Greening-up conventional cars is very laudable, but when it comes to the most gas-guzzling eco-disaster family vehicle out there–the SUV–sometimes it’s better to admit defeat and move on.
The SUV in this instance is the Yukon Denali. Today GM is unveiling a hybrid-powered model at the New York Auto Show. This top-end vehicle is getting the same drive train that other GM hybrids already have, a two-mode hybrid transmission. That will push the Yukon up to 21 mpg in city driving and 22 mpg on the highway when in conventional two-wheel drive, and 20 mpg for both in four-wheel drive.
Simultaneously GM is launching the half-car, half-SUV 2010 Terrain, which has a more efficient conventional engine–a 2.4 liter unit that can do up to 30 mpg in highway driving.
Yet on a planet nervous about oil reserves, with a recent history of rocketing gasoline prices, and the world-wide concerns over pollution and global warming, is this really anything other than a symbolic move by GM? The Yukon Denali may well have a neat “buzzword” hybrid drive, but it’s mated to a 6.0-liter Vortec V8 conventional engine that puts out 332 horse power: a ridiculous monster. The new Terrain may also manage 30 mpg on the highway, something Autoblog dubs a “very handsome figure” among its peers, but there’s still an option to give it a bigger 3.0-liter direct injected V6 engine that gets just 25 mpg.
Compare that to the most famous hybrid car, the Toyota Prius, which gets 45 mpg on the highway, and 48 mpg in the city–basically twice the Yukon’s range, and half as much again as the Terrain. Even the totally gas-powered Smart car gets 41 mpg for highway driving, although it’s admittedly a vehicle in a different class.
But maybe that’s the point. Particularly in the grim situation U.S. car makers find themselves in, can GM actually justify releasing these “new” SUV-class vehicles, touting the green aspects of the tech, or is it time for the entire class be abandoned as a bad idea?