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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

New Silverado Hybrid remains Chevy-tough

 (The Spokesman-Review)
Greg Zyla King Features Syndicate

This week, we’re behind the wheel of Chevy’s 2005 Hybrid Silverado LS 1500 4WD pickup. We want to emphasize up front that Chevy’s Hybrid is not in the same category as compact hybrids from Honda, Toyota and Ford. With the Silverado pickup, you’ve still got to move 5,000 pounds of vehicle designed for serious work, and that takes continuous engine power.

Instead of batteries and a very small engine working in tandem, the Vortec 5.3-liter V-8 in Chevy’s Hybrid Silverado completely shuts down when the driver comes to a stop. The system offers substantial gas savings over the life of the truck and some nice electrical perks to boot.

Three extra 14-volt batteries under the rear seat of the five-passenger cabin store all the power the Silverado needs to automatically re-fire the engine after it comes to a stop. The restart feature is seamless and requires no extra input from the driver. Just press the accelerator after a stop, and the truck moves forward immediately. This re-fire feature is definitely advantageous, especially when you sit in traffic for minutes on end.

As for the accessories — like stereo, climate control and power steering — an electric hydraulic pump keeps everything working when the engine shuts down. The batteries utilize a fan for extra cooling and are in charge mode during normal driving.

As for perks, the Silverado can be used as an “electronic generator” thanks to four three-prong outlets — two under the back seat and two near the tailgate. A button on the dashboard gives access to a power system that can run anything that takes 120 volts. (That’s just about everything, sans 2,400-watt peak power machines, like a table saw!) So, if you are out working on a construction job, you can simply plug in your power tools or notebook computer. The engine must be running to use the 120-volt system, but more than 30 hours of usage are available on a tank of fuel.

General Motors indicates its Hybrid system pushes the EPA numbers from the non-Hybrid Silverado’s 12-mpg city, 15-mpg highway to a respectable 17-mpg city, 19-mpg highway average.

The Hybrid option costs $2,500, but you’ll receive a $3,000 “Power Pack” savings from GM. So you’re actually being paid $500 to add the Hybrid option to your Silverado. (Note: This hybrid currently does not qualify for the $3,000 IRS tax break given to the compact hybrids.)

Our tester, finished in a very loud bright-green metallic paint, also included option packages like a Safe and Sound package ($2,485), Light Duty Power Package ($1,580), leather seats ($800), Automatic Active Transfer Case ($375) and a few smaller items that pushed the final price to $40,040, including $850 delivery. Deduct the $3,000 package savings, and you arrive at the $37,040 bottom line.

In summary, Chevy’s Hybrid Silverado is no different than other full-size Chevy pickups, except for the stop mode. Currently, the truck is only available in six states (Alaska, California, Florida, Nevada, Oregon and Washington), with all of the states set for the 2006 model year. Also, the Hybrid is not designed to tow big items, like a fifth wheel or gooseneck trailer, but anything up to 7,400 pounds is OK.

We really like the Hybrid Silverado and give Chevy a solid 9 on a scale of 10 for its ingenuity. Calling it a “hybrid” may be stretching things a bit, but the extra mileage is welcome regardless of nomenclature.

Likes: Hybrid system works flawlessly; comfort, power

Dislikes: Color, limited availability