The Bottom Line
Wouldn't it be great if you could have it all? With the 2011 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid, you almost can. You get a big, comfortable SUV that gets better fuel economy than many smaller vehicles - without sacrificing performance. Sounds great, until you look at the price: $53,540 for a 4WD Tahoe ($56,430 as tested) -- a base (gas-only, RWD) Tahoe starts at $37,980. GM is the only maker to offer full-sized Hybrid SUVs - Cadillac Escalade and GMC Yukon are mechanical duplicates of the Tahoe. If getting the most for your money is your main concern, look elsewhere. If you must have a Hybrid, this is your best choice.
- Good fuel economy for a vehicle this big
- Nimble handling
- Good looks and solid build quality
- Heavy third row leaves little room for luggage
- Big and heavy without great capacity
- Hybrid powertrain adds thousands of dollars to the bottom line
- Base Prices: $51,145 (RWD); $53,540 (4WD)
- Engine: 6.0L Vortec V8 SFI and hybrid propulsion electric motor w/300 volt energy storage system
- Horsepower: 332 @ 5,100 rpm (gas engine)
- Torque: 367 lb-ft @ 4,100 rpm (gas engine)
- Transmission: 2-mode continuous electric ratio hybrid transmission with four fixed gears
- Curb Weight: 2WD: 5,629; 4WD: 5,874
- Fuel Economy: 20 mpg city/23 mpg highway
- Wheelbase: 116"; Length: 202"; Width: 79"; Height: 76.9"; Ground Clearance: 9"
- Cargo: 108.9 cubic feet behind first row; 60.3 cubic feet behind second row; 16.9 cubic feet behind third row.
- Warranty: 3 year/60,000 mile basic warranty; 5 year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty; 8 year/100,000 mile battery and hybrid component warranty on certain hybrid components
Guide Review - 2011 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid
General Motors put a lot of money into the GMT900 platform that underlies the 2011 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid. The platform, which debuted with the 2007 Tahoe, is a body-on-frame design, the most robust way to build an SUV or truck. GM currently builds a slew of vehicles on this platform, including the GMC Yukon SUV and Sierra pickup, the Cadillac Escalade, the Chevrolet Suburban SUV and Silverado pickup, and of course the Tahoe. I've driven every vehicle in the group, and they each share some excellent characteristics. They all steer and handle very well. They are all solidly-built, with an impressive selection of materials and good fit-and-finish. The SUVs also share a deadly flaw, which is that their third row seat doesn't fold into the floor. It snaps into a track at the level of the load floor, and must be removed from the vehicle in order to leave a flat cargo bay. The third row is split 50/50, and each half weighs over 40 lbs, so removing them and replacing them is no easy feat. This feature will not change unless and until there is a GMT1000 platform -- which, given the decline in sales of full-sized SUVs, is not likely to happen soon.
The big news on this Tahoe is the Hybrid powertrain. Tahoe's hybrid gas-electric setup is a two-mode one. It can launch and power the vehicle up to 30 mph using only the electric motor; when the gas engine kicks in, the electric motor adds boost when needed. The electric system's energy storage system also powers the electrically variable transmission, the air conditioning compressor and some other electrical components on board. The hybrid's batteries are charged by the gas engine and by energy captured during regenerative braking.
The result of all this technology is a vehicle that behaves just like a regular Tahoe, for the most part. It is whisper quiet at all times, but even more so when the auto-stop feature kicks in at stop lights. The Hybrid gets much better fuel economy than the gas-only Tahoe - 20 mpg city/23 mpg highway vs. 15 mpg city/21 mpg highway. That's a 33% increase in the city, quite impressive.
You pay a price for that improvement. Towing capacity is down to 6,200 lbs from 8,400 for the gas-only. Vehicle curb weight is up, despite such weight-saving measures as the substitution of aluminum body parts for some of the stamped steel. And the bottom line is painful, with the least-expensive Hybrid out-pricing the least expensive gas-only Tahoe by almost $14,000. Even if gas prices double from their current rate, it will take a very long time to make up that gap with normal driving.
Based on pure bottom line assessment, I wouldn't recommend the 2011 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid. But there are some drivers who simply must have a hybrid, yet aren't able to make do with one of the mid-sized or compact hybrids on the market. For them, the choice will come down to the Tahoe, Yukon or Escalade. I say go for the Escalade -- it's a far more ostentatious choice, and only another $20,000.