2009 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid First Drive
Hybrid Hauler: Chevy Delivers a Ride for the Eco-Conscious Trucker
The torch-and-pitchfork-wielding mob of hardcore truck fans that attack the Honda Ridgeline, or anything else not considered a "real truck" for that matter, probably won't be burning down any garages containing the 2009 Chevy Silverado Hybrid or its GMC Sierra twin. Despite the eco-friendly gasoline-electric drivetrain and miserly (for a truck, at least) fuel economy that goes with it, this is a legitimate full-size pickup.
Seeing as it's a low-volume offering, the Silverado Hybrid comes in a short-bed crew-cab configuration only. Under the hood is a 6.0L V-8 rated at 332 hp and 367 lb-ft of torque mated to GM's two-mode hybrid system, consisting of a pair of 60-kW (80-hp) electric motors sited in the bell housing of an electrically variable transmission that can also operate as a manually shifted four-speed auto. Powered by a 300-volt nickel-metal-hydride battery stored under the rear seats, these motors provide gobs of instantly available torque and can propel the truck without assistance from the engine up to around 25-30 mph -- albeit only with extremely light throttle input as we found out. On top of the hybrid bits, belt-driven power-steering and air-conditioning pumps make way for electric ones, wheels are fitted with low-rolling-resistance tires, and the big V-8 can switch off half its cylinders under a light load thanks to GM's Active Fuel Management system. The result: an impressive for a truck EPA city/highway rating of 21/22 mpg (RWD)and 20/21 mpg (4WD).
These aren't "when three of the Galilean moons of Jupiter align to form an equilateral triangle" numbers either -- if the on-board fuel-economy computer is to be believed. Your lead-footed scribe achieved 19.6 mpg driving around the streets of San Antonio. Others who were gentler with the accelerator pedal than a New York cabbie achieved the claimed 21-22 mpg. Many V-6 sedans would be hard-pressed to hit that on a regular basis, and they don't weigh almost three tons. Keep the standard tonneau cover on though, unless you have to haul something big or you'll lose a mile or two per gallon.
Speaking of the accelerator, the green Silverado is no supercharged Tundra rocket-truck, but it's no smart fortwo either and should post 0-to-60 times in the 8.0-sec range. Take-off isn't delayed at all, and the accelerator pedal has a typical "it's big, but it works" truck feel to it. Brakes engage almost instantly after depressing the slow-down pedal and the transition from regenerative to friction braking is barely noticeable, the only sign being a slight bump in the pedal. Transitions from gasoline-only to hybrid mode are seamless and given away by the whine of the electric motor and then only if the windows are down.
Ride quality is very good, thanks in part to the new hydraulic mid-body mount. Developed specifically for the Silverado Hybrid to counteract the weight of the battery pack, this mount does a good job of reducing freeway hop and otherwise cushioning the ride. In fact, it apparently works so well that GM decided to fit to all regular Silverados and Sierras. The biggest complaint from the driver's seat is with the steering, which feels as numb as a dental patient after a quadruple dose of Novacaine. While okay for a truck, even a slight amount of feedback would be welcome, if only to help navigate narrow city streets.
Towing capacity is the only functional disadvantage of the Silverado Hybrid versus a regular Silverado 1500. Fitted with the big 6.2L V-8 and the towing package, the gas-only truck can pull as much as 10,800 lb, the hybrid can only manage 5900 in 4WD form and 6100 in RWD. The good news is that the hybrid truck seemed barely fazed by a 5300-pound trailer. Obviously, acceleration and braking suffer noticeably, but the engine never felt like it was laboring and coaxing it to about 10 mph in full-electric mode up a moderate incline proves possible. It was a smooth tow as well, thanks to the transmission's variable gears, which help eliminate shift lurching. There's a predictable fuel-economy hit when towing, though GM's towing loop was too short to get a reliable number. Payload is down only slightly over the non-hybrid trucks to 1459 lb for the RWD version and 1418 lb for the 4WD. With an 850-lb load on board, the truck behaved almost exactly as it did when empty, and seemed only slightly slower getting going as well as stopping.
Unless you opt for the no-charge decal package (few do, and GM is considering discontinuing it), the only visual difference between the Hybrid and a regular Silverado is the small badges on the fender and tailgate. Inside, the differences are limited to an "economy" gauge in the instrument cluster and a new tach with an "auto stop" marker that indicates the truck is on but the gas engine is not. Two interior trims are offered. The standard 1HY cloth interior comes with a front-row bench-seat while the upgraded 2HY leather interior (which costs an extra $6135) serves up six-way power-adjustable bucket seats and numerous luxury features including a navigation system, rear-backup camera, upgraded Bose audio system, foglamps, heated mirrors, power-adjustable pedals, and an auto-dimming mirror. The very short option lists consists of an engine block heater, power-adjustable driver seat on the 1HY package and a sunroof for the 2HY. There are no AC plugs as on the General's large hybrid SUVs, but we were told the hybrid trucks could be used as mobile power generators anyway through the help of aftermarket inverters. Leave the truck in "on" mode, and it will start the engine periodically to charge up the batteries when it senses the voltage is dropping too far. This is useful not only on the job site but also for recreational purposes, one example being tailgating -- the pre-sporting-event variety.
As for the $38,995 question of "is it worth it?" with gas hovering around the $2/gallon mark, the $5115 premium over the next-thriftiest XFE (which gets 15/21 mpg city/highway) can be tough to swallow. But gas won't be staying that low forever, and as everyone found out the hard way this past summer, city mileage in the low-to-mid teens can be brutal on the pocketbook. It will be a better hauler and tow vehicle too, unless you frequently haul 4x8 sheets of plywood or need to pull more than three tons. If you're already looking for a $40,000-$45,000 truck and don't need the capability of a heavy-duty, it's certainly worth a look.
|2009 Chevrolet Silverado HYBRID|
|Location of final assembly||Oshawa, Ontario, Canada|
|Body style||4-door pickup|
|EPA size class||Full-size pickup|
|Drivetrain layout||Front engine, RWD/4WD|
|Airbags||Front, front side, side curtain|
|Engine type||V-8, alum block/heads plus elec motor|
|Bore x stroke||4.00 x 3.62 in|
|Displacement||364 cu in /6.0L|
|Valve gear||OHV, 2 valves/cyl, VVT|
|SAE horsepower||332 hp @ 5100 rpm (gas)/80 hp (elec)|
|SAE torque||367 lb-ft @ 4100 rpm (gas)/184 lb-ft (elec)|
|Transmission type||Electrically variable auto w/4 fixed gears|
|Final drive ratio||2.25:1|
|Recommended fuel||Regular unleaded|
|Track, f/r||68.1/67.0 in|
|Headroom, f/m||41.2/40.5 in|
|Legroom, f/m||41.3/39.0 in|
|Shoulder room, f/m||65.2/65.1 in|
|Bed volume||53.2 in|
|Bed LxWxH||69.3 x 62.4 x 21.0 in|
|Width bet wheelhousings||50.6 in|
|Ground clearance||9.0 in|
|Approach/departure angle||15.3-15.5/22.8-23.1 deg|
|Curb weight||5650-5900 lb|
|Weight distribution, f/r||59/41%|
|Max payload capacity||1418-1459 lb|
|Max towing capacity||5900-6100 lb|
|Fuel capacity||26.0 gal|
|Suspension, f/r||Independent, coilover/solid axle, leaf spring|
|Turns, lock to lock||3.0|
|Brakes, f/r||13.0-in vented disc/13.5-in vented disc, ABS|
|Wheels||8.0 x 18-in aluminum|
|Tires|| P265/65R18 Bridgestone Dueler H/T |
|EPA fuel economy, city/hwy||20-21/21-22 mpg|
|CO2 emissions||0.90-0.97 lb/mile|