ecotec four-cylinder is rated at 22 mpg city, only 1 mpg better than this full-size SUV.
The 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid's advanced powertrain combines a specially outfitted 332-horsepower 6.0-liter V-8 with what looks like a regular automatic transmission. But the transmission isn't "regular" at all, because it is actually an Electrically Variable Transmission, a four-speed automatic transmission combined with two electric motors. The technology (co-developed with BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Chrysler) works well, and the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid drives beautifully. There is an abundance of power, and the extra torque from the twin electric motors make this full-size SUV feel quite lively and agile. Cruising is quiet, especially when the SUV is running on battery power. At first it's a bit eerie, but you get used to it, and then other vehicles simply seem loud.
Inside and out, the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid is different from other SUVs based on the GMT900 truck platform. The exterior has been aerodynamically refined with special features that help the Tahoe Hybrid slip through the air more easily. Inside, the Tahoe Hybrid is equipped much like the premium Tahoe LTZ, but the instrument panel is unique, as are the lightweight leather-trimmed front seats.
Unfortunately, the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid suffers from some of the same issues as the standard Chevy Tahoe (a cramped third-row seat, for example). But a more important concern is the $5,000 (approximate) premium Chevrolet charges for the Tahoe Hybrid. This charge (and it is rumored that Chevy is losing money on this option) is so large that it would take about five years of driving 15,000 miles annually to recoup in terms of saved gasoline.
Chrysler will soon (2009) offer the Dodge Durango/Chrysler Aspen two-mode hybrids that utilize the same technology as the Tahoe. While these Chryslers benefit from a great piece of technology, the Durango/Aspen platform is generations behind the Chevy Tahoe. Mercedes-Benz offers a diesel-powered GL ute, and it's a marvelous performer.
If your goal is to simply lower your carbon footprint, then how does a 30 percent reduction strike you? If that sounds good, consider the Jeep Grand Cherokee with the newly available 3.0-liter turbo-diesel V-6. It delivers EPA ratings of 17/22 mpg with excellent towing and off-road capabilities. Of course, the Jeep is considerably smaller than the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid.