EAT LIKE A BIRD, WALK LIKE AN ELEPHANT
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Published on Fri, Jul 8, 2011
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid. Is that an oxymoron? Sort of like politically correct SUV? Or miserly road hog? How about big little eco-gas guzzler? Or eats like a bird, walks like an elephant? It turns out that a hybrid Tahoe combines many of the virtues of the moxie-laden SUV, with fewer of its vices. This isn’t an oxymoron. It’s a moxymoron. John-Fredrik Wright reports. By John-Fredrik Wright If I had to pick one place on earth, where I had to spend the rest of my life and never leave, Lake Tahoe would be it. So great is this place that its name decals a Chevrolet SUV. This, of course, is nothing new, with Denali, GMC’s Acadia, and a myriad of other cars bearing names from beautiful or renowned places around the world. But “Tahoe” stands out in my mind, since this is a place that I can really connect with—someplace I’ve actually been to, in contrast to the highest mountain in North America or a national park in Maine.
The Chevrolet Tahoe is an iconic car. Since its introduction in 1994, when Chevrolet rebadged the full-size Blazer to “Tahoe”, each American suburban block has at least one, in many cases many more. It serves as the police car for some cities—among them, Newport Beach, where they can often be seen cruising the streets as well as the sand. But Hybrid? Who knew there even was that option? Well, there is, but I still approach the Tahoe as the rough truck it really is. The hybrid technology just makes it more okay to own and drive one. So, what is a Tahoe Hybrid? For starters, it rides like a truck (remember, it is a truck). Your view of the surroundings is unimpeded, if only the rest of the country didn’t also drive large SUVs. But you do sit at a comfortable height, which provides that monstrous feeling we all enjoy. However, just because you’r riding alongside the clouds doesn’t mean you have any ground clearance. I managed to bottom out in gutters pulling out of multiple parking lots during my weeks worth of driving. Which got me wondering, all this height, but I’m hitting the asphalt at places where I could pull out comfortably in an Audi TT? The height, and the rough look that accompany it, bears with it a somewhat bouncy ride. This is still a truck remember? And trucks aren’t all that comfortable when the road gets a little rough and bumpy. The suspension on a luxury sedan would eat up the bumps for you, so you wouldn’t feel anything, but this behemoth passes the bumps right along to you.
Truckiness aside, what does it mean when a Tahoe turns hybrid? Don’t worry about power, it didn’t lose any—the Tahoe Hybrid is still powered by a powerful V8. The only difference is that the engine turns off when you don’t need it, and instead you can drive using the battery. How fast? Not very. How far? I really can’t give a real length-estimate, since the gruesomely slow speed needed to keep it in battery-mode is too slow to go anywhere far. But, alas, turning the V8 off at stoplights, in traffic, or when driving around looking for parking is not a bad idea. It will help out with gas-mileage, and I’m sure the environment is happy(ier). Going from battery-mode to V8-mode is actually pretty smooth. Being a rather large V8, however, you can always feel it kick on, but I doubt there really is anyway around that. Those instances, few and far between, when you need power from the get-go, the hybrid can be a little challenging. Flooring the accelerator from a stand-still with the V8 turned off, makes the Tahoe start out with full battery power (not a whole lot of power in relation to weight). The V8 will kick in as fast as it possible can, but there will be a couple of yards where you’re thinking: “Shoot, this is not going to work, I needed a bigger hole in traffic.” But then, like a knight in shining armor riding in to save the day, the V8 gives off a growl and off you go. Now, suddenly, the Tahoe seems pretty quick.
Actually too quick. This is supposed to be an eco-friendly alternative, not a super-performing full size SUV hurdling down the freeway with a huge V8 guzzling up any gas saved at the last stoplight. But wait, what is this I see? Has Chevrolet made adjustments for this as well? It took me a while to notice it, but when cruising, when you really don’t need the full power of the V8, the Tahoe downsizes to a V4, in effect turning off half the engine. Impressed by this constant strive for more eco-friendliness and gas-saving (I don’t blame them, everyone is complaining about gas prices), I did my best to never touch the accelerator hard enough to warrant turning on the V8. In my opinion, though, my struggle to drive a V4 Tahoe was an uphill battle. Even small adjustments (say merely adjusting from 55mph to 60mph) turned on the remaining cylinders. I would have hoped for a more restrictive trigger, or a switch where the driver can choose to keep it in eco-V4-mode for longer periods. But, again, pretty impressive how many engineering feats are needed (and executed!) to keep a Tahoe economically (think gas prices, not the price of the car) and environmentally savvy. The Tahoe (not just the Hybrid) is huge on the outside, but not correspondingly huge inside. The third row fold on itself, but if you truly want to use the space back there you would need to remove the whole bench, which in turn means storing that in your already-overfull garage. The middle row only has two headrests (I think I remember a law saying that a truck does not need a headrest for the middle passenger in the back), which in turn means that I don’t allow anybody I like to use that middle seat. Whiplash is something I only wish upon my enemies.
In summation, the Tahoe lives on. Now as a more eco-friendly Hybrid, but with no cutbacks on what the Tahoe really is; a truck. This is a workhorse with a battery. A truck with a huge face that extend low enough to render some gutters a problem. You can feel the sturdy, American engineering in the doors. They’re heavy and robust, as is the tailgate. The cockpit is comfortable and reminds of the original Tahoe back in the nineties, and large enough so that my wife really had to stretch to hit me when we passed an out-of-state license plate. For more information about Chevrolet products, go to www.chevrolet.com
SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: Chevrolet Tahoe 4WD Hybrid Price: $53,950 (base) $54,840 (and as tested after cash-offer deal in CA (-$2,000), and with Sun Entertainment and Destinations Package) EPA fuel economy rating: 20 mpg (city) 23 mpg (highway) Engine size and type: Vortec 6.0L V8 engine Coupled with a Horsepower: 332 @ 5100 Torque: 367 pound-feet @ 4100 Transmission type: 4-speed automatic Drive configuration: 4-Wheel Drive Suspension (front and rear): Front Coil-Over-Shock Rear Multi Link Brakes and tires: 4-wheel ABS P265/65R18 all season tires Dimensions: Length: 202.0 in Width: 79.0 in Height: 74.8 in Curb weight: 5966 lbs