The GMC Sierra crew cab is one of two hybrid pickup trucks. The other is the Chevrolet Silverado.
A full-size Sierra hybrid pickup offers up to 40 percent better city fuel economy while still being able to tow and haul. Highway mileage is roughly 25 percent greater. The Environmental Protection Agency’s fuel mileage rating for a two-wheel-drive truck is 21 miles per gallon in the city and 22 on the highway. Four-wheel drive is rated at 20 mpg for both city and highway. A two-wheel-drive Sierra XFE gasoline-only truck is rated at 15 in the city and 21 on the highway.
The two-wheel-drive Sierra can tow 6,100 pounds, while the four-wheel-drive can tow 5,900 pounds.
The Sierra is available only as a crew cab with a short box. Base prices range from $38,390 to $47,675. Standard equipment includes Bluetooth phone connectivity, OnStar for one year, power windows and locks, heated outside power mirrors, radio controls on the steering wheel, tilt wheel, cruise control, AM/FM/CD stereo and XM radio for three months.
The test truck also had a soft tonneau cover over the bed, presumably to aid fuel economy.
The Sierra is equipped with General Motors’ impressive two-mode system that enables the vehicle to start up and drive up to 30 miles per hour on electricity alone, even when towing. The gasoline engine is a 6.0-liter V-8 with 332 horsepower. The engine also uses GM’s active fuel management system that shuts down cylinders when cruising on the highway. The engine operates in four-cylinder mode more often because the hybrid’s electric motors deliver about 30 horsepower.
The two-mode system is also used in the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon hybrids.
Key to the system is GM’s new electronically variable transmission that contains two 60-kilowat electric motors. A simple explanation is that this transmission can operate in two modes, one with continuously variable ratios for light loads and one with four fixed ratios for heavy loads. A sophisticated computer system decides whether to move the vehicle with electric power, gasoline power or a combination of both. GM says its two-mode transmission is unlike that used by any other hybrid.
Electricity is stored in a battery pack that is charged by the engine and by regenerative braking.
Transitions between electric and gasoline power are so smooth that they are hard to feel. The only indication of electric-only operation is a small gauge in the instrument panel. A more complex readout would be useful for extracting maximum mileage.
The hybrid drives pretty much like a normal Sierra. The engine often shuts off when the vehicle is stopped. Step gently on the throttle and the initial acceleration is provided by the electric motors. I enjoyed accelerating slowly to see how far I could go on the electric motors before the gasoline engine kicked in.
The Sierra hybrid is distinguished from the regular model by badging and by a deeper front valance that keeps air out from under the vehicle at highway speeds.
The Sierra drives more like a luxury car than a truck. The front seats are especially noteworthy because they offer excellent support. The large center armrest has two cup holders and a large storage space inside. It is wide and flat and can be used almost like a desk. When the armrest is folded up, the front seat is a bench that can accommodate three persons.
The instrument panel, which was redesigned last year, has elegant gauges, few seams and surface textures that are rich and inviting. The layout and design of the radio and climate controls are simple and clean. Large knobs have a quality feel.
The Sierra’s back seat is accessible by full-size back doors. The back seat folds flat when you need extra load space. The rear doors open wide to accommodate loading items.
Anti-lock brakes are standard, as is GM’s StabiliTrak vehicle stability control system that is designed to help mitigate rollovers. Side-curtain airbags with rollover protection are also standard.
The base price of the test vehicle was $38,390. The only option was a six-way power seat. The sticker price was $39,640.
Three years or 36,000 miles with a five-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty and an eight-year, 100,000-mile warranty on hybrid components.
2009 GMC Sierra 1500 Hybrid
Engine: 6.0-liter, 332-hp V-8 plus electric motors
Wheelbase: 143.5 inches
Curb weight: 7,100 lbs.
Base price: $38,390
As driven: $39,640
Mpg: 21 city, 22 highway
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