Thanks to Bob Brown GMC in Ankeny, Iowa I got a chance to test drive the 2009 GMC Sierra hybrid pickup truck last week. Let me just start by saying, this truck was nothing like pickups I’ve owned or driven before. And at the same time, if you are familiar with the late model Sierra or Chevrolet Silverado, you might not notice much difference between them and this new green hauling machine (and that is a good thing!).
If your mind is set on buying a new Sierra, you have lots of choices this year. In addition to the hybrid version, GMC also offers the 1500, 2500HD, 3500HD, and the Sierra Denali. Prices range from about $20,000 to nearly $50,000 depending on what type of pickup you need (basic, heavy duty, luxury, green, or something in between).
The hybrid Sierra I test drove was a 4 wheel drive model with a standard price of $41,540. After the destination charge and a couple of options, it came to just under $43K. This model of the Sierra has a 6.0 liter, V8 engine paired with the same 2-Mode hybrid transmission found in the 2009 GMC Yukon hybrid (as well as several other vehicles). It is only available in a crew cab with a short bed (5 ft. 9 inches), and towing capacity is 6,100 lbs (some Sierra’s can tow over 5 tons, but the hybrid can still handle most car trailers or small boats). This hybrid truck has the Active Fuel Management system (which allows it to run on only 4 cylinders) and with the help of the electric motors it manages 20 miles per gallon in both city and hwy driving. That is a 40% improvement over the gas-only engine model.
Except for the differences mentioned above, most everything else is the same when you compare the hybrid Sierra to its non-hybrid counterpart. Two big differences are price and fuel economy, and if you are basing your final decision solely on those two factors (which would not be uncommon in these economic conditions) here are a few numbers that might help you.
The 4wd hybrid Sierra I drove (no leather, navigation, or premium Bose stereo) was $43,000 and was rated at 20 m.p.g. A comparable 4-wd Sierra 1500 would cost you about $39,500 and gets 13 mpg city/18 mpg hwy. Assuming you average 15 mpg with the Sierra 1500, you’d gain 5 mpg with the hybrid model at an extra cost of $3,500. With gas a $4 per gallon, it would take most drivers about 3 years to recoup that extra expense (and closer to 5 years at current fuel prices).
At the same time, many people who buy hybrid vehicles do so for other reasons including reducing their carbon footprint. The hybrid Sierra’s motto is “Work Hard – Tread Lightly”. If that is your plan and you need a full-sized pickup…I think you found it.