General Motor’s approach to hybrids has centered on boosting the economy of its least efficient vehicles, namely big trucks. We’ve already put their full-size hybrid SUVs through the mill with good results. Well this week we turn our attention to their even more popular full-size pickups. So, let’s see if GM’s greener technology has a genuine work ethic. 

More than ever, full-size truck buyers are demanding greater fuel efficiency without giving up capabilities. The Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid and its GMC kin, the Sierra Hybrid, have been engineered to do just that. These are the first strong hybrid pickups to hit the market. They utilize GM’s now famed Two-Mode hybrid transmission with the same powertrain found in Tahoe, Yukon, and Cadillac Escalade hybrid SUVs.

That includes GM’s Vortec 6.0-liter V8. Output is 332 horsepower and 367 pound-feet of torque.  To reduce fuel use further, Active Fuel Management shuts down four cylinders for cruise and light loads. Beyond the V8, the Two-Mode transmission employs a pair of AC synchronous 60-watt electric motors. ‘Two Mode’ means these motors can provide continuous variable assistance at both low and high speeds.

The EVT runs in continuous mode under lighter loads, but can activate its four fixed gear ratios for higher load, and as with other strong or full-hybrid vehicles, the Silverado and Sierra can move with electric-only propulsion, up to 30 miles-per-hour.

The Two-Mode system stores its energy in a 300-volt nickel-metal hydride battery pack tucked neatly away under the rear seat, and for even further energy conservation, regenerative brakes recharge the batteries with each stopping event.

All of this fuel-saving technology results in Government Fuel Economy Ratings of 21 city/22 highway for two-wheel drive, and 20 city/20 highway for four-wheel drive, both on regular grade gas.  That’s a 40 percent gain in city economy and a 25 percent boost overall which also means an interstate cruising range of nearly 500 miles.

And when it comes to daily hauling, the Silverado and Sierra hybrids are indeed no-compromise vehicles. Maximum tow rating is 6,100 pounds for two-wheel-drive. Cargo box payload tops 2,600 pounds.

On the roads around San Antonio, Texas we got a solid feel for how these hybrids pickups drive. The front coil spring and rear leaf spring Z85 suspension has been retuned, with a passenger side hydraulic body mount added to enhance ride quality. The variable effort electric steering was numb, but on par with most big pickups.

As far as hybrid operation goes, the Silverado and Sierra offer a smooth and seamless transition between gas and electric modes, and ample power is available at a moment’s notice. Aside from special Hybrid badging, and a slightly lower front-fascia for improved aerodynamics, they share the same broad shouldered design as non-hybrid GMT900s.

Special 18-inch “quiet tuned” low-rolling resistance tires contribute to the more efficient performance.  Available as only a Crew Cab model, the Silverado and Sierra hybrids have a 69.3 inch-long cargo box with either a hard or soft tonneau cover.

Inside, you’ll find the same clean and spacious cabin as the standard Silverado and Sierra. They come in only two trims: work-minded Value and plusher Premium. Both include a cluster with a new gauge that lets you know when you are driving at peak efficiency.  The Driver Information Center provides other vitals such as instantaneous MPG, and the speedo has an indicator for the truck’s auto-stop capabilities.

Premium trim adds a NAV screen that also displays hybrid power flow through color animation.  Premium also means leather front bucket seats instead of the Value’s cloth bench. Plus, adjustable pedals, and Rear Park assist. All models have dual automatic climate, cruise control, OnStar, and a CD-satellite stereo, as well as a huge center console for storage and a spacious 3-person rear bench seat with a 40/20/40 split and fold-down center armrest, also with storage. Safety comes from standard front and side-curtain airbags.

Now, base pricing for the Silverado Hybrid Value model is steep at $38,995. That number shoots up to $45,130 for the highly equipped Premium trim. Sierra prices are slightly higher, and both charge $3,150 for four-wheel drive. The only cost relief comes from a $2,200 hybrid federal tax credit. So, the 2009 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid and GMC Sierra Hybrid preserve the full-size pickup work ethic while rewarding owners with a meaningful jump in fuel economy. Hopefully their prices will come down as they are the wave of the future - a couple of “green” ranch hands that deliver on all fronts.



  • Engine: Vortec 6.0-Liter V8
  • Horsepower: 332
  • Torque: 367 Lb Feet
  • EPA: 21 MPG City/ 22 MPG Highway