The 2010 Chevrolet Tahoe
Hybrid goes beyond big. It is well into gargantuan territory. Which isn't necessarily a good thing. Especially if you live in an urban environment like I do. This tank of a vehicle was kind of like a bull in a China shop with nothing nimble about it.
Petite drivers need not apply.
While I was able to get a great driving position with excellent visibility with the 6-way power adjustable seat combined with the tilt/telescoping steering wheel and power adjustable pedals, everything else about this vehicle was cumbersome for this 5-foot-tall driver.
Entry and exit was doable with the running boards, but it wasn't pretty. Especially in a pencil skirt and high heels. The third-row seat is an often necessary feature in growing families who carpool.
But if you need the cargo room over the passenger space, forget about it. The rear seats fold down, but they don't fold flat. If you need the space, you have to remove these 100-pound suckers from the vehicle. Which is kind of easy as they slide down a track. But lifting them in and out, not so much. Access to the third-row seat is also a bit of a trial. While the second-row does flip forward in two separate motions, it requires a bit of extra oomph for that second lift, and putting the seat back in place is no mean feat either.
The good news, however, is that this is a pretty pleasant vehicle for a family outing with lots of smooth highway driving. I had the occasion to cart two adults and two children around for a short road trip, and the two under-12 children clambered into the back, plopped a DVD into the optional rear-seat entertainment system (part of the Sun, Entertainment, Destination Package for $2,390), and settled in for the ride. They could either put on wireless headphones and tune out the adult talk or leave the audio through the cabin so that the non-drivers could sit in the middle row and watch as well.
As far as the driver is concerned, though, the drop-down screen provides a bit of a blind spot as it pretty much blocks the entire rear window in the rearview mirror. Not to mention the fact that is annoying to hear but not see a movie that everyone else is giggling over.
I'm seriously not a fan of the uber-SUV, not only because of the whole size issue but also because of the gas guzzling thing. So, I guess if you have to go this route, the Tahoe Hybrid is your best bet. But you have to drive this like a hybrid-not a large SUV with an awesome V-8 engine.
I learned this the hard way.
While the EPA estimates city/highway economy of 21/22 mpg, I was averaging around 18 mpg. And when I posted this to my Facebook page, one of my friends politely asked what in the hell I was doing. She owns this vehicle and gets much better mileage.
In theory, and with a lighter foot, a hybrid in a large SUV is a brilliant idea. Especially when you pair it with an engine that has Active Fuel Management that shuts down 4 out of 8 cylinders when driving at a consistent speed. This is in addition to the boost of the electric motor and the potential for electric only driving in slow city situations. But you have to be committed to the fuel-efficient way of life to make this pay.
This vehicle is solidly mid-cycle, so there's not a lot new to report other than the addition of a USB port for iPod/mp3 connectivity through the audio system.
For being such a large vehicle, the cockpit was surprisingly functional. All the gauges and controls were in an easy-to-reach and logical location, and I was particularly fond of the huge center console that was able to store my medium-sized purse.
The one thing that disappointed me was the overall ride of the Tahoe Hybrid. Because it's such a large vehicle with 18-inch wheels. I expected it to handle varying road surfaces a little better than it did. There were several times that I hit some whopper potholes that would have sent passengers heads straight into the ceiling if they weren't strapped in.
Because this is a large SUV in addition to a hybrid, that means you're going to pay, pay, pay for the privilege. Base price for the 2-wheel drive model is $50,720. The test vehicle was the up-level 4-wheel drive model with a base price of $53,525. The good news: Features like leather and navigation are standard. So even if you add every option, you won't top $60K. The test vehicle added rear entertainment and a premium paint, so the as-tested price was $56,810.