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Driving Today

Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid: Big Bang Theory

Buying a hybrid version of a full-size SUV may seem oxymoronic, but it could be worth another look.

If you want a hybrid and the fuel economy benefits that accompany such a purchase, you probably don’t want a full-size sport utility vehicle. On the other hand, if you want a full-size sport utility vehicle you probably don’t care about fuel economy. These feelings are “truisms” in the car business, but they might not actually be true. Many people who are considering current hybrid vehicles likely have large families that enjoy outdoor activities, and most of us who aren’t trust-fund babies would undoubtedly prefer better fuel economy to poorer fuel economy.

But the conventional wisdom has many adherents. When Toyota and Honda introduced hybrid powertrains, they did it in small vehicles that were likely to get good fuel economy anyway. The Toyota Prius small-hatchback has become the hybrid poster child, while other hybrids have enjoyed indifferent success at best. But all this has not prevented Chevrolet from choosing a different route by introducing a hybrid version of its popular Tahoe SUV. The resulting fuel economy figures are hardly eye-popping compared to, say, a Toyota Prius, but its urban-cycle fuel economy is 33 percent better than the non-hybrid Tahoe. That’s a big difference. And the hybrid actually offers more horsepower and torque than the standard Tahoe because of the boost from the two electric motors in its Electrically Variable Transmission.

So should you opt for the Tahoe Hybrid versus the conventional Tahoe? It depends on what kind of driving you do and what you’re willing to give up. The Hybrid offers seating for up to eight, and 6,200 pounds of towing. However, it lacks a power liftgate, roof rails and a full-power seat. Because it uses the brakes to generate electricity for the big battery pack, the brakes also feel a bit strange. And if you drive on the highway, its fuel economy is only slightly better than the conventional Tahoe. But if most of your driving is around town from school pickup to soccer practice drop-off, the Tahoe Hybrid may be a perfect feel-good choice for your family. At around $55,000, it’s not cheap, but it does a big job.