The Tahoe is a capable, comfortable vehicle with all the bells and whistles you’d expect in a $50K vehicle. For example, our test ride was decked out with satellite radio and a great sound system, GPS navigation, an ultrasound backup sensor and backward-looking camera, three rows of posh leather seats, and was powered by a gas/electric hybrid. It was difficult to overlook the hybrid power, what with all the badges and the paint scheme proclaiming the vehicle’s green virtue.

Going head-to-head
Tahoe 2WD Hybrid
Characteristics
Durango Hybrid
79
Width (in.)
76
77
Height (in.)
74
116
Wheelbase (in.)
119
60 ( 3rd row removed)
Cargo volume (ft3)
20
8
Seats
8
21/22
EPA est. (city/ hwy mpg)
19/20
$50,500
Cost
$44,500

The engineers behind the 32-bit engine controller must have worked overtime on this SUV. The controller had to decide whether it needed the 6-liter 332-hp V8 to handle the load, or if the two 60-kW (80-hp) electric motors could get the job done, or whether it was going take a combination of engine and electric motors. Then, if the engine is going to be engaged, active fuel management has to decide whether to use all eight of the pistons and cylinders or deactivate four of them during low-load driving (down hill or flat terrain).

From my perspective as the driver, I couldn’t really tell which choice the car had made and I doubt whether most other drivers will be able to either. But the Tahoe responded quickly to throttle inputs and changing road conditions, and drove just like a “normal“ SUV. It also had plenty of horsepower (or kilowatts) for passing and maintaining speeds up steep hills. Braking, which is regenerative, also felt totally normal, and the brakes comfortably slow and stop the 5,600-lb vehicle.

Handling is relatively crisp. And there are no major blind spots if you adjust the mirrors. EPA says the Tahoe gets 21/22 mpg, but during my week of driving, I averaged 17.2 mpg. For comparison, a 5.8-liter equipped nonhybrid Tahoe gets 14/20 mpg. Potential buyers might wonder whether that’s enough to justify a $5,000 premium over the LTZ Tahoe, the top of the line nonhybrid version.

The vehicle is large with plenty of interior space. Some folks might say it’s too large and should be outlawed. But if you need to carry a couple people and their luggage, you need this kind of space. For example, it was practically perfect for taking seven nieces and nephews on a day trip. But the three sitting in the rear row mentioned that there was little legroom even though two of them had fairly little legs. It also earned five-star ratings on front crashes for driver and passengers as well as on side crashes for front and rear seat occupants.

The car is almost too-well optioned. Base price is about $50,500, and the power sunroof option kicked it up another $900. Chevy might sell more if it cut down the size of the V8, went to cloth seats, eliminated the backup and navigation gadgets, toned down the stereo, and just made it more of a $39K bare-bones hybrid. Then let the environmentally conscious people trying to “keep up with Jones’ ” buy the $70k hybrid Escalade.