- Can tow three tons
- Relatively inexpensive hybrid upgrade
- Drives "normally"—no drivability quirks
- Battery pack limits second-row storage
- $39,000 base price
Drivers of the 2009 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid will burn hundreds fewer gallons of gas a year than drivers of standard V-8 trucks.
For 2009, General Motors is expanding its line of full-size hybrid vehicles by rolling out a new hybrid version of the Chevrolet Silverado.
The 2009 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid looks a lot like the other models in Chevy's full-size truck family, which was completely redesigned and reengineered for 2007. Two years later, their clean, tasteful exterior style—which doesn't try too hard to appear especially imposing or too ornate—still seems fresh. Inside, there's standard seating for six thanks to the roomy crew cab body style (the sole choice available for the hybrid).
Unlike the Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid of several years ago, which offered a mild-hybrid system that essentially enabled the engine to turn off only at stoplights to save fuel, the 2009 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid has an advanced two-mode hybrid powertrain. The all-aluminum 6.0-liter V-8 features variable valve timing and Active Fuel Management, which shuts down half of the engine's cylinders during coasting and cruising. The hybrid electrically variable transmission (EVT) utilizes two electric motor/generators and four fixed-ratio gears. Electricity for the motors is stored in a 300-volt nickel-metal-hydride battery pack.
The hybrid system is rated at 332 horsepower and 367 pound-feet of torque altogether and helps the 2009 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid achieve EPA mileage ratings of 21 mpg city, 22 highway for two-wheel-drive models, and 20 mpg in both city and highway for four-wheel-drive versions. Acceleration is easily on par with Chevy's mid-level 5.3-liter V-8 engine. The hybrid system's dual electric motors, each rated at 81 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, add considerably to the truck's off-the-line performance.
On-road performance for the 2009 Chevy Silverado Hybrid is solid and even smoother than gasoline-powered models. The extra weight of the 300-pound battery pack forces engineers to redesign one connection between the truck's frame and body, and this single change dramatically smoothes out the vehicle's ride. The Silverado Hybrid's brakes are powerful and incorporate a regenerative feature to capture energy sent to the battery pack for later use. During our tests, the hybrid system routinely moved the pickup on battery power alone up to 25 mph and beyond in eerie EV-mode silence. At higher speeds, the V-8 quietly comes to life and seamlessly adds its power to the mix.
The 2009 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid is capable of towing 6,100 pounds when outfitted as a two-wheel-drive unit, and only 200 pounds less when all four wheels are driven via a two-speed, off-road-capable transfer case. In a test of towing ability, TheCarConnection.com finds the Hybrid to be drama-free; to pull a 5,500-pound powerboat on a mildly hilly test loop, the hybrid drivetrain is easily up to the challenge.
The cabin of the Silverado Hybrid is much like that of the regular Silverado. The low-set instrument panel feels upscale for a pickup, and front seats are generous in comfort and support. The backseat is the only place there's some compromise in the Hybrid; the battery pack is stored under the second-row bench, and while seating comfort is not affected, because the battery packaging runs the width of the interior, there is no longer any under-seat storage in the rear compartment. Interior build quality and fit/finish on the 2009 Silverado Hybrid examples we drove are excellent.
The 2009 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid operates very much like the standard Silverado and requires no extensive training or frequent trips to the owner's manual. The Chevy's touch-screen center stacks earn kudos for being one of the easiest and most logical to operate. The system's ability to save favorite radio presets regardless of tuning band makes perfect sense. The hybrid model can be had with a more basic cloth interior or a decked-out version that features leather. Unfortunately, the least expensive hybrid model costs nearly $39,000; however, once one compares the equipment list to that of a non-hybrid model, the actual cost differential to move up to a hybrid is less than $4,000. We'd still like to see a less costly hybrid choice for work-oriented buyers.
The 2009 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid provides a full complement of safety features, including head-curtain side airbags covering both seating rows, in addition to front side airbags. The StabiliTrak stability control system includes rollover mitigation to help avoid situations that might lead to a rollover. The Chevy trucks earn top five-star ratings in tests for frontal and side crash protection.
The new Silverado Hybrid includes standard equipment far beyond what one might find on a standard work truck, including dual-zone air conditioning, power windows, remote keyless entry, AM/FM audio system with MP3-capable CD player, and a tilting, leather-wrapped steering wheel with controls. Hybrid-only features include a standard tonneau cover over the pickup box that provides a 5 percent reduction in aerodynamic drag for better fuel economy.
A more luxurious Silverado Hybrid is also available and includes leather seating, rear parking assist, power adjustable pedals, folding exterior rearview mirrors, rear-window defroster, and a hard tonneau cover.
Chevrolet expects the 2009 Silverado to account for only a fraction of its sales, but it sees the importance of the model as more than just units sold. It shows that new, fuel-saving technologies can improve the economy of America's hardest-working vehicles.