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Video | The Chevy Tahoe Hybrid Was a Terrible Hybrid SUV

I recently had the chance to drive the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid, which was a terrible hybrid SUV. I’ve always wanted to check out the Tahoe Hybrid, because I’ve always wanted to experience one of the stranger full-size SUVs in my lifetime — so I’m thrilled that I had the chance to drive it for a little while when I rented it on a vacation to Arizona.

First, I want to give a little background on the Tahoe Hybrid. Here’s a basic overview: the Tahoe Hybrid was a full-size General Motors SUV that was offered from 2008 to 2013, right as gas prices were high and the economy was struggling. The thinking was that the Tahoe Hybrid would capitalize on a bit of the hybrid craze, and offer a more fuel-efficient alternative to shoppers who needed a full-size SUV, but wanted to save on gas mileage.

Unfortunately, the Tahoe Hybrid didn’t really do all that much. City fuel economy jumped from 14 miles per gallon to 20 mpg, but highway fuel economy was basically unchanged from 19 to 20 mpg — meaning the Hybrid’s combined city and highway gas mileage only jumped about 3 to 4 miles per gallon. On a percentage basis, that’s pretty big — but on an actual fuel economy basis, it didn’t really do much.

Still, an extra 3 mpg is always appreciated, and that would’ve been a nice thing for Chevy to offer — a few extra miles per gallon for shoppers who wanted more efficiency, and maybe they paid a little extra. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work that way: the Tahoe Hybrid was around nine grand more expensive than a similarly equipped regular Tahoe, coming in around $54,000 compared to around $45,000 for a Tahoe LT with a gas engine. That, of course, is a huge figure — especially to save just three miles per gallon.

And the fuel economy upgrades weren’t just limited to the hybrid powertrain. Chevy really went all-out with the Tahoe Hybrid, giving it a larger front air bumper for better aerodynamics, different wheels that were more slippery, removed the roof racks, and about a dozen exterior "HYBRID" decals, all over the doors, the fenders, and basically everywhere else. You only got 3 or 4 extra miles per gallon, but EVERYONE knew you were driving a hybrid.

On the road, the Tahoe Hybrid isn’t any better or worse than basically any other Tahoe from this era. Actually, the Hybrid is a bit quicker than other Tahoe models, as it offers 332 horsepower and 367 lb-ft, compared to the 320 hp and 340 lb-ft in regular Tahoes — but, generally speaking, it’s about the same. It handles the same, it steers the same, and lowering the vehicle — another aerodynamic job General Motors decided on to improve fuel economy — has no apparent effect on the driving experience.

Indeed, the Tahoe Hybrid was basically identical to the regular Tahoe — and that was its problem. You paid a lot more money, you got a little more fuel economy, and otherwise the Tahoe Hybrid didn’t really get you anything except a lot of stickers you could use to brag to your friends about your new hybrid SUV. If only they knew it was adding just three more miles per gallon. Find a Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid for sale

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4 COMMENTS

  1. I’m really confused.  You write and do videos about cars but you don’t understand the significance of percentages pertaining to fuel economy?  This vehicle, as all vehicles, would be great when purchased for an appropriate purpose such as limo service in a city where highway mileage is less pertinent and being able to have such a huge improvement in city mileage saves big money.  

  2. This seems like more of a critique of the Tahoe and not the Hybrid Tahoe.  For example, the seats are not all power to save weight and the wheels are lighter than standard.  The seats were also light weight, and not as comfortable, and it even supposedly had fewer coats of paint to save weight.  I do think it is more realistic to measure the actual millage comparison of a 6 MPG gain as most of these are used as local vehicles.  BTW, I think another issue with these not selling was the fear that the battery packs were expensive to replace and extremely fragile.

    Other than that, I have no opinion on the Tahoe Hybrid.  
  3. Normally love your videos, and I do agree with the overall sentiment of this one, but your analysis that only a 4 mpg improvement is poor is flawed. Percentages absolutely do matter in this case, much more than absolute differences.

    Consider two consumers back in 2008. One is in the market for a small sedan, like a corolla. The other is in the market for a large SUV like the tahoe. Both have the option to upgrade to a roughly equivalent hybrid (prius and tahoe hybrid). The corolla to prius upgrade nets a 15 mpg improvement (from 31 to 46). The tahoe to tahoe hybrid upgrade nets you 4 mpg. 
    Both consumers decide to be eco-concious (well as eco-concious as a large SUV buyer can be) and decide to do the hybrid upgrade. Guess which one actually saves more gas? Believe it or not, it’s the tahoe hybrid buyer. 
    Over 10000 miles the prius owner will burn around 217 gallons of gas, saving roughly 105 gallons over the corolla. 
    Over the same distance the tahoe hybrid owner will burn 500 gallons of gas. That’s a lot, but the normal tahoe would have burned 625, for a net of 125 gallons. That’s 20 gallons more than the prius owner saved by upgrading from the corolla. 
    Another way to look at this is the number of miles required to break even on the extra expense of the hybrid upgrade. Recall that gas prices peaked in 2008 at about $4.10 a gallon. At that price the break even point for the prius over the corolla is 57k miles. The break even point for the tahoe hybrid over the tahoe is only 49k miles, so the upgrade from tahoe to tahoe hybrid, even at $10 extra, actually makes better financial sense than the upgrade from the corolla to the prius. 
    Could Chevy have done better? Absolutely. But is a 4 mpg improvement on a vehicle that’s averaging 16 mpg insignificant? Not at all. 
  4. Ummmm, yeah, not sure how the extra money, while unwarranted for the mileage gain I get, makes it a “terrible” SUV.  Other than that, which the original owner paid for probably most of the following owners, what makes it so bad?

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Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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