24 MPG There and Back: GM Deserves Big Props

If you know me and my style of blogging, you know I won't gloss over the flaws in a product, even if the company gives me a free sample or use of it before writing about it. I won't be paid to write a review of a product where I'm told what my tone or conclusion has to be in advance.  I tend to be critical and negative, and even a little snarky.  At the beginning of the Great Chevy Hybrid Tahoe Adventure, I was so ready to tell all of you SUV drivers that there's no substitute for giving up the SUV entirely and moving on to a better, more efficient hybrid.  I am, after all, a Prius owner.

Then I started working out the numbers.  The Tahoe seats 8 comfortably. Let's assume you could put together a carpool with six for work, and that your commute was mostly highway with some street driving.  That's six people in one vehicle, taking advantage of carpool lanes all the way.  That's 5 people not driving themselves to work.  Our mileage worked out to 24+ mpg.  Figure that as an average for those 5 people now seated in the Tahoe and it isn't difficult to conclude that 24+ mpg can be extrapolated out to an effective mpg of over 120. 

 Our Prius gets about 55 on average with mostly highway, some street driving. But we could really only comfortably seat 4, and the additional weight would bring the mpg down to about 40, I'm guessing.

 Guess what?  For carpools, the Tahoe might just win the day. I stand corrected.

I discovered something else on our journey: Some people need big vehicles. Like the cop we met on our stop in Goleta, who drives a regular Tahoe and asked Suebob about the hybrid. Or my neighbor, who is a self-employed window guy, and has to have a truck for his gear, glass and tools.  Or the mom over at the dance studio who drives one of her kids down to LA twice a week along with some others.  

All of these people have real stories, real needs, and are really interested in getting as much fuel economy as possible.  It was so interesting to me to have conversations all along the way with total strangers (beginning with the guy that was so scary on day one) who were enthusiastic and interested in the possibilities with a hybrid.

Now, after all that, let me tell you why GM deserves big props:

  • They made it easy for us. They dropped off the Tahoe, giving me an extra day with it on either side of our trip, no strings attached, no worries, just friendly Twitters along the way from the whole crew.
  • They did not voice any expectation that we would be positive about the vehicle. There were no strings attached to this, not even that it be returned with a full tank of gas (and it wasn't).
  • They invited us to try everything out, and we did. We put it through its paces up and back, plus I used it to drive my daughter to school, and take a photowalk at the beach (one that resulted in a drenched BlackBerry and angst, but that's another story).
  • They believe in their product enough to trust a total stranger with it for a few days and a big adventure.

Bottom line: GM's confidence in their product is well-placed.  I'm not going to rush out and be first in line for one of them, but that's mainly because I don't need one.  But if I DID need one, I'd definitely, absolutely, put this one at the top of my list.

Thank you, GM, for the opportunity to try it out, and for the freedom to do it honestly and critically.  I'll give you the official verdict in the next post.

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