The discontinued Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid came close to being a best-of-both-worlds sort of vehicle. To wit, it seats eight, can tow 6,200 pounds when properly equipped and gets up to 21 mpg in mixed driving. Unfortunately, the Tahoe Hybrid was considerably more expensive than a regular Tahoe when new, making it a questionable purchase from a value standpoint. And just like the regular Tahoe, the Hybrid suffered from some inherent shortcomings that made a large crossover SUV a better choice for many shoppers.
The Tahoe Hybrid never sold particularly well, so finding a used one could prove challenging. If you do track one down, keep in mind that similarly priced three-row crossovers are likely to provide comparable fuel economy and a better driving experience. Note, too, that the hybrid power system is quite complex, so long-term reliability is a bigger question mark than usual. But if you're looking for big-SUV functionality in a relatively fuel-efficient package, a used Tahoe Hybrid could still fill the bill.
Used Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid Models
Produced in a single generation for the 2008-'13 model years, the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid is a full-size SUV with a gasoline/electric powertrain that produces a healthy 379 horsepower. EPA fuel economy ratings fluctuated slightly through the years, but the combined city/highway figure was consistently 21 mpg for the rear-wheel-drive Tahoe Hybrid, with the four-wheel-drive version hovering between 20 and 21 mpg. At the time, this was approximately 30 percent better than the regular Tahoe could manage.
The secret lies in the interplay between the twin electric motors and the 6.0-liter gasoline V8 engine. For one thing, the Tahoe Hybrid can accelerate from a standstill to about 30 mph on electricity alone, though you'll need flat (or ideally downward-sloping) ground and very patient drivers behind you to make it happen. But even when the gasoline engine kicks in, the electric motors minimize fuel consumption by continuing to provide motivation. The Tahoe also capitalizes on familiar hybrid technologies such as regenerative brakes, which are used to recharge the battery pack while slowing the vehicle.
GM developed this hybrid system in conjunction with BMW and the now-defunct DaimlerChrysler partnership. The most novel component is the transmission, which uses three special planetary gearsets in addition to four fixed ratios like a conventional automatic. Depending on the driving situation, this electronically variable transmission (EVT) can function with continuously variable gearing for light loads or fixed-ratio strength for heavy-duty tasks.
Because of the considerable weight added by the hybrid-related components, Chevrolet made an effort to lighten the load and streamline the Tahoe Hybrid. Some of the body panels are made of aluminum, while thin-profile seats shed additional pounds. The Tahoe Hybrid also has aerodynamic add-ons and low-rolling-resistance tires. It's a bit surprising, then, that the four-wheel-drive Hybrid has low-range gearing, an unusual attribute for a hybrid SUV.
The rest of the Chevy Tahoe Hybrid is largely identical to well-equipped regular Tahoe models of the same vintage. It has three rows of seating, an eight-passenger capacity and up to 109 cubic feet of cargo space, more than any other hybrid. To access that full space, however, you have to physically remove the third row of seats -- just about every other large SUV allows you to fold it flat into the floor. Standard features included leather seating, a premium sound system and a navigation system. The only significant items left as options were a rear-seat entertainment system and a sunroof.
In reviews of the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid, we found that it drove very much like a regular Tahoe from that era. In fact, its acceleration and highway passing performance were a shade better. But while the Hybrid's combined fuel economy rating was a major improvement, it's still a far cry from what most people would consider "good" in the absolute sense. Overall, consumers who don't need massive towing capacity would be better served by equally roomy crossovers like the three-row Chevrolet Traverse.
Changes were few and far between for the Tahoe Hybrid. For 2009, power-adjustable pedals became standard, while the 2012 model added front-seat side airbags. Otherwise, this quirky truck received only minor technology upgrades during its run.