My relationship with the new fullsize GM hybrids continues to be a love/hate one. I love the fuel savings and cleaner emissions delivered by these “green beasts,” but I hate that consumers still cannot get an SUV for less than 50 grand. I also hate the acceleration/deceleration whine produced by the transmission/generator unit while operating in electric mode at low speeds, but then, this is the tradeoff for new technology.
The good news is, these new trucks see a 40 percent fuel economy improvement in city driving thanks to GMs two-mode hybrid powertrain.
General Motors has taken a different approach to hybrid powertrain platforms than its Asian competitors – instead of offering the new gas/electric propulsion on its smallest vehicles in the lineup, GM offers the new technology on its largest, which now adds pickups to the mix.
EPA-estimated fuel economy for 2WD models is 21 mpg in the city and 22 on the highway; 4WD models are estimated at 20 mpg in both city and highway driving. That mileage, combined with the Silverado Hybrid’s 26-gallon fuel tank, delivers a cruising range of more than 500 miles with 2WD models and more than 470 miles with 4WD models.
“The Silverado Hybrid’s combination of efficiency and capability make it a no-compromises truck for customers who work and play hard, but want greater fuel economy,” said Ed Peper, Chevrolet general manager.
On the outside, the new hybrid models closely resemble their gas-only production counterparts. About the only differences are slight modifications to front and rear fascia and, of course, the hybrid badging and powertrain itself.
Inside we see the hybrid designation on the instrument panel, which includes a new “economy” gauge to alert drivers of their most fuel-efficient driving habits.
This new “2-Mode hybrid” powertrain is a huge leap forward of the partial hybrid technology GM put into its light-duty pickups a few years back. Two-mode hybrid mates a Vortec 6.0-liter V-8 internal combustion engine with a 300-volt electric drive motor and unique automatic transmission, the latter of which operates in dual modes, thus giving the powertrain its name.
In the first mode, at low speed and light loads, the vehicle is capable of operating in any of three modes: electric only, gasoline-power with electric assist or gasoline engine only.
The second mode is used primarily at highway speeds where the gasoline engine combines with the electric assist for high load situations such as passing and towing/hauling.
The new hybrid SUVs also see the benefit of active fuel management technology in the internal combustion component of the powerplant. Active fuel management allows the V-8 gasoline engine to operate in four-cylinder mode under light loads.
With GM’s two-mode hybrid system, the electric power used to propel the vehicle is generated by the hybrid system itself. When the brakes are applied or the vehicle is coasting, the electric motors within the hybrid system create electricity that is stored in the 300-volt battery. This stored energy is used to move the vehicle and the regenerative braking cycle is renewed.
Integration of the hybrid system on the Silverado is seamless – the battery pack is located beneath the rear seat – and delivers a quiet driving experience.
Along with quietness, the Silverado Hybrid also delivers exceptional driving smoothness, thanks to specifically tuned shocks and a new hydraulic body mount. Located on the passenger side of the chassis, the hydraulic mount provides a dramatic improvement in highway driving smoothness, particularly on rough or choppy road surfaces.
About the only time you really “feel” that this is a hybrid system is when the gasoline engine shuts off at low speeds or at rest – and did I mention that whining noise?
The Silverado Hybrid is offered in the crew cab body style on both 2WD and 4WD models. Each model is equipped with several standard, popular features, including StabiliTrak electronic stability control system, a locking rear axle and a trailering package.
We recently tested a 2009 Chevy Silverado 4×4 Hybrid rolling in imperial blue metallic paint and found the new pickup to deliver nearly everything we have come to know and admire in a Chevy fullsize pickup, save a little bit of payload and towing capability tradeoff.
Pricing for the new Hybrid pickups from Chevy starts at $38,995 for a base 2WD model and $41,170 for 4WD trucks. Our tester was the latter in the 1HY trim package and had a final sticker price of $42,420 – that is some 10 grand cheaper than the Hybrid GM SUVs we were testing earlier this year.