2011 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Hybrid
2011 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Hybrid Expert Review:Autoblog
For every engineering stroke of genius out there, there are a million duds – projects that someone slaved over in good faith, only to realize that someone else had already come to market with a superior and/or more viable alternative. Both the electronic and automotive industries are awash with tales of second-place finishes in two-man races. Blu-ray vs. HD DVD, VHS vs. Betamax and Oldsmobile vs. Edsel are all stories of outright champions and also-rans. It's rarer, however, to see a company build and sell an ugly duckling right alongside the varsity all-stars of the family, which is exactly what General Motors has done with its 2010 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid.
It's clear that GM desperately wants to mix the seemingly unblendable worlds of full-size pickup trucks and hybrids with its electrified Silverado, and to some degree, they've succeeded. Yes, our tester has a bed, four-wheel drive and a meaty V8 up front. And yes, it packs an electric motor and a mammoth battery pack. But the finished product feels like the road-going equivalent of a spork – a utensil to be used as a last resort. The only problem is, there are far better alternatives, many of which are available from The General's stable.
Photos by Zach Bowman / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.
For 2010, the Silverado Hybrid is nearly indistinguishable from its conventional cousins. Chevrolet designers have finally deleted the gaudy HYBRID decals we saw slathered down both sides of the cab when we first drove it early last year, and we couldn't be happier. The fenders and tailgate still wear attractive hybrid badges, but otherwise, the truck is largely interchangeable with its less expensive family members.
By now, the world has largely made up its mind on the merits of the new's Silverado styling, so we won't waste anyone's time by nitpicking. However, we note that the pickup's hybrid nature has dictated an emphasis on improved aerodynamics for better mpg numbers, so this Silverado wears a low-hanging front airdam that shivers at the thought of steep parking lot entrances and gets hung on most parking barriers. This, on a four-wheel drive model.
Things don't get much better inside. We typically wait until the end of a review to beat you over the head with a vehicle's MSRP, but in this case, it's important to point out that our particular 2010 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid carried a sticker of $41,490 without destination charges. Throw in the $995 it takes to get the truck to your local dealer and you're knocking on the door of $43,000 – without a single option. Our tester carried cloth seats, acres of cheapish plastic dash materials and not much else. We did have the benefit of dual-zone climate control, power windows and locks, along with satellite radio, but at this price point, that's like saying the vehicle also comes with windshield wipers. It damn well better.
But don't get us wrong. We completely understand that this is a truck, and that trucks are meant for working. But if this was meant to be a bare-bones work vehicle, it probably wouldn't cost more than a BMW 335i. In order to spend this kind of change on a half-ton truck, we expect leather seats, some sort of navigation other than OnStar and a rearview camera. At least. As long as we're wishing, a power-sliding rear window wouldn't hurt our feelings, either.
The good news is that Silverado Hybrid interior is identical to the standard Silverado. The steering wheel is the exact same unit you'll find in nearly every other GM truck, and while it feels a little thin for such a behemoth, it does its job just fine. We still feel that the steering wheel-mounted GM audio and cruise controls are some of the easiest to use of any vehicle out there, and that doesn't change simply because the pieces have made their way to a pickup. Up front, the seats are comfortable enough for short stints, but start to become uncomfortable after two or three hours on the road. One of the Silverado Hybrid's big strengths is its ability to carry up to six passengers thanks to a center console that converts into a middle throne. We have a hard time imagining burly construction workers getting cozy in the front row, but hey, you never know.
And what about the hybrid drivetrain? First, we have to say that this is the best sounding hybrid on the planet. GM has mated its tried-and-true 6.0-liter V8 to a two-mode hybrid system for a combined 332 horsepower and 367 pound-feet of torque, and when you roll onto the throttle, you're rewarded with the kind of delicious cacophony that can only come from a pushrod mill. Doing so completely misses the point of the rest of the eco-savvy tech onboard, of course, but what can you do?
The Silverado Hybrid can drive up to 30 mph on all-electric power thanks to twin electric motors mated to a variable planetary gear system in the four-speed automatic transmission, and a 300 volt nickel-metal hydride battery pack serves up all the necessary power. GM has also fitted the big V8 with a few fuel-saving tricks, including cylinder deactivation and an auto-stop system, and the result is an EPA-rated 21 mpg city and 22 mpg highway. 21 mpg combined actually sounds pretty good until you realize that the non-hybrid Silverado 1500 manages 18 mpg highway and 13 mpg city – that's 15.5 mpg combined – costs $10,000 less and can tow up to 9,500 pounds. Opting for the hybrid drivetrain will cut your towing capacity to a measly 5,900 pounds, begging the question: Is 5.5 mpg worth the hit in functionality and cost?
Around town, the Silverado Hybrid is plenty comfortable to drive, though. The brakes are more than competent and power from either the electric motors or the big V8 is plenty for any sort of driving scenario. The auto-stop for the engine shuts down smoothly enough, and the 6.0-liter mill comes to life with the same kind of show that accompanies starting any V8. The grabby sensation of the regenerative braking system found on older full-size GM hybrid trucks has been all but extinguished, and the high seating position provides enough visibility to see over most low-lying structures. Unfortunately, that trend doesn't continue once you hit the highway.
Like most tucks, the Silverado Hybrid has fairly stiff rear springs designed to keep the tail up while hauling big loads, and the result is that you feel nearly every imperfection in the road surface. Expansion joints, potholes and pavement changes all get transmitted straight to your derriere as you drive. What's really curious is the truck's dampening isn't up to handling all of the weight of the vehicle. Drive through any dip in the pavement and you get the full motion-of-the-ocean effect. It feels like a Crown Victoria mated with a WRX STI and had one horrible, malformed child. After four hours in the driver's seat, we weren't sure which was going to give up first – our kidneys or our stomach.
General Motors had the opportunity to do something really impressive with the Silverado Hybrid, but what we got instead is a vehicle that has all of the right bones, but none of the followthrough to be really worth it. While the drivetrain tech is right where it needs to be for this kind of vehicle, the rest of the beast is still a big, heavy, quarter-ton truck. Instead of opting for a much lighter standard cab, GM bolted a hefty crew cab on the frame, complete with two additional doors for extra weight. Where are the composite fenders and bed sides? Where's the aluminum hood? Why is this truck still rolling on thick, 18-inch chrome wheels that weigh more than our first car? Why is the transmission still a four-speed instead of a more efficient six-speed, and why didn't GM go with its 4.8-liter V8 or even a V6 instead of the big 6.0-liter mill?
The short answer is cost. The General probably realized up front that the Hybrid was likely to be a fringe volume money loser, but in the end, it was more interested in being able to say that it's the only manufacturer with a hybrid pickup, so it pressed on regardless. We've been absolutely amazed at the amount of progress General Motors has made since emerging out of bankruptcy last year. The company has produced a wave of competitive, fuel-efficient models in short order, which is partly why we're so taken aback at how completely the Silverado Hybrid misses the mark. Given the plethora of genuinely capable, incredibly efficient trucks in the General Motors portfolio, we have a hard time imagining why anyone would opt for the Hybrid when it's time to sign on the dotted line.
Photos by Zach Bowman / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.
New Car Test Drive
Smooth ride, confident handling.
The Chevy Silverado is designed to offer a smooth ride and confident handling while delivering superior capability and power. Silverado was last redesigned for 2007. As with all full-size pickups, the Silverado is available in a wide range of sizes, engines, and capabilities, so it's of primary importance to analyze your needs and then select the model that best serves those needs.
The base engine is a 4.3-liter V6 (195 hp/260 lb-ft of torque) with a four-speed automatic, offered only on Regular Cabs and 2WD Extended Cab models with the standard bed. The 4.8-liter V8 (302 hp/305 lb-ft of torque) and four-speed automatic are standard on Crew Cab and 4WD Extended Cab models with the standard bed, and on many LT models.
The 5.3-liter V8 (315 hp/338 lb-ft of torque, or 326 hp/348 lb-ft of torque on E85), with active fuel management that shuts off cylinders to save fuel, and iron or aluminum block, is standard on most LTZ models and is matched with a six-speed automatic.
The top engine is a 6.2-liter V8 (403 hp/417 lb-ft of torque) available on Extended Cab and Crew Cab models; it uses the six-speed automatic. (Silverado HD models are covered in a separate New Car Test Drive review.)
XFE (Xtra Fuel Economy) models use a 5.3-liter V8, six-speed automatic and cruising-biased axle ratio of 3.08:1 to increase EPA ratings. XFE versions feature aerodynamic upgrades in the form of a soft bed cover and extended front air dam, plus aluminum wheels (including the spare) and lower front suspension arms, locking rear differential, and low rolling resistance tires. A trailering package is standard so XFE models can tow up to 7,000 pounds.
The Hybrid, available only in the Crew Cab body style, uses a 6.0-liter V8 (332 hp/367 lb-ft of torque), battery pack, and four-speed automatic with two electric motors in it. EPA ratings are 21/22 mpg. Tow ratings are available to 6100 pounds, and maximum payload is in the 1,400-pound range.
For 2011, Silverado gets few changes. The OnStar has been upgraded to 9.0, there have been enhancements to reduce wind noise, and there are a few new color choices.
The 2011 Chevy Silverado is available in four trim levels: WT, LS, LT, and LTZ. Packages often upgrade amenities without upgrading engines or body styles.
Silverado WT ($20,850) is a basic work truck that comes with a driver information center, AM/FM/XM stereo, 40/20/40 split-bench, vinyl-covered front seat, dual glove boxes, two auxiliary power outlets, tire pressure monitoring system, OnStar and a four-speed automatic transmission. The LS Crew Cab ($30,360) offers lots more in the way of features.
Silverado LT ($26,810 for Regular Cab, 2WD) adds a cloth-covered front seat with lockable storage under the seat, a CD player and MP3 compatibility, power windows/locks/mirrors, remote keyless entry, auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass and outside temperature displays, chrome front bumper and 17-inch styled steel wheels, and power folding and heated exterior mirrors. LT models can be upgraded with premium cloth front bucket seats with six-way power adjustment, dual-zone automatic temperature controls, audio controls mounted on the steering wheel, fog lamps, aluminum wheels, chromed bumper, and a spare tire lock.
Silverado LTZ ($35,280 for Extended Cab, 2WD) adds heavy-duty trailering equipment, an automatic locking rear differential, body-colored bumpers, reclining and heated leather front seats with 12-way power, an in-dash six-CD changer with Bose speakers, 18-inch wheels, turn signal indicators in the exterior rearview mirrors, and heated windshield washers.
Extended Cab and Crew Cab models have back seats and windows in the side doors that power down. The Crew Cab has four front-hinged doors, much like a sport utility vehicle. The Extended Cab has rear access doors hinged at the rear that open to 170 degrees to provide full access to the rear seating area. The Regular Cab can be outfitted with a standard bed (6-foot, 6-inch) or long bed (8-foot). The Extended Cab also offers a short (5-foot, 8-inch) bed. The short bed (5-foot, 8-inch) is the only bed available on the Crew Cab.
Five suspensions are available: Z83 is the standard setup designed for a smooth ride; Z85 is a little firmer for enhanced handling and towing; Z71 is for off-road driving and includes 18-inch wheels; Z60 is for maximum street performance and includes 20-inch wheels; NHT is for maximum towing capacity (bigger rear axle with locking differential, HD cooling, and so forth) and includes high-capacity rear springs as well as all-terrain tires.
Option prices vary by trim level and body style. Among them: A power sliding sunroof ($995), a power sliding rear window ($250), rear-seat entertainment system ($1,480), and AM/FM with navigation system ($2,250). Options on lesser models include the locking differential ($325) and various levels of towing packages.
Safety features on all Silverado models include dual front airbags, anti-lock brakes, tire-pressure monitoring system, side-curtain airbags, and StabiliTrak electronic stability control with rollover mitigation technology.
The Chevy Silverado may not have the aggressive styling of some other pickups, but its upright design may be considered appealing to its faithful customers, and they buy hundreds of thousands of Silverados each year. We think it's quite attractive.
A raked windshield (angled at 57 degrees) and careful aerodynamic and body-building engineering make the truck quiet on the inside and contribute to fuel efficiency. GM boasts that the Silverado and GMC Sierra are the first full-size trucks to offer both 300 horsepower and EPA highway ratings of 20 miles per gallon or better.
The large, gold Chevy bowtie badge is set against a wide, three-bar chrome grille. The grille is flanked by stacked headlights sporting the latest reflector optics. The front bumper incorporates rectangular fog lights.
The hood has a wide power dome. Bulging front fenders wrap over the front wheels and incorporate the headlights within their forward sweep. Likewise, the rear quarter panels are punctuated by large faired wheel wells.
The rear view of the truck features stacked tail lights on either side of a tall tailgate that has a sculpted center section that mimics and inverts the shape of the fender flares.
Built on what General Motors calls its GMT900 platform, the Silverado shares much of its underpinnings with the Tahoe SUV, though the pickup gets a unique rear suspension and a frame section 245-percent stiffer than that of the SUV. The current Silverado chassis is far more rigid than that of the previous generation, which allowed the engineers to reduce the gaps between the truck bed and passenger compartment and between fenders and bumpers. This stiffer frame also allows suspension components to be designed for improved ride and handling characteristics as well as allowing enhanced aerodynamics and fuel efficiency.
The front suspension uses coil-over shock absorbers and the rack-and-pinion steering gear is mounted to the engine crossmember to provide enhanced control and feedback. The Silverado benefits from a rear axle design featuring shock absorbers mounted outboard and more upright for better dynamic control than that of the previous-generation models.
The Silverado WT, LS and LT come with what Chevrolet calls the pure pickup interior while the LTZ features a more luxurious interior.
The pure pickup interior is more driver and work oriented, includes two glove boxes in the dashboard, one of them just about the right size to hold a pair of work gloves and a few small items, and a 40/20/40-split front bench seat with the center section of the seat back folding down to form a wide arm rest with lots of storage capacity. This interior features large switchgear controls and interior door handles designed to be easily manipulated even while wearing bulky gloves.
The more luxury-oriented interior includes bucket seats with a permanent center console with 20 liters of storage capacity. The center stack puts ventilation and audio controls within easy site and reach of the front seat passenger. This version has a single glove box in the dash.
Headlights are more or less controlled by twisting a rotary knob on the dash to the left of the steering wheel. An identical knob to the right is used to switch between 2WD and 4WD. We found it's easy to switch to 4WD, while trying to switch off the headlights.
XM Satellite Radio with current traffic conditions and Bluetooth may be ordered, or alternately, OnStar with destination download and turn-by-turn navigation. We like both.
Extended Cab models feature stadium-style seating with an elevated view for those sitting in the second row. Both the Extended Cab and Crew Cab versions offer plenty of rear legroom. The rear-seat bottoms can be easily folded up to provide more room on the floor for cargo. Rear seats are split 60/40 so one side can be folded up for cargo while the other is used for seating.
Chevrolet says the interior of the Silverado is 20 percent quieter than its predecessor (pre-2007 and Silverado Classic models), thanks to enhanced insulation materials, much like those used in the company's sport utility vehicles, and to aerodynamic improvements that reduce wind noise.
Choosing the right cabin configuration depends on how you expect to use the truck and what you expect from it.
An LTZ interior mirrors those of GM's full-size sport-utilities and is modeled more like a big touring sedan than a truck. It's a smooth, cohesive design with a central console that rises to a wall of smallish white-on-black buttons you can't operate with mittens like those on the pure pickup. The navigation system is up high for good viewing, intuitive in operation, and offers many choices in radio station memory. The LTZ cabin is available in three interior colors and, though it will show dirt faster, the lightest color gives the most luxurious impression.
The WT/LT version is a conventional truck with a more open floor area, space for random stuff all over, and no concerns that something might get scratched, scuffed or dirty. Modern electronics suggest hosing out a truck interior isn't a good idea anymore, but a shovel and stiff bristle brush should get it done.
Suspension choice is key to the driving characteristics of the Chevy Silverado. The basic Z83 suspension is best chosen for budget constraints (or if you plan to make modifications and throw away the stock parts). The Z85 is similar except that it uses better shock absorbers and is calibrated for how today's light-duty pickups are often used as daily transportation. The Z71 package is designed for off-highway use and makes maximum use of suspension travel to keep the wheels on the ground when on the trail or dirt roads; this off-road package frequently provides the best ride quality on anything worse than glass-smooth interstates. The Z60 street package replete with 20-inch wheels and low-profile tires is best used for the highway and smooth two-lanes but can be used on a dirt road. The NHT package is designed for maximum loads; ride compliance is good based on how much weight it can carry and tow but driving it around empty may be firmer (harsher) than you want for everyday use.
The Silverado benefits from good brakes. Drivers who tow will appreciate the optional integrated brake controller like that used on the Silverado heavy-duty trucks. (However, be sure your trailer brakes are compatible with it before choosing the option, as some electro-hydraulic disc conversions do not work with the integrated controller.)
Towing capacities range as high as 10,700 pounds with the NHT package. Maximum tow ratings for other models are in the 8,000-8,900 pound range (Hybrid excepted). If your trailer is heavier than 6,000 pounds or so, we'd recommend looking at the heavy-duty Silverado HD models. Remember these trailer weights are usually quoted for an empty truck with a standard-size driver on board. If you're hauling a lot of gear and people, you need to take that into consideration.
If you want the 15/22 mpg EPA ratings of the XFE on a regular Silverado or need higher towing capacity, minor changes to driving style will routinely net the same (or better) economy increase.
Those with limited vertical clearance either at home or in commercial garages should note that the 4WD versions of the Silverado 1500 Extended Cab and Crew Cab models are fractionally lower at the roof and loading level than the 2WD versions. Some pickup trucks add two to three inches in height for 4WD, and those inches could be critical in tight fits.
The Chevy Silverado offers more choices in light-duty pickup variations than any other, except perhaps GMC and the Ford F-150. It is among the smoothest riding and quietest of all full-size pickups, and can be counted on to get the job done.
G.R. Whale contributed to this report from Southern California; with NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Larry Edsall reporting from Phoenix.
Chevy Silverado 1500 WT Regular Cab, standard bed, 4WD ($24,090); 1500 LT Extended Cab, standard bed, 2WD ($29,125); LS Crew Cab 4WD ($33,510); LTZ Crew Cab 2WD ($38,625); Silverado Hybrid, Crew Cab, 2WD ($38,340).
Pontiac, Michigan; Fort Wayne, Indiana; Oshawa, Ontario; and Silao, Mexico.
Options As Tested
Convenience Package ($605) includes power-adjustable pedals, rear park assist, and rear wheelhouse liner.
Chevy Silverado LTZ Crew Cab 4x4 ($41,775).
*The data and content on this web site is subject to change without notice. Neither AOL nor any of its data or content providers shall be liable for errors in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.
More on the Silverado 1500 Hybrid
Whether you're a buyer or owner of the 2011 Chevy Silverado 1500 Hybrid we've got you covered.
FIND A GREAT USED CAR
Great Auto Loan Rates
Low Rates on New and Used AutosPowered By Apply In One Easy Step »