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by Phil Berg
You review the '02 Avalanche
The first thing you think as you approach the new Chevrolet Avalanche is that it’s just a four-door pickup, perhaps based on the ubiquitous full-size Chevy Silverado. It’s got a pickup bed, and it’s got four doors, á la Ford’s F150 or Dodge’s Ram full-size crew cabs. So what’s all the hype about? Of course it can do everything; it’s a monster.
Trust us. It’s not that simple. Peel back some of the skin and you’ll notice that the Avalanche is actually a Suburban underneath, not a pickup. That means it has a full body, not a cab and separate bed, which is how pickups are made. Is that important?
Chevy a self-professed trendsetter
What it means is the bed can be made weather-tight to the cab. So you can use the bed and cab separately or connected, and you can use both spaces—bed and cab—for indoor stuff, and for stuff bigger than would fit in either space alone. This ability was key in the development of the Avalanche. It meant Chevy could add a fifth door, called a “midgate,” between the bed and the cab, without resorting to a big rubber gasket like you’ll find surrounding the doors of two Amtrak cars mated together. Chevy believes that Ford and Dodge will follow suit: “We figure they’re going to do the same thing,” says Tony Posawitz, assistant vehicle line executive. “Our competitors will have to do all of the same work.”
Posawitz’s statement hints that the execution of the midgate is not as simple as adding a tailgate and window, like you’ll find on the back of any station wagon, onto the back of a pickup cab. First, there’s no convenient place for the midgate to go when you fold it down. Chevy opted for flop-forward rear seats in the Avalanche cab, under which the midgate would fold forward and hide. To save the weight, space and complexity of a motorized window, the rear glass must be removed by hand, but can be left in place when the midgate is folded forward.