DVD: The system has rear audio controls and headsets. It kept the kids entertained on our Miami trip.
Ride: The 5,000-pound-plus SUV is a smooth highway cruiser.
Running boards: A needed step for kids.
Do you need the towing capacity and sturdiness of a pickup as well as the family-friendly capacity of a third-row seat? How about an entertainment system for the kids and lots of cup holders? Oh, and to ease any guilt, it's a hybrid that gets an estimated 21 mpg in city driving — just one less than Chevy's four-cylinder Malibu sedan.
Appearance: Essentially, this is a Silverado — it uses a truck platform — so it has a pickup's commanding stance, with wide-set headlights and the split horizontal grille that now characterizes Chevys. There's not much in the way of styling details, save for the slightly flared fenders.
Performance: The Tahoe drives much like the Silverado Hybrid we had last year. It has the same two-mode hybrid system (two small electric motors packed inside the transmission instead of one large motor) and Chevy's 6-liter, 332-horsepower V-8. At startup, there's just a quiet hum, which continues until the V-8 takes over when needed. If you're not paying attention, you'd forget the vehicle was running. The engine also uses cylinder deactivation, which turns off four cylinders during "light load conditions." The Premium Smooth Ride suspension helps take the "truckness" out of the Tahoe, softening bounces and bumps. Peter drove it to Miami and had a comfortable trip. But because it's a large SUV, it rides tall. The four-speed transmission shifts well, and we both thought the steering had a surprisingly light feel. Our Tahoe had on-demand four-wheel drive.
Interior: The interior is simple, with white-on-black gauges and an uncluttered console. Our tester has goodies such as Bluetooth, navigation system with XM satellite service and a 115-volt power outlet. The faux wood trim tones down the cabin's plasticky feel. The heated leather seats are comfortable and supportive. The second-row seat is a 60-40 bench, and the third row seats three passengers. Lyra was helped by the power-adjustable pedals, which helped her find a comfortable position, but she would have liked the seat to move up a little more so she could look over the bulky hood better. Our tester also had ultrasonic rear parking assist and a rearview camera, which seems like a necessity for a big vehicle. But getting into this tall SUV requires agility.
Our 3 favorites
Lots of elbow room: The large armrest can double as a small desk.
Hybrid system: It's smooth and quiet. The transition to and from the V-8 is seamless.
Seating capacity: There's room for eight.
The bottom line: The Tahoe Hybrid may be one of the better solutions for the active family that needs its size and 7,300-pound towing capacity. Compared to the regular Tahoe, it's a gas sipper, but you'll have to pay the price to go green.