A casual look around at the hybrid offerings of the major automakers will find an assortment of small or smaller vehicles, usually not exceeding the size of a Camry or Accord. And while GM has the underrated Malibu Hybrid to throw to the wolves that are Honda and Toyota, their other hybrids are large. As in, about as large as they come. In fact, of the eight hybrids in the GM family; besides the Malibu and the soon to be gone Saturn Aura and VUE, the remaining five are SUV/trucks. What’s going on here? Surely there is some sort of method to all of this hybrid madness. Well it turns out that GM is clinging to its SUV roots by attempting to boost up fuel economy in its largest vehicles, like the Silverado truck. Does it work? Or has the added “green” diluted the Silverado’s Bob Seger-loving ways. “Turn the page” to find out.
Right off the bat you are limited in your Silverado Hybrid choices, as the only current configuration is the four-door crew cab and just shy of 6 foot-long bed. This is no doubt due to the placement of components beneath the rear seat. The Silverado Hybrid also adopts the same 6-liter, overhead valve Vortec V-8 that’s used in the Chevy Tahoe Hybrid. In its new home beneath the Silverado hood, the engine cranks out 332 horsepower and a peak torque of 367 foot-pounds at 4,100 rpm. An additional 67 horses can be squeezed out of the electric motors making the total output 379 hp. Truck lovers can’t argue with that. What drivers hopefully won’t notice is the subtle operation of GM’s Active Fuel Management System that deactivates some engine cylinders during coasting and other driving conditions to optimize efficiency. Why more vehicles can’t employ that technology is unfortunate.
Power is delivered to the wheels via a complex four-speed electrically variable transmission with four fixed gears and with the now-familiar regenerative braking that captures energy and stores it in the onboard 300-volt battery storage system, which is subsequently used by the hybrid system’s two 60-kilowatt electric motors that propel the truck up to speeds of 30 mph. At stoplights, the gasoline engine turns itself off and stays in silent “Auto Stop” mode until the driver needs the vehicle to move again.
Other than the powerplant and its hybrid components, Silverado fans should expect the truck to behave as it always has. Meaning that it’s ride is often bumpy and rough when carrying loads are absent, and it otherwise handles like a large truck. That is, until you arrive at the gas pump where a 40% increase in city fuel efficiency is produced. That translates into 21/22 mpg in city and highway driving or a total driving range of 500 miles. The hybrid’s maximum tow rating is also a decent 6,100 pounds. Standard equipment includes stability control, antilock disc brakes and full-length side curtain airbags.
The base hybrid comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, towing preparation, a soft bed tonneau cover, keyless entry, a 40/20/40-split front bench seat, full power accessories, dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with auxiliary audio controls, cruise control, OnStar, Bluetooth and a six-speaker CD/MP3 stereo with satellite radio. The higher-end version of the hybrid features foglamps, heated exterior mirrors with integrated turn signals, rear parking sensors, a hard bed tonneau cover, a navigation system with real-time traffic updates, an upgraded Bose audio system, rear audio controls, a floor-mounted center console, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, power-adjustable pedals, leather upholstery and power front bucket seats. Other options include remote start, a sunroof, a hybrid decal package and an engine block heater.
Pricing is $39,015 for a two-wheel drive model and $42,165 with all-wheel-drive, or $4,000 more than their gas-only brethren. However, a $2,200 federal tax credit helps sweeten the deal, and if you are looking to upgrade your gas guzzler you may want to take advantage of the additional $4,500 “Cash For Clunkers” credit being offered through the government.
As the nation’s first full hybrid full-size pickup truck, GM does deserve some credit. Despite burning effigies to the contrary, we actually believe that large trucks and SUVs have their place, if only for small segments of the buying public. Like anyone that wears a hard hat for a living. So if the Silverado can pull off some much-need gas mileage improvement, more power to them.