2013 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid 4WD

Hybrid That Can Handle A Work Day
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As a former Chevrolet Tahoe owner, I always appreciated the honest and hardworking values that Chevrolet baked into the truck, including sturdy construction, spacious seating, a smooth ride and quiet interior, and enthusiastic towing and hauling capability. However there was a constant negative: pulling up to the gas pump, where 15 mpg was the price paid for all that roominess and performance. Enter the 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid, a vehicle with all the positive traits of the standard Tahoe - hopefully combined with more palatable fuel economy.

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Fuel Conscious

Like the gasoline Tahoe, the 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid uses a truck-based body-on-frame design and available four-wheel-drive. But its larger 6.0-liter V8 engine is supplemented by dual electric motors and 300-volt battery pack for added power. The system is supposed to be capable of propelling the Chevrolet Tahoe on electric drive alone, and it does up to 20 mph - but only with extremely light throttle application. Step on the accelerator even moderately and the gasoline engine kicks in. In our experience, only in creeping traffic or while crawling through parking lots would the Tahoe drive on electricity only; otherwise it's a combination of gas and electric. Whatever, the formula works because during our time with the 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid it returned 20.1 mpg - close to the window sticker's claimed 21-mpg EPA estimate for combined driving.

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Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid Works

In the early days of the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight, shoppers may have questioned how much work the new hybrid vehicles could actually do. They need not worry insofar as the 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid is concerned, because in addition to its three-row, eight-passenger seating, it boasts a 5,900-lb. towing capacity. This is plenty to tow most family-sized boats or trailers, although it lags behind the standard Tahoe 4WD's 8200-lb. towing capability. The payload capacity is closer to equal, 1344 lb. for the 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid 4WD vs. 1606 lb. for the gasoline Tahoe 4WD.

Aside from unique exterior badges, aero features and wheels, there are few visual differences between the two models. But the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid has its own unique driving personality. Among them are prevalent motor and/or controller noise, a coarse transition from regenerative braking to hydraulic braking, and relatively numb electric power steering (EPS) feel. As well, the 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid feels heavy during handling maneuvers - and while it does everything the driver asks of it (thanks to fat, grippy Bridgestone P265/65R18 tires), there's no hiding its 5956-lb. curb weight - although surprisingly it weighs just 262 lb. more than a similarly equipped Chevrolet Tahoe LT 4WD model.

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Refined Interior

On the positive aside, apart from the hybrid system noise, the interior is refined and largely free of wind and road noise, the high seating position affords an excellent field of view, and the idle-stop feature adds an element of calmness to the drive experience - although we found that it does not always function consistently. Another great 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid feature is its V4/V8 operation, where the engine can switch to four-cylinder operation under light throttle openings, such as during highway cruising. When this happens, the real-time fuel-economy readout indicates mileage in the high 20s - impressive indeed for a vehicle of this size.

All told, the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid stretches your interpretation of big SUVs. It can whisper along on battery power alone, or roar with V8 muscle; its well-calibrated EVT transmission offers stepless operation or can be shifted like a four-speed in manual mode; and the gasoline engine cycles on and off depending on need. The takeaway is that this is a complex vehicle, with numerous operating systems tied together to provide an effective overall package. By and large it works, as the 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid does deliver on the general big-SUV promise of brisk performance, a high level of utility, ample storage and hauling capability - while also adding acceptable fuel mileage.

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Price vs. Payoff

With an MSRP of $56,845, this skill set does not come cheap - the 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid costs $8,020 or 16 percent more than a gasoline Tahoe LT 4WD. Given its 33-percent better city fuel economy, for those who drive a lot - especially in the city where hybrids make the most sense - this may be worthwhile if you keep your vehicles a long time. In simple terms, if you drive 12,000 miles a year, it will take 10 years to recover the cost of the Tahoe Hybrid's higher MSRP compared to its gasoline counterpart. But the selection of a hybrid vehicle often honors other elements, such as the "I'm doing the right thing" factor, enjoying tax breaks, or perhaps getting to use HOV freeway lanes. Whatever rationale wins in the case of the 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid, we expect that its customer base will be affluent enough to absorb the higher purchase or lease cost while they're enjoying the savings at the pump. The rest of the logic, as they say, is personal.

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