Chevy Silverado Hybrid: Good mileage per gallon, but not per dollar
Truck season began the first weekend of spring with dozens of commercial haulers and privately owned pickups rolling along Furnace Road and easing to a stop at the weigh-and-pay station of the I-95 Resource Recovery Facility in Lorton.
It's one of those euphemistically named places otherwise known as a dump. But the appellation isn't all puffery. Trash at the gargantuan facility is sorted by category -- construction materials, old electronic equipment, building materials, brush and yard waste. Burnable items are used to help generate electricity. Metals are melted and reformed for other purposes. One person's yard waste becomes another person's mulch.
Most of the trucks doing weekend chores were dumping the detritus of a rough winter -- broken tree limbs, ruined greenery of various sorts and the remains of tree-shattered rooftops.
It is a seasonal ritual, oddly enjoyable for truck lovers, who often use the occasion to exchange views on truck performance and innovation.
There were a number of pickup trucks at our designated brush and yard waste site, including other Chevrolet Silverado models old and new, Ford F-Series (the best-selling vehicles in the country for 33 years), Dodge Rams, and an occasional Nissan Titan or Toyota Tundra.
My wife, Mary Anne, and I had the only hybrid pickup. After two days of chatter with real truck people, those for whom trucks are a fundamental part of daily life, it was clear to see why.
Truck people don't like the current generation of hybrid trucks. The first reason is price.
The 2010 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid crew cab with all-wheel drive, for example, starts at $47,820. The comparable four-wheel-drive, non-hybrid Chevrolet Silverado LTZ starts at $41,775.
Depending on equipment levels, other models in Chevrolet's 94-member Silverado line, most of them as capable of doing truck stuff as the Silverado Hybrid, start at prices $6,000 to $25,000 lower than their hybrid counterparts.
"No way" was the often-spoken sentiment from dump-site patrons when asked if they would consider buying a hybrid truck. "No way."
In response, General Motors, maker of the Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid, wisely is rolling out that model as a "limited edition." Until the company produces a full-size hybrid pickup that offers substantially more for its whopping price premium, it should keep it that way.
That is not to say that the Silverado Hybrid is a bad truck -- not at all. It moves from stop to start under electric power at a top speed of 29 mph. Non-hybrid pickups, nearly all of them gas-guzzlers, waste an awful lot of fuel in stop-and-go traffic, revving their big engines only to shut them down after traveling a block or two.
Non-hybrid, gasoline-fueled, full-size pickups get 12 to 15 miles a gallon in the city, regardless of manufacturer. In our possession, the Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid got nearly 22 mpg -- good, but not nearly good enough to pay for its price premium.
We drove nearly 600 highway miles in the Silverado Hybrid and loved every mile of our journey. Running at a median highway speed of 75 mph, the truck's standard 6-liter V-8 engine (332 horsepower, 367 foot-pounds of torque) took over. We moved!
But when highway traffic slowed down, four of the V-8's cylinders took a rest, thanks to GM's "active engine management" system. That saved us fuel, giving us a highway mileage of nearly 23 mpg -- much better than we've gotten in anybody's full-size, all-wheel-drive pickup.
We liked that. But we aren't willing to pay a $6,000 to $25,000 premium to get it.
Brown is a special correspondent.