As hybrid technology has moved into larger form factors, like SUVs and trucks, it's harder to justify the higher price tags and smaller fuel-economy gains. This is the dilemma faced by buyers considering the 2011 GMC Sierra 1500 Hybrid pickup, which has an opening MSRP of $39,095 and a top range of $48,575. (Average actual prices paid run from $38,331 to $47,404.) For that hefty price tag, drivers are only getting 20 mpg city and 23 highway. Is it worth it?
EPA estimates suggest that Sierra 1500 hybrid drivers will save about $481 to $1,285 a year over their gasoline or E85-powered counterparts. Erring on the high end of that scale, you'd be saving about $3.50 a day over a year. On the low end? A little better than a dime. The base gasoline-powered Sierra 1500 will set you back around $21,235 and will likely get about 15 city / 20 highway. Frankly, it's just difficult math to work out. You have to wonder if this would be a purchase of a hybrid truck just for the sake of buying a hybrid truck. Actual environmental impact and fuel savings are next to nil.
Introduced in 2009, the Sierra 1500 Hybrid uses a 6-liter V8 with a variable transmission (two mode) paired with two electric motors. Total horsepower stands at 332 with 367 lb. ft. of torque for a towing capacity of 6,100 lbs. with RWD and 5,900 lbs. with 4WD. Reviewers agree that the power delivery is very smooth, and does not compromise on the "feel" of driving a full-size truck. The two-mode hybrid system allows the vehicle to use electrical power up to 30 mph at which point the gasoline engine engages. The system does use regenerative braking, but manages to avoid the jerkiness of other brands, a high-compliment for any hybrid, especially one of this size.
Little has changed for the 2011 model year except the addition of the OnStar system. The hybrid versions of the truck can only be configured with a crew cab and a short bed (5'9"). There are two trims, 3HA and 3HB. Some reviewers complain about the large size of the side decals proclaiming the truck to be a hybrid, otherwise, it is virtually identical to the gasoline-powered Sierra. Five or six people can ride in the crew cab with a fair degree of comfort. The 3HA trim has front bucket seats and a rear bench; the 3HB has a bench up front. The materials are high quality, but amenities err on the side of minimalism, and there's little storage. Due to the presence of the battery packs under the back cab, there is no flat floor option. The bed is short, with only 53.2 cubic feet of cargo space.
At the high price point and low fuel economy return, the Sierra 1500 Hybrid is hard to recommend. By some calculations, owners would have to drive it for 15 years to save enough at the pump to actually make-up for the boosted sticker price. It looks good and performs well, but this is an example of form factor outweighing hybrid gains.