GM Hangs Tough

The big news out of GM for 2009 is the eagerly anticipated introduction of two-mode hybrid powertrains, which are available now on the manufacturer's full-size GMC and Chevy SUVs. This hybrid technology was developed jointly by GM with BMW and the former Daimler-Chrysler, and is just now proving its fuel-saving value.

Meanwhile, the GM pickup twins get mostly incremental, but nonetheless important, improvements for '09. A new ethanol, E85-capable, 6.2 liter engine (403 hp/417 pound-feet of torque), formerly available only on the top-end GMC Denali SUV, migrates to the pickups along with a refined, fuel-efficient, 6-speed automatic transmission.

Other drivetrain options the Silverado and Sierra pickups have in common are a choice of 4.3-liter V6 (195 hp/260 pound-feet of torque) or 4.8 liter V8 (295 hp/305 pound-feet of torque), three 5.3-liter V8 iterations (315 or 320 hp/338 or 340 pound-feet of torque), and a 6.0-liter aluminum V8 with variable valve timing in a special towing package (367 hp/365 pound-feet of torque). Vehicle stability control is now standard on all models above the base 4.3-liter engine, as well as an optional integrated trailer brake controller on regular cab models. Maximum towing capacity is 10,700 pounds with a max payload of 1,802 pounds.

In other news from GM, the midsize Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon pickups get a major boost to their powertrain lineups with the addition of the 5.3-liter V8 (tuned to 300 hp/320 pound-feet of torque) on extended and crew cab models. Still available are the base 2.9-liter, four-cylinder engine (185 hp/190 pound-feet of torque) and 3.7-liter, inline five-cylinder engine (242 hp/242 pound-feet of torque). Electronic stability control also becomes standard on all models. Maximum towing capacity on both models equipped with the V8 climbs to 6,000 pounds, and payload tops out at 1,422 pounds.

Equator, H3T Pickups Out

All-new for 2009 is the Equator, the first and only pickup ever from the American Suzuki Motor Corp. This midsize model isn't built by the motorcycle, auto, all-terrain vehicle and marine engine maker, however. It's manufactured by Nissan in its Tennessee truck plant, and its design is based on the midsize Nissan Frontier. According to Suzuki, the Equator was developed jointly with Nissan and has features that make it unique. It's equipped with a standard, 2.5-liter, inline four-cylinder engine (152 hp/171 pound-feet of torque) mated to a 5-speed manual transmission, or optional 4.0-liter aluminum-block V6 (261 hp/281 pound-feet of torque) with 5-speed automatic transmission.

The Equator comes in extended or crew-cab body styles and rear-drive or four-wheel-drive (4WD) configurations. Drivetrain options include shift-on-the-fly 4WD with an electronically controlled, part-time, 2-speed transfer case. An off-road traction system offers an electronic locking rear differential, stability control, hill descent control, and hill hold assist. The maximum tow rating is 6,500 pounds.

The second debut for 2009, the Hummer H3T, is yet another niche pickup from GM's stable, along with the Chevy SST and Avalanche, Cadillac Escalade EXT, and new Pontiac G8 Sport Truck to be introduced later this year. Based on the popular H3 "baby" Hummer, the H3T is not quite full-size in body or bed but a bit larger than midsize models like the Dodge Dakota, Mitsubishi Raider, Chevy Colorado, GMC Canyon, and Suzuki Equator.

It's also the only pickup in this group with standard full-time 4WD and both front and rear locking differentials. And although it has a 5-foot bed capable of carrying 4x8 sheet materials with the tailgate down, the H3T is positioned more as an adventuresome off-road vehicle than a work truck.

With roomy, five-passenger seating and a choice of 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmissions, the H3T comes standard with the 3.7-liter, five-cylinder engine also found in the Canyon and Colorado models, or with GM's 5.3-liter V8 in the H3T Alpha edition. A handy feature that it shares with some other GM models is an optional, tailgate-mounted backup camera that displays in the cab's interior rearview mirror.