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2009 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid Review

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By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

The Tahoe Hybrid makes its mark in two ways: By being the first GMC-built vehicle to use the two-mode hybrid system; and secondly, to use hybrid technology in any full-size SUV. Whether or not you're a fan of large SUVs, it is quite a feat to tune a large 6.0-liter V8 engine to retain 20-mpg on the dot. It has received its accolades, such as Green Car of the Year.

I drove a 2008 Chevy Tahoe Hybrid with 4-wheel drive and the two-mode, 6.0-liter V8 engine. Standard highlights included 6-way power seating; heated leather seating; second-row climate control; power adjustable pedals; remote vehicle start; rearview camera system; Bose stereo; 1 year of OnStar service. The power sliding glass was an extra ($995) as was the rear seat DVD entertainment system ($1,295). Total vehicle price came to $56,500.

Making a big point of categorizing the Tahoe Hybrid's gas consumption as the same as the 4-cylinder Toyota Camry – that is, the 2-wheel drive engine, which gets 21-mpg. It's certainly true any vehicle with such a large V8 engine can get anywhere near this gas mileage.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: Despite the leather and wood trim, overall the interior doesn't woo me. Creature comforts include heated seats with three settings and tilting/sliding moonroof. Second row climate controls and full DVD entertainment system. The optional third row is nicely designed; the right or left seat pops up separately so the system is flexible and easy to use. No automatic rear liftgate. The vehicle has been branded repeatedly on the exterior – count them – nine times with hybrid paraphernalia. A bit ostentatious for my taste; the response for this was usually snide.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The Tahoe is equipped with anti-lock brakes, their stability control system called Stabilitrack, remote start, head curtain side-impact air bags, and OnStar Turn-by-Turn navigation – if you get lost, you can speak to a live person who will guide your route. GM backs the Tahoe Hybrid with a 3-year/36,000 mile limited warranty and a 5-year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty

Cost Issues: The $56,500 is a chunk to swallow – one that turns out to be an investment, as far as depreciating assets go. In Consumer Report's calculations, if you evaluate a five-year cost of ownership, you save thousands on gas ($4,500) and receive a tax rebate ($2,200); overall you'll save $1,500 versus say a Lexus GS 450h Hybrid that ends up putting you $5,500 in the red. If you do the long-term math, only a handful of hybrids really do save you money; the Saturn Vue Greenline Hybrid, another GM product, saves consumers $3,000 using the five-year ownership averaging.

Activity & Performance Ability: It's a weighty vehicle with the 4-wheel drive able to tow 6,000 pounds. Turning radius was convenient (better than expected). The ride is controlled and smooth; the brakes take some getting used to. The shifter placed on the steering wheel is a little sticky.

The Green Concern: While it's commendable to put a hybrid system in a large SUV, keep in mind the new powertrain isn't making leaps and bounds with gas conservation. The EPA Green Vehicle Guide gives all Tahoe Hybrids an across-the-board score of 6 out of 10 concerning reduction of air pollution and greenhouse gases. The Green Car Journal – a magazine – awarded the Tahoe Hybrid as its 2008 Green Car of the Year.

The Chevy Tahoe is for families who are comfortable with a more traditional SUV-shape but looking to alleviate all the gas-consumption guilt. The V8 engine still holds impressive power while the two-mode hybrid transmission really does retain 20-mpg.

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MORE: Chevrolet Specs, Comparisons and Prices - Chevrolet Buyers Guide

2008 Katrina Ramser