- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 3, 2005

Hybrid is a word that’s becoming contagious. It’s now spread to the GMC Sierra to produce better fuel economy, a great concern of those who drive pickup trucks.

The Sierra Hybrid is a big 4x4 pickup that gets 17 miles per gallon city and 19 mpg highway, which is about 10 percent better than with the standard gasoline engine, but this fuel economy doesn’t come cheap. The Sierra, loaded with options, costs $39,593.

The 2006 Sierra, as well as its counterpart the Chevy Silverado, is available with a hybrid system, which is the trend of the future.

But my first impression of the Sierra Hybrid had nothing to do with fuel economy. I was amazed at how quiet the truck was. Driving on road surfaces of various types, the usual noise could not be heard.

In fact, I’ve heard more road noise when driving some upscale sedans than I did in the Sierra. I suspect the quiet interior is partially due to the hi-temp wax coated frame.

The important part of the Sierra, however, is under the hood. GMC uses the same reliable Vortec 5.3-liter, V-8 engine that produces 295 horsepower and 335 foot-pounds of torque. With this power, the Sierra 4x4 could haul 6,400 pounds and tow 8,700 pounds. The bed dimensions are 78.7 by 64.8 inches.

I’m told that the hybrid’s improved fuel economy comes from the 14-kw electric induction motor’s ability to stop and restart the engine under different operating circumstances. The Sierra’s hybrid system allows the engine to turn over quietly and allows automatic engine stops and starts to conserve fuel, according to GMC engineers.

A quiet interior isn’t the only amenity. Not only does it have a leather-wrapped steering wheel, but the seats are covered with the same quality leather — both front and rear. This extended cab model seats up to six occupants. Entry to the back seat is by opening the front door, then the rear door.

The interior has many of the amenities one expects of an expensive luxury car. The Sierra goes well beyond the usual power locks and windows, remote keyless entry, etc. The test truck had six-way power bucket seats, dual-zone climate control, along with compass and temperature gauges in the self-dimming rearview mirror. The outside mirrors could fold inward and be heated in icy weather. And these mirrors adjust downward on either or both sides to see the curb when shifting into reverse.

The steering wheel had numerous control buttons. In addition to the controls for the sound system, I was able to dial into various functions throughout the truck simply by touching these buttons. The information contained the expected oil life, driving range and various control settings both inside and out. The tester also had four 120-volt grounded outlets — two in the cab and two in the bed.

My favorite buttons were for the AM/FM with CD radio. It had XM Satellite Radio, allowing me to listen to my preferred stations.

As for the ride quality: full-size body-on-frame trucks don’t get much better than this one. I purposely drove over some rough road surfaces when checking out the interior noise level and was amazed at how cushioned the ride was. However, on a couple of rainy days, I was concerned about the slippery tire traction and considered transferring from 2WD to 4WD. The test truck had daytime running lamps plus auto-control halogen headlamps, but no head restraint in the center rear seat. Bottom line: If you want to counter rising gasoline costs, the Sierra Hybrid provides a modest step in the right direction.



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