From the beginning, inviting the Silverado Hybrid into our long-term-test fleet was a roll of the dice. In 2003, the word "hybrid" was just beginning to take shape--it was simply understood as the blending of two technologies or designs. Three short years later, hybrid has come to mean something more specific: a combination of electric and gasoline motors working in tandem to offer significantly better fuel economy, lower emissions, and an environmentally friendly persona, all with relatively invisible (to the driver) technology. This particular definition left our long-term Silverado Hybrid somewhat misnamed, as many of our drivers noted when the vehicle didn't deliver on the expected hybrid promise. To begin, some tech explanation is necessary.
The Silverado Hybrid system uses a 14-kilowatt integrated flywheel starter-generator, replacing the alternator and traditional starter to take over shutoff, startup, and charging duties. The system allows the engine to turn off when running downhill, coasting, or braking to a stop, saving fuel and limiting emissions. Releasing your foot from the brake or touching the throttle will restart the engine. Unlike in other hybrids (Toyota, Honda, Ford), the Silverado's 42-volt battery system (stored underneath the extended cab's rear seats) supplies little power assist to the driveline while accelerating (it applies torque to smooth early converter lockup); however, it can convert its power into four (two in the cab and two in the bed) 110-volt, 20-amp outlets, able to run power tools, lighting fixtures, appliances, and anything else with a plug. Power comes from the same 5.3-liter V-8 offered in other half-ton Silverados, so the Hybrid can tow or carry anything a regular 5.3-liter pickup can. But as good as it sounds on paper, the Silverado Hybrid's daily-driving characteristics presented a few problems.
Our Truck Base price $31,045 Hybrid system $2500 OnStar & Power package
Logbook comments during the Hybrid's 15,000-mile run questioned the value of the $2500 hybrid-system option for a mere 1.0- to 1.5-mpg benefit. In real-world driving, the best improvements, not surprisingly, came during heavy stop-and-go traffic (here on L.A. freeways)--the Silverado averaged 15.5 mpg. Certainly not stellar when compared with EPA ratings of 17 city and 19 highway, but our long-term 2004 4x4 5.4-liter V-8 F-150 averaged 12.8 mpg (MT, February 2006).
The Silverado Hybrid was serviced once at 8700 miles, after its information display panel indicated less than 10-percent oil life remaining. Perhaps GM buyers love to keep track of every volt, degree, and remaining percentage of fluid life; depending on how deeply one wants to scroll, the information display features reams of such details. A recurring low-oil-pressure light came on intermittently, even though all fluid levels measured within the appropriate parameters. A complete diagnostic found no problems. The light never came on again. The service center replaced the weather seal around the passenger-side door panel to fix a worsening wind noise. A loose brake pad further made a funny sound during hard stops. Total price for repairs: $41.76, and we were on our way.
Thanks to its ability to carry tons of camera gear and power laptop computers on big road-test shoots, the Silverado was called into support-vehicle service on many occasions. On some of these shoots, walkie-talkie battery usage can be prolific. During a lunch stop (we'd been up since long before sunrise), the Silverado's 110-volt outlets recharged all our walkie-talkie batteries. When outlet power falls below a prescribed level, the engine will automatically start up to recharge the 42-volt batteries--this is a cool feature.
Unfortunate, though, is how the truck reacts after a stop, when the Hybrid's engine shuts off--the delay between startup and acceleration is unnerving. Because the engine must start up before it can accelerate, if you happen to be too quick from brake to throttle, you'll be gifted with a hard slam into gear and a jerky takeoff. The Hybrid forced us to relearn how to drive in traffic, making sure not to execute any fast takeoffs or quick starts. The smoothest drivers made sure to release the brake early and feather the throttle the instant before power was necessary. Nonetheless, the Hybrid's acceleration felt clumsy and dangerous at times, especially on hills (imagine driving an automatic that reacts like a vehicle with a clutch) when the truck wants to roll back before first gear engages.
One editor spent hours packing up the Silverado Hybrid with his Honda CR250, which, ultimately, after roughing the Silverado through the backcountry, revealed a weakness with the motorcycle strapped to the tiedowns behind the cab, front tire against the cargo bed's front rail: That tire bent the bed's front bed rail.
Further, during hot-weather driving (meaning A/C on max), the engine stays running at stop signs because of the power draw. On milder days with the A/C on, expect to feel a drop in cool air when the engine shuts off at stop signs. GM claims this has been corrected on newer models.
After a mostly trouble-free year in our long-term Silverado Hybrid, we're still struck by the bipolar aspect of the package. Its strengths are obvious--carrying, hauling, working. But as a hybrid, are the trade-offs worthwhile? The Hybrid is GM's attempt at crawling before it can tap dance, which Honda and Toyota have just about mastered. The Silverado Hybrid is a good first shot in the hybrid market--but it's still just a truck that gets about 1.5-mpg-better fuel economy than its competitors.
|2004 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid|
|Drivetrain layout||Front engine, 4WD|
|Engine type||90° V-8, cast-iron block, alum heads|
|Valvetrain ||OHV, 2 valves/cyl|
|Displacement ||325.2 cu in/5328 cc|
|Compression ratio|| 9.5:1|
|Power (SAE net)|| 295 hp @ 5200 rpm|
|Torque (SAE net)|| 330 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm|
|Weight to power|| 17.8 lb/hp|
|Transmission ||4-speed automatic|
|Axle/final/low ratios ||3.73:1 / 2.61:1 / 2.72:1|
|Suspension, front; rear|| Control arms, torsion bars, anti-roll bar; liveaxle, leaf springs|
|Steering ratio|| 14.2:1|
|Turns|| lock-to-lock 3.0|
|Brakes, f;r|| 12.0-in vented discs; 12.8-in disc, ABS|
|Wheels|| 16 x 7.0-in cast alum|
|Tires ||245/75R16 109S M+S, Goodyear Wrangler ST|
|Wheelbase ||143.5 in|
|Track, f/r|| 65.0 / 66.0 in|
|Length x width x height|| 227.6 x 78.5 x 73.9 in|
|Turning circle|| 47.3 ft|
|Curb weight ||5250 lb (mfr)|
|Weight dist, f/r ||59 / 41 %|
|Payload capacity ||1400 lb|
|Towing capacity ||8400 lb|
|Seating capacity ||5|
|Headroom, f/r ||41.0 / 38.4 in|
|Legroom, f/r ||41.3 / 33.7 in|
|Shoulder room, f/r ||65.2 / 66.3 in|
|Pickup box, L x W x H ||78.7 x 64.8 x 19.5 in|
|Width bet. wheelhouses ||50.0 in|
|Acceleration to mph|
| 0-30 ||2.6 sec|
| 0-40 ||3.9|
| 0-50 ||5.9|
| 0-60 ||8.2|
| 0-70 ||10.6|
| 0-80 ||14.8|
| 0-90 ||20.1|
| Quarter mile|| 15.8 sec @ 84.2 mph|
|Braking, 60-0 mph|| 138 ft|
|600-ft slalom ||56.7 mph avg|
|Lateral acceleration|| 0.69 g avg|
|Top gear revs @ 60 mph ||1800 rpm|
|Base price ||$31,045|
|Price as tested|| $37,743|
|Stability/traction control ||No / no|
|Airbags ||Dual front|
|Basic warranty ||3 yrs/36,000 miles|
|Powertrain warranty|| 3 yrs/36,000 miles|
|Roadside assistance|| 3 yrs/36,000 miles|
|Fuel capacity ||26.0 gal|
|EPA city/hwy econ|| 17 / 19 mpg|
|MT fuel economy|| 15.5 mpg|
|Recommended fuel|| Regular unleaded|
|From The Logbook|
|Chevy is cramming too many features into one vehicle. Difficult to call this a "hybrid" when Toyota and Honda are defining the terms. The power flow seems to surge and wobble. This is, in reality, a stop/start feature and should not be badged a hybrid. |
Are we really supposed to relearn how to drive a vehicle at stop signs or on hills? The rollback is unnerving, not to mention what it must look like if you're in the car behind it. I pay $38K and I have to drive this truck differently from every other one sold?
So many cool benefits, but not sure it's enough. Can't help but think if this option package were more about practical solutions, running power tools, blenders, and camping lights, it would be more interesting to truck guys. As it is, not invisible enough and not "Green" enough to be called a hybrid.
I like the engine shutoff at lights--makes me feel like I'm not contributing to the L.A. smog problem. Plus, the test team has a place to run their laptops at the track and the photogs can charge batteries.