What's New for 2013
The 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid sees no major changes.
If you were coaching a little league baseball team, you might walk over to one of your young players who'd given it their all and still struck out, pat them on the back and offer a few encouraging words like "Alright, nice effort." When it comes to the game of building fuel-efficient SUVs, we could say the same thing about the 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid.
While this full-size eight-passenger hybrid-powered SUV has its advantages, it also has a number of strikes against it. The end result is unfortunately no more successful than that little leaguer.
Now, the Chevy Tahoe Hybrid has earned EPA ratings of 20 mpg city and 23 mpg highway, which are impressive numbers for a vehicle that tips the scales at nearly 3 tons. It can also carry most of your starting lineup to the ballpark while towing a trailer loaded with up to 6,200 pounds of gear. The smooth ride and comfortable interior are also positives.
Where the Tahoe Hybrid's game starts to fall apart is the powertrain's performance quirks, including odd delays and surging in both acceleration and braking. As in non-hybrid Tahoe models, the heavy third-row seat has to be wrestled out and stashed somewhere in order to make use of the cargo space behind the second row of seats.
The final strike, however, is its high price tag, which is considerably more than what you'll pay for a comparably equipped non-hybrid Tahoe. While that price difference is enough to give you pause in the short term, EPA estimates say that you'd only save about $550 a year in fuel costs compared to the regular Tahoe, making it highly unlikely you'll ever recoup that money from savings at the gas pumps.
With all that in mind we'd strongly suggest anyone considering the Chevy Tahoe Hybrid also look at some of its competitors. Topping that list would be the midsize 2013 Toyota Highlander Hybrid, which seats seven and is significantly more fuel-efficient and much less expensive. If it's simply maximum seating capacity/cargo room you're after, have a look at a large crossover like the reasonably efficient 2013 Chevrolet Traverse and 2013 Ford Flex, both of which offer roomy interiors and a markedly better driving experience.
Of course, none of these choices can match the Tahoe Hybrid's towing capability, which is certainly a strong suit. But while we can honestly applaud the idea behind the 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid, in the end it's really no more than a nice effort.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid is an eight-passenger full-size SUV that's offered in a single very well-equipped trim level known as 1HY.
Standard equipment includes 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, power-folding heated mirrors (driver-side auto-dimming), running boards, rear parking sensors, remote ignition, cruise control, tri-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery (first and second rows only; third row vinyl), heated six-way power front seats with manual recline, a 60/40-split-folding second-row seat, 50/50 folding and removable third-row seats, power-adjustable pedals, a tilt-only steering wheel and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Onboard electronics include Bluetooth phone connectivity, OnStar emergency communications, a hybrid-specific trip computer, a rearview camera, a touchscreen navigation system with voice controls and real-time traffic info, and a nine-speaker Bose audio system with a CD player, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack, an iPod/USB audio interface and rear headphone jacks. A sunroof and a rear-seat entertainment system are the only two options and can be packaged together.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2013 Chevy Tahoe Hybrid features a powertrain that combines a 6.0-liter V8 with two 60-kilowatt electric motors supplied by a nickel-metal hydride battery pack under the rear seat. On its own, the V8 is rated at 332 horsepower and 367 pound-feet of torque. GM engineers say that the combined output of the gas and electric motors totals 379 hp.
The unique transmission houses the electric motors along with three different planetary gearsets and four traditional clutches. It's complex to say the least, but simply put, it maximizes efficiency by adapting itself to current driving conditions. Rear-wheel drive is standard, while four-wheel drive is optional and includes a two-speed transfer case. All Tahoe Hybrids are equipped with a locking rear differential.
In Edmunds performance testing, the Tahoe Hybrid went from zero to 60 mph in 8.2 seconds, which is pretty good for a full-size SUV. EPA-estimated mileage is 20 mpg city/23 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined regardless of drivetrain. A properly equipped 2WD Tahoe Hybrid can tow up to 6,200 pounds, while the 4WD model is rated at 5,900 pounds.
The 2013 Chevy Tahoe Hybrid comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability control, traction control, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and rear parking sensors. Also standard is OnStar, which includes automatic crash notification, on-demand roadside assistance, remote door unlocking and stolen vehicle assistance.
In government crash testing, the Tahoe Hybrid earned an overall rating of four stars (out of five), with five stars for both frontal crash protection and side crash protection. Its three-star rollover rating lowered the Chevy's overall score.
In Edmunds brake testing, a Tahoe Hybrid came to a stop from 60 mph in 132 feet, a respectable distance for a full-size truck.
Interior Design and Special Features
Inside the 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid you'll find a passenger cabin that's virtually indistinguishable from the non-hybrid model, which is to say its design is reasonably attractive if a bit utilitarian. Overall, gauges and controls are easily readable and simple to use. The one minor exception here is the unique hybrid information screens built into the gauge cluster and the center touchscreen, which can end up being a little distracting.
From a comfort perspective, front and second-row seats are hard to fault. The 50/50-split third-row seat is another story because of its limited legroom, making a large crossover like the Chevy Traverse or Ford Flex a much better choice if you plan to utilize all three rows very often. The third-row seat's major flaw, however, is that both of the heavy individual sections have to be lifted out and stored in order to make full use of the Tahoe Hybrid's cavernous cargo hold. With that seat out of the way and the second-row seatbacks folded down, you'll have 109 cubic feet of room, a space that puts most other hybrids — with the exception of its Cadillac Escalade Hybrid and GMC Yukon Hybrid cousins — to shame.
From behind the steering wheel, the 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid feels a bit more sluggish than its powertrain's 379-hp rating might suggest. Acceleration is acceptable, but it just doesn't have the punch you'd expect from a truck with a monster 6.0-liter V8 under the hood.
Theoretically the big truck can roll along at speeds of up to 30 mph solely on the output of the hybrid powertrain's electric motors. In practice, however, the gasoline engine comes online much sooner, creating a bit of a surge that can be a bit of an annoyance until you get used to it. Even more off-putting is the performance of the regenerative braking system which, in its efforts to recharge the battery pack, creates a lag the moment you step on the pedal, followed by a distinct grabby sensation.
The Tahoe Hybrid's ride quality and quiet interior make it very appealing on the highway. That said, maneuvering this big truck in tight confines like crowded surface streets or parking lots can be a challenge, especially when compared to driving a large crossover. When it comes to pulling a trailer, the Tahoe Hybrid definitely out-muscles other hybrids, but its towing capacity is significantly less than that of similar full-size SUVs.