by Joe LaMuraglia
When GM told me that they were going to schedule me for a week with a 2009 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 4WD Crew Cab Hybrid , I immediately thought of all the “pick-upy” thinks I could do with it. I was eager to test the 6,100-lbs towing capacity but my friend had already put his boat in the water. Strike one. I was confident that my brother-in-law would have something to haul to the dump but no, he had already taken care of his Spring yard duties. Strike two. I live 6 miles from NYC in Northern NJ so going off-roading isn’t an option. Strike three.
So what did I do to test the capabilities of they only hybrid half-ton pickup on the market? I drove it from NJ to NYC and back multiple times acting as a tour guide for my niece and her boyfriend – which, I realized later, is how most people that would purchase this truck will use it. It performed flawlessly in its duty gaining potential pickup truck converts from family and friends alike. The question that remains; is this smooth operator worth the price premium over a similarly equipped gasoline-only Silverado?
The 2009 Silverado Hybrid is difficult to discern from its more mundane siblings in the Silverado lineup. Outside the large Hybrid badges on either side of the truck, a non-enthusiast would have a very difficult time telling it apart from a non-Hybrid truck. It has special low-resistance tires and the front end has been modified to maximize airflow and minimize drag but other than those differences, living with the hybrid Silverado has been designed to be a no-compromise experience.
Driving the Silverado Hybrid is akin to that of a gasoline engine – with a few notable differences. Like all other hybrids, it is possible to drive the Silverado Hybrid up to 30 MPH on battery power alone (I like to call it “sneak out mode”). Once that speed is achieved, the 6.0 liter V-8 comes to life and begins to propel the vehicle. Once moving and depending on speed, battery charge and throttle input, the Silverado Hybrid will propel itself via engine power or a combination of engine and electric motor. All of this happens seamlessly with nothing additional required from the driver and the end result is a overall 25% improvement in fuel economy over a gasoline-only Silverado with the biggest improvement (40%) coming in city driving.
The truck I drove averaged 20 MPG during the week I drove it which matches its EPA rating. At one point, on a drive to CT, the computer indicated 22 MPG. All that sounds fantastic but when you consider a Chevrolet Silverado XFE gets 21 MPG on the highway, you have to wonder if this technology makes sense, especially since it costs considerably more than a non-hybrid Silverado.
Where all the electronic wizardry comes into play is in stop-and-go traffic. The gasoline engine spends a lot of time in “Auto-Stop” mode and the truck can creep forward using the battery power alone. The system allows the Silverado Hybrid to be rated at 20 MPG in the city. Compared to 14 MPG for a gasoline-only Silverado, you can see where the bulk of the fuel savings are achieved.
I was impressed with how GM has been able to integrate a technology so associated with small economy cars into a large, very capable vehicle. Then again, I shouldn’t be surprised. They have been developing a similar system for mass-transit buses around the U.S. and in Europe. I was also impressed with how easy the Silverado Hybrid was to pilot through the streets of Manhattan during our many trips to and fro. The suspension came in handy on the notoriously atrocious streets of Gotham and the visibility made planning my attack on the swarming yellow taxis much easier. The commodious interior hauled five of us in comfort and the rear seat passengers complimented the room afforded them multiple times. But what, other than a few more MPG in the city, did the very expensive hybrid system do compared to a “regular” Silverado? The answer: not much.
The fact that it is a hybrid may make owners feel better about driving such a large truck but if the bottom line is important to you, and these days it is to just about everyone, the hybrid technology simply doesn’t pencil out.
GM should be commended for two things; first, making such an advanced dual-mode hybrid system available to customers who want it and second, making their non-hybrid trucks so good that it doesn’t make economic sense to pay the premium for the hybrid technology.
- Very quiet and smooth
- Not over-badged like other GM hybrids
- VERY roomy
- Expensive! As tested $49,275
- Slightly reduced room when rear seats raised. Battery pack resides there.
- Disappointing stereo quality
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