Chevy right on target with Silverado hybrid
Scott Burgess: Product review
Chevy right on target with Silverado hybrid
Truck sets the bar for other pickups trying to be environmentally friendly
I am a conservationist, not an environmentalist. I enjoy the outdoors, detest politics and like to fire guns. The few things I know about environmentalists are from their press releases.
Until now, no hybrid fit into my life. They are, for all intents and purposes, neat little suburban vehicles that collectively fail to express my inner ruggedness. Hybrids signify an emasculated version of our kinder, gentler and greener transportation future. They are what people drive to book club or take on weekend treks searching for antiques. Some call them chic machines, when, really, they’re just chick mobiles.
The 2009 Chevrolet Silverado hybrid cuts a new trail for pickups. It’s the real deal, man about town, call us producing, planet cooling, pickup truck. The control switches can handle a firm grip and big hands. They can be turned while wearing work gloves. Its imposing dual port grille and giant gold bow tie on a highway will scare a Toyota Prius into a ditch.
Save the Earth? Yeah, that’s just the way I roll; now let’s go shoot something.
Version runs quieter, cleaner
The first production gas-electric pickup by any carmaker, the hybrid Silverado rolls just as well as its gasoline brothers, just quieter, cheaper and cleaner.
The electric only mode at low speeds is silent, allowing you to cruise through Cabela’s parking lot on 18-inch low rolling resistance tires as if you’re stalking Bambi’s mom on Doe Day. You can get it up to 30 mph without burning a drop of gas.
No one would guess there’s a 332-horsepower 6-liter V-8 under the hood — and that power number doesn’t reflect the instant torque from the 300-volt motor inside the transmission.
While the exterior looks just like any other Chevy pickup, Chevrolet dots the shell with small green hybrid tags.
There are the optional big bold "HYBRID" signs scrawled across the bottom of the doors in case you missed the other badges. They are as subtle as a hunting vest.
Of course, a little recognition is nice. If you’re plugging ducks with a finely crafted Benelli 12 gauge, you don’t want people to think it’s just a Remington 870. How embarrassing. (No offense meant to the ever reliable Remington.)
Trucks are no different. If you’re going to spend $40,000 for a hybrid pickup — then people should know it’s special. My test vehicle topped $48,000, though Chevy points out a hybrid version of its most popular truck — a 1LT Crew Cab — starts at $38,995. Additionally, the hybrid premium is roughly $3,000 and there’s a $2,200 available federal tax credit.
So recouping the hybrid premium is feasible, especially if gas prices go up. I’m not an economist, but I’m guessing they will.
Engine shows green sophistication
The engine may sound big and burly when you hit the gas, but it’s no brute. It’s as sophisticated as a wetlands ecosystem. General Motors Corp.’s Active Fuel Management system can turn off four cylinders when cruising or the auto stop system can turn off the engine when stopped and restart when needed. The transition is not noticeable.
The electric motor also helps keep the AFM on longer, which provides better fuel economy.
By the numbers, the Silverado hybrid brings home the wild boar — and everything tastes better with boar.
There’s a 40 percent jump in fuel economy. This pickup gets 21 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway for the two-wheel-drive version. The 4×4 hits 20/20. During my testing, I averaged 17.5 mpg in combination highway and city driving.
It can still tow up to 6,100 pounds and the bed can handle just more than 1,400 pounds.
My test vehicle included a removable tonneau cover, which easily pops off for serious work.
The Silverado hybrid includes an electrically variable transmission, which is perhaps the masterpiece to this vehicle’s powertrain. While there are four fixed gears inside, it electronically manipulates it and makes it feel like a six-speed tranny. It also has the ability to shut out the electric motors when its little computer brain determines the stress is too much — such as towing a boat up a steep hill. The electric launch is smooth and you can top 20 mph in electric only mode when towing if the batteries are fully charged. While the Silverado uses the same system as other hybrid GM vehicles, this system has been updated with new programming.
Chevy also smoothed out the Silverado’s ride with the addition of new hydraulic body mount. The improvement was so noticeable, GM put the mount on all of its pickups so no matter what you drive to the lodge, the road will feel smoother.
The only quibble I had with the truck’s performance was the brakes seemed too sensitive. However, after a few days of driving it, I quickly retrained myself to use the appropriate pressure. Like most hybrids, the Silverado uses regenerative braking to capture energy normally lost to heat to recharge the battery pack located under the second row of seats.
Losing a little space under the back seat is the only noticeable difference inside the Silverado hybrid.
The interior is clean and well laid out with lots of room for a hunting party. All of the features you’d expect remain, including the dual glove box, XM satellite radio (with XM traffic updates to the optional navigation system) and OnStar.
In upper left corner of the instrument panel, is an eco gauge, which is a little needle that moves to the right (bad) or to the left (good) depending on how friendly your boot is to the accelerator.
Really, I wanted more inside the cabin to remind me I was in a hybrid — other than the extremely quiet ride. But I certainly don’t need it and taking what you need is often better than what you want.
If people didn’t know better, they’d just assume it’s a luxury truck, which is about as good of a compliment as they can give it.
Pickups, much like their owners, place more importance on function than form. If they didn’t, pickups would look like sports cars.
Pickup drivers need a truck that can do the job at hand, whether towing a boat, hauling tools to a job site or carrying gear to the cabin up north.
Saving some gas is nice. It can put a few dollars for your pocket. But people don’t buy hybrids to just save a few bucks. They do it to help the environment; they do it for a greater social good that goes beyond their own windshield.
Helping Mother Earth today seems obvious to any conservationist like myself: The healthier our planet today, the more things to shoot tomorrow.