News Column

Huge Hybrids: Are the Price Tags Worth the Gas Savings?

Feb. 26, 2009

Ralph Gray, for

hybrid cars, hybrid trucks, car reviews, test drive

Two down and three to go is the scorecard for full-size hybrid sports utilities.

The survivors are from General Motors, the fallen are from Chrysler. Still around are the Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade. The vanished are the Chrysler Aspen and Dodge Durango.

All share the two-mode hybrid system developed by Chrysler, GM, Mercedes-Benz and BMW. The Teutonic vehicles are coming.

The Tahoe and Dodge Durango are still big, bad sports utility vehicles that can tow a strip mall. But the hybrid tames the miles per gallon nicely.

The result: large people carriers that can render a rock or two and pass up the gas pump a little.

This versatility doesn't come cheaply. The Tahoe base price is $50,455 and Durango Hybrid comes in at $45,340. That's a lot more than most small car hybrids, some of which can actually carry luggage.

The two-wheel drive Tahoe gets 21 mpg in the city and 22 on the highway. The test vehicle delivered 23.2 miles in city and suburban driving. Chevrolet says that's a 50 per cent improvement over the 5.3L V-8 non-hybrid. The Dodge Durango went from 13 city to 19 mpg and from 19 highway to 20 highway.

The two modes in the hybrid system kick in via a continuously variable transmission. The first mode is for low speed and light loads operating on electric, gas engine or a combination. The second mode is for highway use with full power from the V-8, 5.7L for the Dodge and 6L for the Chevy.

The Tahoe gets to 60 mph in 9.4 seconds and the Durango in 9.7. Both exhibited acceleration hiccups in moving between the two power sources.

Good tries, though. Very good tries.

Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid

Engines: 6L V-8/two-mode hybrid.

Dimensions: 116" wheelbase; 202" length.

Base Price: $50,485/tested $52,700.

Fuel Economy: 21 city/22 highway mpg.

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Source: (c) 2009. All rights reserved.

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