Is a savings of one mile per gallon even worth thinking about? Consumers will probably be pondering that question as they consider the XFE option when shopping for their next full-size truck. GM was kind enough to give us a little time with their new-for-2009 Silverado XFE, so we in turn tore around town with it to see if the option had nerfed the truck, or made any difference whatsoever.
Read on past the jump for our hands-on experiences and a few photos.
With an eye on fuel economy the guys at GM decided to improve the normal Silverado (read: not the hybrid system) by maximizing what they had. They concentrated on three areas: mechanical, aerodynamics, and mass.
The first and arguably biggest change was in the mechanical section: They tweaked the rear-axle ratio in the new XFE, so it’s 3.08 instead of the tried and true 4.11 setup favored in years past. Though some may cock an eyebrow at the decision, GM feels confident the truck will speak for itself and hold up to the Silverado’s tough working pedigree. GM says the 6L80 automatic six-speed transmission in the XFE will also help fuel efficiency. It functions exactly like the standard four-gear auto tranny, but with better top-end gears to help balance the energy cost of running at highway speed.
Next, GM looked into the aerodynamics. The truth is that a full-sized truck is about as aerodynamic as a brick, and it’s never going to be a Ferrari; but that doesn’t mean it has to be a school bus either. So they lowered the suspension 17mm, slapped on a tonneau cover out back, and slightly reworked the front air dam — subtle changes to be sure, but every little bit helps.
After the mechanical and aerodynamic adjustments, the next stop is mass — make it lighter. A lighter vehicle requires less energy to move, so the XFE went on a diet. The FlexFuel 5.3L V8 received an aluminum block, and the 18” rims are aluminum, as well as the lower control arms and spare wheel, for a total slim-down of around 150 pounds.
What does all this fat-trimming and efficiency really boil down to? GM says you can expect to see about one more mile per gallon for both city and highway — instead of 14 city and 20 highway, you’ll be getting 15 city and 21 highway.
Read on to page two for our test.