SEE ALSO: Chevrolet Buyer's Guide
SPECIFICATIONS Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price $ 33,245 Price As Tested $ 37,556 Engine Type OHV 16-valve 5.3 Liter V8 w/SMFI* Engine Size 327 cid/5358 cc Horsepower 285 @ 5200 RPM Torque (lb-ft) 325 @ 4000 RPM Wheelbase/Width/Length 130.0"/79.8"/221.7" Transmission Four-speed automatic Curb Weight 5705 pounds Fuel Capacity 31.0 gallons Tires (F/R) P265/70R17 all-season Brakes (F/R) Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS) Drive Train Front-engine/four-wheel-drive Vehicle Type Five-passenger/four-door Domestic Content N/A Coefficient of Drag (Cd.) N/A PERFORMANCE EPA Economy, miles per gallon city/highway/average 13/17/14 0-60 MPH 10.5 seconds Maximum payload capacity 1322 pounds Maximum towing capacity 8100 pounds * Sequential multi-port fuel injection
The Chevrolet Avalanche is an entirely new species of vehicle: part truck and part SUV. It comes in either two or four-wheel drive, with a half-ton (1500) or three-quarter-ton (2500) chassis. This week we test an Avalanche 1500 4x4.
OUTSIDE - The Avalanche is built on the same assembly line as GM's mammoth Suburban. It has four standard sedan-type doors and a 5.3-foot cargo bed. Matte-black body cladding is tacked on its lower extremities, and over-fenders give it a unique look. Innovative details abound in its rugged, scratch and dent resistant composite-material bed. Built into each side of the bed are lockable, "drainable" storage compartments, while steps are integrated into the rear bumper. Three weatherproof interlocking panels make up the bed's cover and are held in place by latches. The panels are strong enough to stand on, and each can be removed independently, leaving the others in place. Slots for vertical dividers prevent cargo from sliding around while in transit. A new front-end reflects that of GM's upscale SUVs and pickups, with unique headlamp shapes and a nose that's separated by a wide chrome strip.
INSIDE - The instrument panel is the latest in GM's line. It's readable, reachable and very functional. Drivers of all sizes can find a comfortable fit, though the manual backrest adjustment lever is in an awkward position and requires a contorted reach. What makes Avalanche unique is a "door" that separates the rear seat from the cargo box. In short time, Avalanche can be converted from a five (or six, depending on configuration) passenger, short-bed pickup to a two-passenger, long-bed hauler. By folding the rear seat bottoms forward and flipping the door down, four-by-eight sheets of plywood are transportable with the tailgate up. The rear window can be removed and stowed in the rear seatback, which gives an open-top feel to the ride.
ON THE ROAD - Chevy came out with a whole new line of powerplants a few years back. They're all V8s of course, but the latest 5.3-liter unit produces a very healthy 285 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque. About 90 percent of this torque is available starting at 1600 rpm, which gives it extremely strong pulling power and off-line launch. This iron block-aluminum head V8 uses traditional overhead valves and a camshaft that is located deep inside the engine block, but it's been out a few years now and has proven itself very durable. Mated to this is GM's rugged four-speed automatic transmission and, in the case our tester, a shift-on-the-fly Autotrac 4WD system, which also features a low range for serious off-road abilities.
BEHIND THE WHEEL - Cutting off the rear of the Suburban roof meant that GM had to strengthen the Suburban-based chassis. It begins with strong, fully boxed frame rails, which gives a more solid platform than that of the Silverado pickup frame. Chevrolet also added a strong C-ring around the back of the cab, while buttresses around the rear of the cabin add further strength to the body structure. Its suspension components feature unequal-length control arms with torsion bars, and the solid rear axle rides atop coil springs. The 2500-Series Avalanche models use two-stage leaf springs in back, which gives an almost 2000-pound payload as opposed to our tester's 1300 pounds. The ride is surprisingly smooth for a 4x4, especially when it's loaded with people and cargo. The recirculating-ball steering system is fitted with a variable assist system that gives more road feel at highway speeds. Braking is handled by four-wheel vented disc brakes with an anti-lock braking system (ABS).
SAFETY - ABS, daytime running headlamps and front and side-impact airbags are standard.
OPTIONS - Power sunroof, $1095; 6-way power seats with leather and cloth upholstery, $1195; Off-Road Package (17-inch wheels and tires, tuned shocks and springs, locking rear differential, underbody skid shields, High capacity air filter, special floor mats), $835; Convenience Package (driver's side self-dimming mirror, Onstar Communications, electronic climate control), $546.