Keen on this green machine
Rob Douthit, Tue, 21 Apr 2009 08:00:00 PDT
If there is such a thing as a no-brainer purchase in merchandise that is $50,000 and above, this is it.The 2009 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid gives you pretty much everything you could ask for.Good gas mileage?
Check. We got a little over 22 mpg in city and highway driving, which is great for a huge, eight-passenger SUV.Towing ability?Check. How about 6,200 pounds, only 1,300 pounds less than the regular Tahoe.Luxury?
Check. The interior feels like you're riding in its cousin, the Cadillac Escalade.Now of course, for all the terrific engineering and utility you get, you do pay a premium; the hybrid runs about $5,000 more than the regular Tahoe.But for driving a huge SUV without the added cargo of guilt that you would get from driving a regular huge SUV, maybe it's all worth it.The Tahoe Hybrid uses General Motors' two-mode hybrid system, a wonderful creation that allows it to move again after being stopped without restarting the gasoline engine.
Plus, it can run solely on electric power up to 30 mph if you don't accelerate too rapidly.The Tahoe, like most hybrids, has a gauge that lets you see how eco-friendly you are driving. Avoiding hard acceleration keeps that needle in the heart of the green zone.In fact, driving that way on the more urban routes we used, we got somewhere in the ballpark of 28 mpg, which is superb.The hybrid battery pack of this 5,617-pound vehicle is based under the middle row of seats, which prevents them from folding flat.
But despite that, there is still an abundance of cargo space.The Tahoe Hybrid comes with a 6.0-liter V-8 gasoline engine that makes 332 horsepower and is mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission.The variable cylinder management feature lets the engine shut down to four cylinders when it can get by with less power, thus adding to fuel efficiency.Also contributing to the hybrid's fuel efficiency are the lighter seats and aluminum body panels, although the hybrid still weighs almost 400 pounds more than the regular Tahoe.
One little thing you'll have to get used to in the hybrid is the little whirring noise that it makes as it slows down or accelerates.But that noise is soft enough not to disrupt the otherwise silent conditions that you'll encounter. There are subtle differences in exterior design between the Tahoe Hybrid and the regular version, such as the slightly altered front end, lack of a roof rack and lower tires.There is a not-so-subtle difference, too - the huge Hybrid labels that are pasted on the body.
On the inside, the family can enjoy such options as the premium audio system, DVD entertainment system, navigation and back-up camera. Plus, as we thirsty Americans have come to expect, there are seemingly dozens of cupholders. To ensure safety, this big tank comes with lots of airbags, including up front, on the sides and at the head curtain. There are also rollover sensors.If you want to take your green machine off road, four-wheel drive is available.
We weren't able to check that feature out, but GM says its system is comparable to most trail-rated pickup trucks and offers superior stability and traction.Probably safe to say that most of this vehicle's buyers won't go off road much. But be assured that the time they will spend on road will be quite pleasant, thanks to the Tahoe Hybrid's smooth ride and great amenities.The Tahoe Hybrid's base price is around $50,500. Our tester went for a little more than $53,000.