2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
June 22, 2008

The 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid uses high technology to improve fuel mileage without compromising the capabilities of this full-size sport utility vehicle.

The green-car experts at TheCarConnection.com studied the latest road tests of the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid to compile this conclusive review. Editors at TheCarConnection.com also drove the Chevy Tahoe Hybrid; those driving impressions are included here to help you make the right new-car choice and decide which reviews to trust when they present different opinions.

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.

Review continues below

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.

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2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid

Styling

The 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid is distinguished from the standard Tahoe by its streamlined exterior and unique instrumentation.

The 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid is nearly identical to the handsome standard Tahoe with some subtle--and not so subtle--differences.

In reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, most reviewers find the 2008 Chevy Tahoe Hybrid stylish and handsome for a vehicle of its size. ForbesAutos says the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid (2008) is "still boxy and burly"--unsurprising, considering that the standard Tahoe is what Edmunds describes as "a traditional full-size SUV built on a truck platform." Cars.com thinks the Hybrid has a "stylish appearance" and calls "notable" the "large 'Hybrid' graphics on the side doors and smaller ones on the windshield and rear window."

Some differences are related to body changes designed to reduce drag and improve efficiency. Car and Driver notes its "attractive exterior" includes "reworked front and rear fascias, running boards, and D-pillar moldings [that] help reduce the drag coefficient from 0.36 to 0.34." All 2008 Chevy Hybrid Tahoes receive unique lightweight alloy wheels (with hollow spokes to reduce weight) shod with low-resistance tires. Kelley Blue Book notes that the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid also comes with a longer roof spoiler and sharp-edged, body-colored D-pillars, but it is not available with a roof rack. Other than a more streamlined appearance, the changes do not drastically alter the look from that of the standard Tahoe. Automobile "likes the lower front fascia that resembles a tasteful body kit," though they speculate it may be a problem "traversing boat launches and so forth." Detroit News calls the 2008 Chevy Tahoe Hybrid "uncompromising in its size," while AutoblogGreen thinks it's "gargantuan."

Inside, Edmunds describes the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid as "handsome with fine build quality." To further differentiate it from other Tahoe trims, the 2008 Tahoe Hybrid is equipped with a different instrument cluster. ForbesAutos also calls the interior "handsome" and notes the Hybrid's "two-tone instrument panel with LED-backlit instrumentation [and] chrome trim." From the second row back, the 2008 Chevy Tahoe Hybrid is no different from a fully loaded Tahoe LT. Edmunds notes the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid 2008 "looks like any other [late model] Tahoe on the inside, except for the metallic trim in place of faux wood accents."

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2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid

Performance

The 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid is marginally better than the standard Tahoe in acceleration and fuel efficiency, but handling is nothing to write home about.

If you think going with a hybrid means giving up driving performance, the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid will be a pleasant surprise: It offers better acceleration, braking performance, and fuel efficiency than the standard Tahoe.

For the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid, 2008 sees the SUV equipped with a 332-horsepower 6.0-liter small-block V-8 engine and powerful electric motors. Kelley Blue Book says the 2008 Chevy Tahoe Hybrid has "plenty of muscle when it's needed" and "can tow up to 6,200 pounds." Chevrolet equips the Tahoe Hybrid's engine with Active Fuel Management that cuts fuel flow to half the cylinders in low-load situations such as when cruising or braking. The vehicle is also able to operate solely on electric power at speeds up to 32 mph, provided sufficient charge is available from the hybrid battery pack located under the second-row seats. Kelley Blue Book notes "the shift between electric power and the gasoline engine is seamless, as is the Active Fuel Management's switch from eight cylinders to four."

The 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid's sophisticated powertrain not only improves fuel efficiency but also allows for faster acceleration from 0-60 than the standard Tahoe, while still rated to tow 6,200 pounds (2WD models). Car and Driver found the Chevy Tahoe Hybrid "charged to 60 mph in just over eight seconds." In other reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, passing performance is an aspect of the hybrid Tahoe that receives praise. Edmunds finds "the hybrid has improved throttle response in passing situations" compared to the standard Tahoe.

The most noteworthy features are the 2008 Chevy Tahoe Hybrid's transmissions. As Popular Mechanics reports, "Aside from the battery pack and [engine], the two-mode [propulsion] system is located almost entirely in the transmission housing. Through a complex computer-controlled ballet, the system decides which combination of engine...electric motors and gears should be applied for optimal fuel economy." Kelley Blue Book notes that the "two powerful electric motors...add additional torque when required and can move the Hybrid without the engine's assistance." One fact worth pointing out comes from Automobile, which states, "GM's two-mode transmission doesn't include a reverse gear." Only the electric motors provide reverse, so if the battery is low, one would have to wait for the battery to recharge before backing up. According to Car and Driver, "the transmission has four fixed ratios, which are selected when the electric motors are needed to charge the batteries or when towing heavy loads" in addition to a continuously variable transmission combined in one transmission housing. Each of the four fixed-gear ratios may be selected manually for engine braking or power holding.

In various reviews, real-world fuel mileage was hit-or-miss. According to fueleconomy.gov, the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid 2008 EPA estimates are 21 mpg city and 22 mpg highway for 2WD models and 20 mpg city and highway for 4WD models. Car and Driver averaged in a 4WD model "a respectable 18 mpg over a 250-mile weekend." Kelley Blue Book was able to attain 22.7 mpg in stop-and-go driving only by "feathering the throttle and keeping our speed below 30 miles per hour." Edmunds states, "the marginal bump in fuel economy will improve your sense of social responsibility more than it will your carbon footprint."

Handling is about what can be expected for a vehicle this size and weight. Car and Driver writes that the "electric power steering is light on effort and even lighter on feel." The light steering probably doesn't help improve its handling, as Cars.com finds "it rolls around in corners and it is cumbersome in parking lots." Edmunds says the 2008 Chevy Tahoe Hybrid "handles about the same as the standard Tahoe."

Braking is partially frictional and partially regenerative, which feeds the 300-volt hybrid battery. "The hybrid comes to a stop from 60 mph in 132 feet," says Edmunds, "as good or better than any full-size SUV we've tested." In fact, Popular Mechanics finds "the brakes are stronger and quicker to respond than those on a normal Tahoe." Opinions of ride quality are mixed. Cars.com thinks the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid has "a rather stiff, trucklike ride," while ForbesAutos writes, "A responsive suspension delivers a fairly smooth ride with relatively composed handling."

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2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid

Comfort & Quality

Unique solutions were developed for the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid to keep comfort the same while reducing weight--but at what price?

In designing the 2008 Tahoe Hybrid, Chevrolet took nothing away from the ergonomics, space, or comfort of the standard Tahoe.

As a full-size SUV, the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid offers seating for eight, though the low seats in the third row mean "grownups won't want to spend much time back there," finds AutoblogGreen. Headroom should not be an issue for anyone, as Edmunds calls the Tahoe Hybrid "cavernous." All seating surfaces are leather¬¬--a standard feature--with the front seats being heated and the driver enjoying six-way power adjustment with manual recline. "The front seats [in 2008 Chevy Tahoe Hybrids]," says The Detroit News, are "made lighter to cut the vehicle's weight, have plastic curved pieces on the back to allow second-row passengers...more room." Cars.com remarks, "the heated leather front bucket seats offer OK comfort and thigh support."

In the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid, 2008 still finds neither the second nor third row can be folded into the floor, as no room exists, unlike with some of its competitors. However, Edmunds indicates that the "50/50-split-folding 3rd row seats can be removed with a yank of the release handle," and the second-row seats "tumble forward for more cargo capacity." Motor Trend thinks that adding or removing the third-row seats is "a single-person operation [and] the added cargo space with the third row is removed is welcome." Cars.com reports that in the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid 2008 there's "60.3 cubic feet [of] interior cargo volume [with second and third row] seats folded."

Multiple reviews cite the fit and finish of the interior of the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid as generally unremarkable. While AutoblogGreen writes that the "look and texture as well as the fit of the plastic panels is fine," they also note, "the quality of some of the materials seems lower than you might expect in a vehicle costing over $50,000." Conversely, Cars.com gushes that "minor changes were made to improve an already excellent interior." The rear glass window is fixed in place and cannot be opened separately, so park away from walls and other obstructions if you need to toss something in the back. However, parts of the 2008 Chevy Tahoe Hybrid that have been designed to save weight are the hood and liftgate, which are made from lightweight aluminum. Thus, both are easier to lift than those on the standard Tahoe.

AutoblogGreen finds it "kind of spooky rolling along in such a big heavy vehicle in almost complete silence [in electric-only mode]." The better aerodynamics of the 2008 Chevy Tahoe Hybrid means less wind noise, too, relative to the less-streamlined nonhybrid Tahoe. Cars.com finds it "difficult to tell when the Tahoe Hybrid's gas engine kicks on when accelerating from a stop -- there's no jerkiness or even any engine noise."

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2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid

Safety

Safety is plentiful in the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid, but check those blind spots.

The 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid is loaded with safety features, though some reviewers criticize visibility in the SUV.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) rates the Tahoe Hybrid at five stars for front and side impacts. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has not yet tested the Tahoe Hybrid.

For the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid, 2008 features the same safety equipment as found in the standard Tahoe, according to safercar.gov, including curtain airbags for all three rows, daytime running lights, four-wheel all-disc ABS, tire pressure monitors, auto door locks, automatic crash notification (via OnStar), and LATCH points for securing child car seats. Additionally, on the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid, 2008 models are equipped with an "electronically-controlled braking system [which] also provides full traction and stability control," according to AutoblogGreen. Safety is a key selling point among all manufacturers, and these features are standard among the Tahoe's competitors, too, save for OnStar.

The 2008 Chevy Tahoe Hybrid has "brackets attached to the front of its frame...designed to help it better engage with the structure of a smaller vehicle during a crash," says Cars.com. Three-point safety belts are standard for all seating positions, but head restraints are not available for the center positions in both rows. ForbesAutos points out that "the side-curtain airbags remain inflated for several seconds to protect passengers in the event of a rollover"--a unique feature of the 2008 Chevy Tahoe Hybrid.

A backup camera and side mirrors with curb tilt are also standard on the 2008 Chevy Tahoe Hybrid. As a full-size SUV, though, the Tahoe Hybrid has some drawbacks. For example, AutoblogGreen points out that there are "plenty of blind spots" and "changing lanes or pulling into tight parking spaces...requires extra care."

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2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid

Features

The 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid offers real utility in a luxurious, green package, though at a steep price.

You can get the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid in only one style: loaded.

General Motors spent a lot of money developing the 2008 Chevy Tahoe Hybrid's two-mode hybrid system. According to AutoblogGreen, "To help minimize the loss, the system is installed on well-equipped vehicles that people are willing to spend more for," such as the Tahoe Hybrid. Thus, there isn't a "no-frills" version of the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid. 2008 is the year to get a fully loaded rig without having to check off all of the options boxes. That's not to say you'll be stuck with unpopular features, but you will have to pay for them.

Standard features of the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid include leather, a navigation system (which Edmunds says is "easy to use"), a nine-speaker Bose audio system with XM satellite capability, a backup camera, remote start, heated power-folding side mirrors, three-zone automatic climate control, and rear park assist. "The Bose audio system [also comes with] a CD/MP3 player, an auxiliary audio jack [and] two rear seat audio jacks," writes Edmunds. The 2008 Chevy Tahoe Hybrid's instrument cluster includes an auto stop position to indicate when the engine is off for fuel-saving purposes. The Detroit News describes the unique instruments that inform the driver of what mode the Tahoe Hybrid is operating in: "To the right, an economy gauge helps maintain an efficient driving style, and the standard navigation system screen can display a real-time status of how power is flowing between the engine, batteries, and motors." Less popular is the standard tire inflation kit that replaces the traditional spare tire in an effort to save weight. ForbesAutos notes "a third-row seat is available but can't be folded flat into the floor...they must be removed manually, which can be quite a chore." Cars.com mentions, "Provided free of charge for the first year is GM's OnStar communication system."

According to Kelley Blue Book, optional features on the 2008 Chevy Tahoe Hybrid include "power glass sunroof, engine block heater, rear seat DVD entertainment, locking rear axle, six-disc MP3 compatible CD changer and four-wheel drive." That's the extent of options for the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid 2008.

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