Though the changes are subtle, the ’07 Chevy Avalanche is essentially an all-new truck. And a much better one than it was before.
It still has its rough-and-tumble Tonka personality and the clever Midgate, which expands the usable bed space into the interior to accommodate long objects without the need to drop the tailgate and leave them hanging in the breeze. But the questionable Stegosaurus-style plastic body cladding has been retired, no doubt to some “Aztek Room” deep within a remote GM salt mine in the deserts outside Ramos Arizpe.
There are equally salutary improvements to the chassis and driveline as well. The front suspension now uses coil-over shocks riding in light weight/high-strength aluminum lower control arms. This change reduces unsprung mass by 20 percent, and translates into a noticeably smoother ride and less jarring when you hit a pothole. There’s also a new rack-and-pinion power steering system designed to deliver more car-like road feel, even at high speeds, and a tighter turning radius than last year (43 feet vs. 43.3 feet). A revised five-link rear suspension designed complements the improvements up front, and the truck’s track (the distance between pairs of wheels) has been widened to spread out its center of mass and enhance its stability during cornering and abrupt, emergency maneuvering.
These changes are readily apparent after a back-to-back test drive of the ’06 vs. the ’07 model. While you should never drive any truck or SUV as if it were a sports car, the new Avalanche is noticeably more sure-footed, especially when one tries a deliberate hard turn, to simulate an emergency lane change.
The truck’s fully boxed steel frame is also changed, and GM claims 90 percent increased torsional stiffness in the new front section. The use of hydroforming (a process for extruding steel parts using water under extremely high pressures to make the frame sections as single units instead of welding pieces together) helps eliminate production variances and tighten up tolerances. That should translate into fewer squeaks and rattles, especially over the lifecycle of the vehicle since there are fewer bolted-together sections to work loose.
GM’s “quiet steel” laminates — essentially a sandwich of steel and sound/vibration-deadening materials — are used at many points (in particular, the cowl area) to limit the intrusion of unpleasant vibrations and driveline noises into the cabin. Expanding acoustical foam is also shot into body crevices during assembly in order to further cut down on wind and road noise by sealing up the cabin and isolating it from the external world. There’s even an “acoustically-tuned” plastic cover for the engine and a “quiet-tuned” alternator.