What's New for 2011
For 2011, the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid carries over unchanged.
One of the cornerstones of marketing is the belief that perception is more important than reality. Another theory states that it's best to be first to market in any given product category. And a third is that making people feel good about themselves or the things they buy is a surefire way to boost sales. All three are in play -- with varying degrees of success -- with the 2011 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid SUV.
First, Chevy promotes its Tahoe Hybrid as a smart, green SUV that sips fuel and therefore does its part to help conserve Earth's resources. It's rated at a surprising 21 mpg in combined driving. But the Tahoe Hybrid is quite expensive and operates with overall efficiency only slightly better than conventional crossover SUVs that are likely better choices for most shoppers.
As for the other marketing principles, Chevy's Tahoe Hybrid (and its GMC Yukon Hybrid twin) was indeed America's first full-size hybrid SUV. But given the lack of competition and slow sales, it seems more like the answer to a question few have asked. Allowing green thinkers to feel better about their vehicle choice certainly plays a role here; if they want to spend over $50,000 for the satisfaction of owning a Tahoe Hybrid, we won't rain on their parade.
If you tow moderately heavy loads and price isn't an issue, a case might be made for the Chevy Tahoe Hybrid SUV. Of course, one could tow more and spend much less with a regular Tahoe. Alternately, you might consider smaller, diesel-powered three-row luxury crossovers like the Audi Q7 TDI and BMW X5 xDrive35d that have less interior room but greater fuel efficiency and a superior driving experience. And if pulling heavy objects isn't a requirement, you'd be well advised to consider a large crossover like the Chevy Traverse, Dodge Durango or Ford Explorer.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid is an eight-passenger full-size SUV offered in a single trim level. Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels, power-folding heated side mirrors, remote start, power-adjustable pedals, rear park assist with a rearview camera, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a hybrid power flow display, leather upholstery, power front seats and tri-zone automatic climate control. Also standard are Bluetooth, OnStar, a navigation system and a nine-speaker Bose audio system with CD/MP3 stereo, satellite radio and a USB port. A sunroof and a rear-seat entertainment system are optional.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2011 Tahoe Hybrid is powered by a 6.0-liter V8 engine working in tandem with a pair of 60-kilowatt electric motors located inside its specialized automatic transmission. Together they produce 332 horsepower and 367 pound-feet of torque transmitted through the rear wheels on two-wheel-drive models or all four wheels on four-wheel-drive models.
The Tahoe Hybrid offers strong, nearly seamless performance. It can accelerate to nearly 30 mph using the electric motors only, while the V8 kicks in when necessary at higher speeds and under loads. A cylinder-deactivation system helps further reduce fuel consumption, and regenerative braking replenishes the batteries while stopping.
Estimated fuel economy is excellent for a truck-based SUV at 20 mpg city/23 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined. A properly equipped Tahoe Hybrid can tow up to 6,200 pounds.
The 2011 Chevy Tahoe Hybrid comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability control, traction control, front-seat side airbags and side curtain airbags.
In the government's new, more strenuous 2011 crash-testing procedure, the Tahoe Hybrid earned an overall rating of four stars (out of five), with five stars for overall frontal crash protection and five stars for overall side crash protection. Its three-star rollover rating is the cause for its lower overall score.
In Edmunds brake testing, a Tahoe Hybrid came to a stop from 60 mph in 132 feet -- a good distance for a full-size truck.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid's cabin is nearly identical to that found in the regular Tahoe, meaning it boasts an upscale design with high-quality fit and finish. The layout of its controls is straightforward and their operation, intuitive -- including the standard touchscreen navigation system. There's room for eight, but if you regularly fill the cheap seats out back, note that the Chevy Traverse crossover has better third-row accommodations.
When it comes time to load up with cargo, those 50/50-split rear seats don't fold away conveniently like those in most competitors; they can be heavy and awkward to remove, and must be stored elsewhere. Once out, though, there are 109 cubic feet of maximum cargo capacity available, making the Tahoe one of the roomiest hybrids on the market.
The 2011 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid weighs more than a standard Tahoe, and its hybrid-specific electronic automatic transmission is a bit lazy under full power. As a result, acceleration is good but not quite as sharp as you might expect given the advertised horsepower and torque.
The Tahoe Hybrid is adept as a highway cruiser, swallowing up the miles with a quiet and cushioned ride. There's a penalty to be paid for this, however: slow steering response and ponderous handling dynamics as speeds increase. Crossover SUVs offer a noticeably better driving experience.