2009 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Hybrid Review

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Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
March 31, 2009

Drivers of the 2009 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid will burn hundreds fewer gallons of gas a year than drivers of standard V-8 trucks.

To properly review the 2009 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid, TheCarConnection.com editors drove the Hybrid, along with other greener vehicle choices. These impressions are presented alongside review excerpts that, together, TheCarConnection.com hopes will help you make a better decision.

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.

Review continues below

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.

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2009 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Hybrid

Styling

If you're looking for an eco-friendly pickup, the well-styled 2009 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid is one of the only options around.

In a pickup market typically defined by overly brash or over-styled vehicles, the 2009 Chevrolet Silverado arrives with a pleasantly understated exterior that has aged well since it first appeared in 2007. While the Chevrolet Silverado pickup line is available in a seemingly limitless number of configurations, Car and Driver says that "the Silverado Hybrid will be available only in crew-cab body style in the Pure Pickup trim level." Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com indicate approval of the exterior styling of the Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid, which doesn't appear drastically different from its conventionally powered brethren. The Detroit News points out that the "strong front end with big grille shows off Silverado's power without hindering its capabilities," while J.D. Power reviewers note that, "to reduce drag, it will have a slightly deeper front air dam and a three-segment hard tonneau cover." Unlike with most hybrids, which feature rather unexciting styling that certainly wouldn't be at home on a construction site, The Detroit News promises that the Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid's "imposing dual port grille and giant gold bow tie on a highway will scare a Toyota Prius into a ditch."

The interior of the 2009 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid is as appealing as the exterior, with an upscale feel and intelligent layout, although reviewers aren't strongly opinionated about the styling itself. ConsumerGuide reviewers gripe a bit about the Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid's instrument-panel design, which "places radio and climate controls high on the dashboard, just out of easy reach," though this is one of the only complaints that reviewers mention with the interior.

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2009 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Hybrid

Performance

The 2009 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid excels in nearly every performance category, including the all-important fuel economy numbers.

2009 marks the commercial debut of a pickup that is about eight months late to the party—the 2009 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid, the first full-size hybrid pickup on the market, which hits dealer lots less than a year after gas was selling for $4 a gallon. Of course, we’re not saying that prices won’t go up again anytime soon.

Given the tough demands that most people place on their trucks (towing boats, hauling heavy cargo, etc.), it's hard to imagine that a hybrid powerplant would be up to a task normally accomplished by hulking V-8 engines. However, the 2009 Chevrolet Silverado's mix of gasoline and electric power took the automotive press by storm, and reviews read by TheCarConnection.com hold nothing but praise for Chevrolet's green monster.

The 2009 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid is powered by a true hybrid system, featuring both gasoline and electric power. Car and Driver says that the Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid "uses a 6.0-liter V-8 with cylinder deactivation and variable cam timing mated to a 300-volt electrical system," which includes a pair of electric motors. The combination means that "you can get it up to 30 mph without burning a drop of gas," according to The Detroit News. The system is also tuned very well and almost imperceptible, as ConsumerGuide mentions that the Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid "accelerates from a stop and passes much like a conventional model, but a faint surge is felt and heard when it shifts between full electric and gasoline operation." And don't think that the 2009 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid sacrifices performance in the name of fuel economy, as The Detroit News points out "it can still tow up to 6,100 pounds and the bed can handle just more than 1,400 pounds."

The secret to the 2009 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid's success is its complex transmission, which actually comprises several "standard" transmissions. Car and Driver reports that the Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid "will feature GM's innovative new dual-mode transmission, which is basically two transmissions in one: a CVT-style 'electrically variable transmission' for low-load driving conditions and a four-speed automatic for towing and higher-load driving conditions." The Detroit News is particularly taken by GM's transmission, which they say is "perhaps the masterpiece to this vehicle's powertrain." J.D. Power reviewers note that the Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid "will be offered with rear- or 4-wheel drive."

While the sticker price is a bit higher on the 2009 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid than a typical Silverado, the difference will likely be made up in fuel savings over the life of the vehicle. According to the official EPA estimates, the Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid should get 21 mpg city and 22 highway in 2WD mode, while the 4WD earns 20 mpg ratings for both city and highway driving. The Detroit News points out that it's "a 40 percent jump in fuel economy" versus a conventional Silverado.

Trucks like the Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid aren't usually renowned for their handling, but the 2009 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid proves to be surprisingly livable. Also on the positive side, Autoblog contends that "the electric power steering felt surprisingly normal, with just the right weighting for a vehicle carrying this much mass." The only noteworthy criticism comes from The Detroit News, which says "the brakes seemed too sensitive" on then Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid, but that can most likely be attributed to the regenerative braking system the hybrid employs.

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2009 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Hybrid

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid offers seating and cargo space for six in its comfortable, well-appointed cabin.



The old stereotype of pickups as utilitarian work machines that put little emphasis on passenger comfort and convenience went by the wayside quite a while ago, but it's taken Chevrolet a little longer than some to catch up. Consider the field leveled with the 2009 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid, which boasts an interior worthy of its lofty price tag.

TheCarConnection.com's research turns up quite a bit of positive commentary regarding the seating arrangement inside the Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid. Chevrolet's first hybrid pickup truck comes only in a four-door, crew-cab body style, which means that you'll find plenty of space inside for passengers. J.D. Power states that "bucket seats will be offered to give customers the choice of 5- or 6-passenger seating," and other reviewers report that the available seats are long-haul comfortable. ConsumerGuide says that, up front, "the seats are comfortable if somewhat lacking in side support." The Detroit News agrees, finding that the "bucket seats could use additional bolstering," but overall they love that the interior is "well laid out with lots of room for a hunting party." Mother Proof reviewers are "surprised by the level of comfort in the interior," and ConsumerGuide points out that rear-seat passengers aren't left out either, as the "rear bench is comfortable and supportive," while the available "headroom is generous."

Practicality, especially in terms of available cargo space, is a major concern for pickup buyers, and the 2009 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid doesn't disappoint in this regard. ConsumerGuide reviewers note that "the bucket seats come with a roomy console bin," while the "bench seat is available with a flip-down center armrest that doubles as a large storage bin." The Detroit News also appreciates the "nice use of dead space to create cubbies on the dash," which are perfect for storing items like cell phones and other small objects. On the positive side, The Detroit News is pleased that "the control switches can handle a firm grip and big hands," which means "they can be turned while wearing work gloves." This detail indicates that, despite the extra attention paid to the powertrain and the relatively high sticker price, this truck is built to work.

Unfortunately, Automobile Magazine notes "the space available for cargo in the back of the crew cab is diminished by the battery pack," which runs the entire width of the truck under the rear bench. Out back, the 2009 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid boasts a six-foot bed that comes with a standard tonneau cover.

Interior materials and build quality are par for the course on the Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid. ConsumerGuide reports that, "despite [the] ample use of hard plastics, nothing looks especially cheap." TheCarConnection.com's editors agree, praising the upscale feel and excellent fit and finish. One of the primary indicators of build quality is the level of road noise that intrudes into the cabin, and in this regard, the Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid is practically unequaled. The Detroit News finds the Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid is "extremely quiet at all speeds," while ConsumerGuide says that the "Hybrid is nearly silent at ignition and at rest," and aside from a "subtle electrical whirring noise" during acceleration, "most other noise sources are well squelched."

Ride quality is quite good in the Silverado Hybrid—relative to other pickups. ConsumerGuide calls it "compliant and fairly comfortable, with less reverberation over bumps than in most pickups." MotherProof reports similar findings, claiming the ride was "sturdy but much less bumpy" than expected.

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2009 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Hybrid

Safety

A full set of airbags and generally strong crash-test ratings work together to help protect the occupants inside the 2009 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid.

The 2009 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid is, overall, a very safe vehicle, although one blemish on its crash-test record jumps out. Aside from its crash-test ratings, the 2009 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid comes standard with a wide range of safety gear to keep you out of trouble.

In NHTSA testing, the 2009 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid earns a perfect five-star rating for both driver- and passenger-side front impacts, as well as five-star ratings in both side impact categories. These excellent scores are complemented by an IIHS rating of "good"—the highest possible—in the frontal offset impact category.

When it comes to safety features, the 2009 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid has you covered—or enveloped, as the case may be. The Detroit News reports that the Silverado Hybrid gets a "full complement of airbags, electronic stability control, and OnStar." J.D. Power reviewers also states that "standard safety equipment on the 2009 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid will include dual-stage front air bags, anti-lock brakes, tire-pressure monitor, traction control and electronic stability control." Another noteworthy feature is the available set of "head-protecting curtain side air bags with rollover deployment and rear obstacle detection [that] will be optional," according to J.D. Power.

Visibility is one characteristic that doesn't get mentioned much in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, but it is a critical element in avoiding accidents—especially with pickups, as they tend to ride high, obscuring the view of traffic in adjacent lanes. On the 2009 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid, ConsumerGuide says that "visibility is generally good, though wide rear pillars partially block the view to the back corners." Fortunately, J.D. Power notes that "a rearview camera will also be available" on the Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid to help combat those annoying blind spots.

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2009 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Hybrid

Features

The 2009 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid is expensive, but at least you're getting more than just a fancy, fuel-efficient powertrain.

Like all hybrids, the 2009 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid features a noticeable markup over its conventional brethren, but reviews read by TheCarConnection.com mention that the cost is minimized, thanks to a federal tax credit on hybrid vehicles.

The 2009 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid is available in just one well-equipped trim that includes "all of the features a pickup owner expects," according to The Detroit News. They elaborate by listing some of those features, including a "dual glove box, XM satellite radio (with XM traffic updates to the optional navigation system) and OnStar." MotherProof is pleased to note the standard "adjustable pedals," which reviewers "really appreciated." J.D. Power reviewers list some of the other standard features on the Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid as "air conditioning, cruise control, cloth upholstery, heated power mirrors," full power accessories, and an AM/FM/CD player.

While the Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid comes packed with enough features to keep most people happy, those seeking a more luxurious driving experience should definitely look at the available upgrade package. Automobile Magazine reports that "the $6135 premium trim package adds leather trim, power front bucket seat adjusters, a center console, a Bose sound system with navigation, a hard bed cover, and several minor convenience items." Other than that rather expensive and extensive list, Automobile Magazine cites "a $995 moonroof" as the only other option on the 2009 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid.

In terms of pricing, Autoblog states that "the starting MSRP for a well-equipped base model is $38,995, and we noticed sticker prices for versions fitted with leather seating surfaces, a sunroof and navigation systems creeping over $45K." This certainly puts the Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid in luxury pickup territory, but don't be surprised if sales start to soar once gas creeps back toward $4/gallon territory.

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