2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid | road test

Posted on Nov 9, 2008 by

Cars like the Toyota Prius have sold very
well in Europe and the U.S, with sales driven as much by the
spiralling cost of gas, as by the big push to tackle the global
warming issues that are now starting to affect us all – but I
haven’t seen one single Prius on the city streets and I wonder if
in fact there is even one here in the GCC? So, to test drive this
full-size SUV in a Hybrid form is something of a
first, and something of a surprise. But, don’t worry too much,
because driving this Tahoe Hybrid is much like driving a normal
Tahoe… well mostly.

Firstly, the Tahoe is a
pretty good all round SUV and because of this you will spot a fair
few of them on our busy streets, so GM, the owners of , have
clearer decided than rather wasting their time (and a lot of money)
on designing a fresh-from-the-ground-up, full-on Hybrid car, like the
Prius, that they would in this instance simply install some of that
fuel-saving technology into one of their popular SUVs and take a look
at sales. This is perhaps to encourage buyers to try a Hybrid car,
without ‘scaring’ them with a whole new model, offering them a
model they are used to, but it’s also more likely to try and get
some more sales out of their ailing, large SUV brands – before they
eventually completely sink under the weight of the price of a full
tank of gas, which, especially in the U.S, seems to happening right
now, where SUV sales have plummeted. But, what is the point of the
Tahoe as a Hybrid? It still packs a giant V8 engine, after all.

A throbbing, 5.3-litre,
355bhp V8 petrol engine, to be precise, and one that pushes out 460Nm
of torque – the kind of pulling power that you really need to get
one of these really big beasts moving under any kind of a decent head
of steam, especially if you are accelerating hard, or even
considering taking it into the desert for some dirty fun; a pastime
which has a reasonable following in our UAE desert landscape. So,
with this Tahoe, you get a combination of that big, gutsy V8 engine
and electric motor power that are in turn powered by extra large
batteries, much bigger than the one that starts the petrol engine,
located away from sight around the big chassis. When you are
accelerating hard the V8 does the work, giving the Tahoe some decent
take-off speed, all backed-up by a lovely deep roar that only a V8
can give you. On the complete opposite end of the speed-scale, when
you are bumper-to-bumper, this Tahoe’s uprated brain switches off
the V8 entirely and you can crawl around under completely
non-polluting battery power. But don’t expect to do anything other
than crawl under the electric steam.

When you’ve made your
pace up and are now cruising at a decent speed, the brain senses the
lack of urgency and shuts-down four of the eight cylinders,
effectively turning your big, bruising V8 Tahoe into a cute little
V4. The engine capacity is then cut down to 2.65-litres and the car
can then take smaller sips of fuel – slam your foot into the floor
once more and the other four cylinders again burst into life and you
are back on full V8 power. This process takes a little getting used
to as you still find a small step in the power delivery for the
couple of seconds it takes for the other four cylinders to fire up
and the V8 to once again turned back into the 355bhp power-mill it
once was. However, if you are pretty much on the gas most of the time
then the car will also sense this and stick to the full V8 mode,
giving you all the power, as and when you need it. But also all the
bad fuel economy.

 

 

There are little things
to get used too, such as the engine turning off completely (and
automatically) when you are sat at a traffic signal or in stationary
traffic – you’ll feel a slight judder as the big engine
shuts-down and then you are running, with everything like the
air-conditioning and the stereo still working perfectly, on big
battery power. And when the big batteries start to drain, the car
fires up the petrol engine once more to charge the batteries back to
life. It’s the simple Hybrid idea, very basically transferred into
the Tahoe… and I’m not so sure if it really works in this car or
not.

You see, the Tahoe is a
big and heavy SUV anyway, and it will always need a big and heavy V8
engine to pull it along. With cars like the Toyota Prius, it was
designed from the ground-up to work to the full advantage of the
Hybrid plan – that is a car that is as light as possible so it will
not need a large petrol engine to pull it, and with that lightweight
it can also take full advantage of the power offered by the electric
motors, as well as not being such a drain on the battery power, again
thanks to its lightweight. With this huge Tahoe, we’re kind of
defeating the object of it all – why stack out an already
super-heavy vehicle with more weight? The extra batteries and motors
are very heavy, so when you’re not taking advantage of the electric
power, you’re still hauling all that extra kit around with you and
messing up the already shocking fuel economy figures. The figures
just don’t seem to add up in this instance.

We don’t have to worry
about the price of fuel in the UAE (more the price of the Salik!), so
offering Hybrids as a way to save money is not really, in my opinion,
going to work in here. The best angle for Hybrids locally would be
the positive green issues involved in driving a car that pollutes
less than a full petrol car. The only people the Tahoe Hybrid can
really appeal to here in the UAE are those that want the huge SUV for
its space, comfort and perceived safety, but don’t want to harm the
environment with its polluting V8 engine. But, with gas prices as low
as they are here and the slight lack of green awareness, I’m really
not sure exactly how many extra customers GM will see as a result of
offering this car. Still, once you get used to using this Chevy Tahoe
Hybrid to the full extent of its skills you should start to see
better fuel figures, spending less money at the petrol pumps. And if
you do cruise everywhere at 100kph you should see a consumption rate
of around 9L per 100km, like I did, which lets be honest, really
isn’t bad at all for this massive, spacious car.

Technical Specifications:
Model – 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid
Engine – 5.3-litre V8
Power – 355 bhp
Torque – 460 Nm

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