Driving the Electrified Silverado
In the last 12 months, we've put thousands of miles on half a dozen different full-size GM hybrids. These trucks drive like nothing else on the road. At first, the sensation of driving the Silverado Hybrid is weird. In easy-going driving, the engine RPM and exhaust note don't correspond linearly to acceleration. The EVT works like a continuously variable transmission, so the hybrid's 6.0-liter revs to a particular RPM and hangs there while the vehicle's speed seems to play catch-up. But this sensation is nothing compared to when the Chevy accelerates on battery power alone; it's like gliding. All you hear is a distant hum of a motor and some tire noise, nothing else. It's pure engineering magic.

The engine's auto-stop feature also catches drivers off guard at first. Here's what happens; when you are driving and pull up to a stop, the V-8 may decide that it is going to shut off to save fuel. While the engine shut-down is smooth (as is the re-start), a first reaction can be that the truck stalled. Running on battery power, the steering, climate control, and other vital functions remain completely operational in the Auto Stop mode. Full-throttle launches aren't as fast as a Silverado with the 403-horsepower 6.2-liter V-8, but the Hybrid model holds its own with 0-60 mph acceleration in the mid-8 second range. That's about what you'd expect from a two-wheel drive 5.3-liter Chevy pickup, but that truck only gets 14 mpg city, 20 mpg highway.

To help with eco-driving, there is a gauge at the left of the IP that encourages drivers to stay within a "green" zone. Too much acceleration is wasteful, as is too much braking (the EVT's regenerative capabilities can't capture the maximum amount of energy during quick stops). The gauge helps drivers realize that long coast downs and extended soft braking maximize mileage. If you get the navigation system option, more hybrid system information can be displayed on the LCD monitor that sits atop the center stack.

During our time with the Silverado Hybrid, we drove it hauling nothing but air, and loaded with about 1,200 pounds in the bed, and hooked to a 5,550-pound trailer. The truck did everything we asked of it and never seemed bothered by anything we asked. We were concerned that the extra 300 pounds of batteries would hurt the truck's ride and handling, but it doesn't seem to make any difference. GM engineers did put a new hydraulic body-to-frame mount under the cab to help manage the additional mass, and the improvement in ride was so noticeable that they're now using that new mount on all GM Crew Cabs, hybrid and non-hybrid.

The only minor downside we noticed about the Hybrid was that the 300-volt battery pack takes up all of the room under the second-row rear seat, which is a prime location for a speaker enclosure. On a non-hybrid Silverado, this seat flips up against the rear of the cab to open up lots of cargo room on the floor. When you flip up the seat on the Hybrid, there is a large black case that contains hundreds of battery cells. You can load cargo on the battery case, but there is less overall room.