The Automobile Magazine fleet has been inundated with hybrids lately, and this GMC Sierra Hybrid is certainly the largest of the lot. I had many doubts about hybrid pickups before I first drove a Silverado Hybrid last summer, but the truck proved to be quite capable and very refined. Sadly, the truck market is obsessed with diesel engines, so I wonder how many buyers will take the hybrid GMT900s seriously. But those who are willing to test-drive a hybrid pickup will likely walk away very impressed.
I love how refined the start/stop system is, but I wish it were easier to tell when the engine is about to fire up. GM managed to smooth out the transition between gas and electric power perfectly (which isn't easy), but then installed the absolutely least informative efficiency gauge of any hybrid vehicle I have ever driven.
The efficiency gauge has a green zone in the middle, and there are non-green zones on either side of the "sweet spot." However, there are no clues as to where the needle points at the most efficient operating point and where it might point at the least efficient operating point. Behind the scenes, this system must be more complex than the old vacuum-activated fuel economy gauges, but on the surface it looks very unsophisticated. I recently sampled the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid and had a chance to use its very intuitive and informative SmartGauge display to help maximize my fuel economy, which makes GM's solution look even worse in comparison. It's so easy to understand how to drive the Fusion efficiently; I had no problem besting the EPA numbers when I wanted to. With this GMC Sierra Hybrid, I actually saw worse fuel economy readings when I tried to be an eco driver. I returned almost a full mile per gallon better fuel economy on my way home from work ignoring the gauge and driving normally than I did driving to work and trying to maximize efficiency. GM needs to license Ford's display if it can't develop something equally useful in-house.
Complaints about instrumentation aside, I think this truck is one of the best offerings in GMC's product portfolio. I do wish for other configurations (trucks that can't be ordered with 8-foot beds don't make sense to me), and I'd rather have a 5.3-liter V-8 than this 6.0-liter V-8 under the hood, but an honest-to-God truck that gets 20+ mpg and can still tow anything I own is very impressive. Ignorant pundits will chastise GM for bringing this truck to market before the Volt, but the reality is that the two-mode hybrid system was designed for thirsty trucks and SUVs, and increasing the fuel economy of the thirstiest vehicles will help more than making the most efficient class of vehicles a little more efficient.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor