Thursday, May 12, 2011


Enlarge to check out bugs!

Just got back from a weekend trek to the north (pretty much everywhere is “to the north” from where I live in South Florida) and have a travel alert for those of you who are looking at a motor trip down this way.

It is bug season in Florida.
By the time I had completed the stretch on Florida’s Turnpike from Fort Pierce near the coast to Orlando in the middle of the state I could barely see through my windshield, so covered was it from the bug splatter.
The front grille (see picture) also was covered. I couldn’t wait to get to one of those do-it-yourself car washes to clean it off. It actually stunk from all the residue.
Of course, I had to go through the same procedure when I got back home. Orkin should be as efficient in sending bugs to their doom as I was this past weekend.
The purpose of the trip was to bring back some of my son’s personal belongings. There wasn’t enough to justify renting a trailer or even a small van, but there was too much for my wagon or a sedan.
The 2011 Chevy Tahoe Hybrid proved to be just right for the job. Everything fit fine.
With time out for sleeping, I pretty much spent the majority of three consecutive days driving and living in the Tahoe, so I got a pretty good feel for its accommodations.
The biggest plus is the upscale interior with its comfortable leather seats. It has more the feel of a luxury SUV from Cadillac than the truck from Chevy it is. It is a great highway cruiser and easily maneuverable in tighter quarters despite its overall size.
But the bugs on the grille and windshield weren’t the only ones I encountered.
Let’s start with the third-row seats. I had to remove them, of course, and unlatching them was simple enough. But they weigh a ton and are extremely bulky. It’s not all that easy to get them out of the vehicle. Suffice to say if they were airline baggage, you’d be paying as much for them as you would your ticket.
I also wanted to fold the second-row bench seats (bucket seats also are available for the second row), and again, folding them is a simple operation. Simply lift up on the latch at the side and the backs fold forward. When folded, they are flat, but are not level with the floor in the back, so you lose some stowage space.
Second row seats folded only.
The second-row seats also tumble forward easy enough to provide more flat floor space, but if there is a way to secure them after that, I couldn’t find it. The result is that unless there is cargo smack up against the back of them to keep them in place, the second-row seats rock back and forth and bang against the backs of the front seats depending on the motion of the vehicle. They can deliver quite a jolt.
Second row seats folded and tumbled forward.
My other major complaint was with the navigation system. Starting off, the screen (about 3 X 5 3/4) is too small. That figures out to roughly 6 inches diagonally. I suggest 7 as a minimum. I may not have the sharpest eyes, but my vision isn’t all that bad either.
Second row tumbled forward.
The bigger problem was that after typing in a destination, the screen split, giving me a map on one half and some information I really didn’t care about on the other. Possibly I would have cared about that information, but trying to read it while you are at highway speed isn’t all that easy. Again, if there is a way to get rid of that half of the screen, I couldn’t find it. Simply pressing “FULL MAP” on the touch screen didn’t do it.
Next, the voice commands really didn’t give me a heads-up as early as I would have liked when a turn was was coming up. Had there been more traffic on the expressway, say during rush hour, I may have had more of a problem getting from the left lane to the right in the less than a mile-and-a-half warning that I was given. It also didn’t give me street names for my turns, just that they lay a half-mile away.

Finally, when I arrived at my destination, I found I wasn’t actually at my destination but on the other side of the main road. I was told later that this a problem that others have had with their GPS systems for this particular address, so can’t put the blame on Chevy for that.
Those peccadilloes aside, I did enjoy my time in the Tahoe.
Third Row seats folded.

As noted earlier, it’s a great interstate cruiser, and the hybrid power train delivered a enough oomph that I was never in danger of being a highway laggard. Combined, the 6.0-liter V8 engine and pair of 60 kilowatt electric motors deliver 332 horsepower and 367 pound-feet of torque to either the rear or all four wheels (depending on what setting you have selected) to move its 5,629 pounds.
For just over 2,100 miles of driving, I averaged just over 20 miles per gallon of fuel consumed, which brings up a point. Is the hybrid setup really worth it?
According to company figures, the 5.3-liter V8 in the standard Tahoe is rated at 15 mpg city, 21 highway. The hybrid is rated at 20/23, which means you could do better than my figures (I pretty much kept the tach steady at 2,000 rpm) but probably not by a whole lot.
If the difference is mileage is not that significant, the difference in price is. The base LS Tahoe starts at under $38,000 and runs up to a starting point of $51,465 for the top-of-the-line LTZ. The price tag on the Tahoe Hybrid I had was $56,430 including a $2,390 option package and $950 destination and delivery.
You get a bit more horsepower with the hybrid and more torque, but not all that much. The one thing you do get from the Hybrid that you don’t with with the standard Tahoe is brownie points from the Green crowd. If they are worth it to you, then go ahead and write the bigger check.

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