Full 2010 GMC Sierra 1500 Hybrid Review
What's New for 2010
The 2010 GMC Sierra 1500 Hybrid gains E85 fuel compatibility for its V8 engine and a revised optional navigation/audio system (now featuring a back-up camera and a USB port). Also, last year's oversize "Hybrid" body decals are no longer available.
Gasoline/electric hybrid vehicles are becoming ever more common. By extension, the idea of a full hybrid pickup truck would seem to be a grand one. Full hybrid technology allows a car to run at low speeds (typically under 30 mph) solely on electric power. Meanwhile, heavy, gas-swilling full-size pickups are at their thirstiest in around-town and stop-and-go driving. A pickup and a hybrid power plant…as natural a pairing as peanut butter and jelly, right? In theory, yes; in practice, the 2010 GMC Sierra 1500 Hybrid leaves a bit to be desired.
The Sierra Hybrid (like the mechanically identical Chevy Silverado Hybrid) boasts city fuel economy that's about 50 percent higher than that for non-hybrid trucks. But it comes at a pretty stiff price, as the hybrid costs considerably more than a similarly equipped, non-hybrid Sierra 1500 SLE. Furthermore, the Sierra Hybrid is only offered in the crew cab body style and, despite its near-$40K sticker price, doesn't have the upscale dash and cabin design of the Sierra SLT. Also, the hybrid power plant's odd power delivery and unremarkable towing capacity may further limit its appeal.
We certainly can't fault GM for the level of technology that's in the Sierra Hybrid. A complex four-speed electrically variable transmission -- essentially a combination of a conventional automatic transmission and a continuously variable one (CVT) -- works in tandem with a 6.0-liter V8 and two 60-kilowatt electric motors to move the Sierra's considerable mass. A 300-volt nickel-metal hydride battery pack (located underneath the rear bench seat) provides the juice for the electric motors, and a regenerative braking system recharges that battery pack during deceleration.
With the electric motors kicked in, the combined output is a claimed 379 horsepower. And to maximize fuel efficiency, the V8 has cylinder-deactivation technology, enabling it to run on just four cylinders under certain conditions, such as light-load freeway cruising or when driving downhill. The V8 also shuts off at low speeds when it's not needed, and it seamlessly comes back on when more power or higher-speed operation is required.
Although the Sierra Hybrid delivers impressive city fuel economy, on the highway there is little benefit to all this technology, complexity and cost. In fact, the fuel-miser Sierra XFE is rated just 1 mpg less than the Hybrid's 22 mpg highway rating. And even the standard Sierra with the 5.3-liter V8 rates 20 mpg for the highway.
Considering the approximate $3,000 premium that the Sierra Hybrid commands over the comparably equipped Sierra 1500 SLE crew cab, it doesn't strike us as a particularly smart purchase. In fairness, the Sierra 1500 Hybrid will likely have strong appeal for certain buyers. Green-oriented businesses might like the truck's reduced carbon footprint, and contractors who do a lot of city driving might even recoup the initial price premium before too many years have gone by. For most people, though, the 2010 GMC Sierra 1500 Hybrid is a bit too compromised to justify a purchase.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 GMC Sierra 1500 Hybrid is a full-size crew-cab pickup available in either 3HA or 3HB trim. The base 3HA comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, towing preparation, a soft bed tonneau cover, a 40/20/40-split front bench, keyless entry, full power accessories, dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with auxiliary audio controls, cruise control, OnStar, Bluetooth and a six-speaker CD/MP3 stereo with satellite radio.
The 3HB ups the luxury quotient with foglamps, heated exterior mirrors with integrated turn signals, rear parking sensors, a hard bed tonneau cover, a navigation system with real-time traffic updates, an upgraded Bose audio system with a USB port, rear audio controls, a floor-mounted center console, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, power-adjustable pedals, leather upholstery and power front bucket seats.
A power driver seat is a stand-alone option for the base 3HA. Other options include remote start, a back-up camera and a sunroof.
Powertrains and Performance
The Sierra 1500 Hybrid is available in either two- or four-wheel drive. It's powered by a 6.0-liter V8 with cylinder-deactivation technology teamed with two 60-kilowatt electric motors, which are in turn supplied by a nickel-metal hydride battery pack. Official output is 332 hp, but GM claims a total output of 379 hp with the electric motors taken into account. The electrically variable transmission does a fair impression of a conventional four-speed automatic, but it's actually a complex cross between a regular automatic and a CVT.
In spite of all that power, the sprint from zero to 60 mph takes a leisurely 9.2 seconds, a time that we suspect even the Sierra crew cab's base 4.8-liter V8 could match. The Hybrid's maximum tow rating is 6,100 pounds, which is roughly on par with the 4.8-liter and 5.3-liter V8s, but well below the 10,600-pound maximum for the big-daddy 6.2-liter V8.
EPA fuel economy estimates are 21 mpg city/22 mpg highway and 21 combined with 2WD and 20 across the board with 4WD. The city is where the Hybrid shines -- most full-size trucks are in the 14-15-mpg range.
The 2010 GMC Sierra 1500 Hybrid comes standard with stability control, antilock disc brakes and full-length side curtain airbags. OnStar is also included.
In government crash tests, the Sierra 1500 Hybrid earned top five-star ratings for its protection of occupants in frontal and side-impact collisions. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, in its test of the regular Silverado 1500, gave the truck a top score of "Good" for frontal-offset crash protection but the worst rating of "Poor" for side-impact protection.
Interior Design and Special Features
Other than a few Hybrid-specific gauges behind the steering wheel, the 2010 GMC Sierra 1500 Hybrid's cabin is pure work truck. The plastics are a uniformly somber black, and the functional but rudimentary switchgear doesn't exactly exude class. That's not a problem for a regular Sierra, but considering the Hybrid's elevated price, it'd be nice to have the prettified dash of the Sierra LTZ at least as a stand-alone option. The rear seat is roomy and comfortable, as it should be in a crew cab, though the seatback angle is a bit upright.
The 2010 GMC Sierra 1500 Hybrid doesn't feel as powerful as 6.0 liters and a claimed 379 hp would suggest. The main culprit is the powertrain's complexity: Floor the Hybrid from a stop and there's a noticeable pause as the truck creeps forward in electric mode, then hurtles away once the gas engine comes online. The transmission is quirky, too -- under the same conditions, it will whisk the engine up to 4,500 rpm, pause noticeably to change ratios and then settle down around 4,000 rpm, from which point it acts much like a CVT.
It's undeniably neat to take a full-size pickup from zero to 29 mph solely under electric power, but the eccentric power delivery and unremarkable towing capacity render the cheaper 4.8-liter and 5.3-liter V8s wholly viable alternatives, particularly if fuel economy is not a top priority. The electric power steering system is characteristically light and numb but adequately precise, while the brakes are impressively natural in feel for a regenerative system.