2008 Chevrolet Avalanche Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
July 23, 2008

The 2008 Chevrolet Avalanche is the truck for those who can't decide whether they need a pickup or an SUV.

TheCarConnection.com’s editors read the latest reviews on the new 2008 Chevrolet Avalanche to write this comprehensive review. Experts from TheCarConnection.com also drove the Chevy Avalanche. These experiences enable this team to offer you a definitive opinion on this full-size SUV. This review also compares the 2008 Chevrolet Avalanche with other vehicles in its class to give you the best advice even when other reviews present conflicting opinions.

Hey, want to see a trick? If you think your friends will say yes, then you might want a 2008 Chevrolet Avalanche. From its debut as a 2002 model, the Avalanche has been defined by its unique Midgate and the one trick it performs.

The folding Midgate forms the rear wall of the Avalanche's passenger compartment. With the Midgate closed and the rear seat up, the Chevy Avalanche has room for up to six passengers depending on whether you have bucket seats or a bench in front. When the Midgate is folded, voila, you lose room for passengers in the rear but the pickup bed grows in length from 5'3" to 8'2". Neat, eh?

The 2008 Chevrolet Avalanche is a bit of a one-trick pony, but tens of thousands of buyers like this versatility, so Chevy keeps on building the unique SUV/truck hybrid.

Review continues below

Looking at the current Chevrolet Avalanche, it's important to know that every light-duty pickup from General Motors was comprehensively retooled for the 2007 model year, including the Chevy Avalanche. In case you didn't know, the Avalanche is based on the Chevrolet Suburban chassis, sharing many common parts and even the dimensions of its wheelbase.

Because of all the work done for 2007, the changes made on the 2008 Chevrolet Avalanche are relatively minor. The 2008 edition adds standard curtain airbags to all model lines. A split-bench seat can now be ordered on the LS edition; LTZ models get new wood-grain trim and brighter instrument pointers.

The 2008 Chevrolet Avalanche is available in LS, LT, and LTZ models and with either rear- or-four-wheel drive. The standard engine is a 320-horsepower 5.3-liter V-8 with cylinder deactivation. A 6.0-liter, 366-horsepower V-8 is available; it also shuts off cylinders under low engine loads to reduce fuel consumption. An E85 flex-fuel engine is offered.

Two- and four-wheel drive drivetrains are available. A heavy-duty Z71 Off-Road package is optional and features larger recovery hook openings; larger, more prominent fog lamps; and specific grille texture and platinum chrome grille trim. Eighteen-inch wheels and tires are also part of the package.

Major available technology features include rear park assist, a rearview camera system, DVD navigation, and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system with an eight-inch screen.

So how does it all work? Very well. For the most part, dirty cargo can stay in the bed while passengers remain comfortable in the roomy interior. The 2008 Chevrolet Avalanche shares its interior with the Chevy Silverado pickup and Tahoe SUV, and the experts at TheCarConnection.com like these trucks. Their comfort and controls are first rate and simple to use. If you haven't been in this newest generation of GM light-duty truck, you owe it a look. With the exception of a couple of cheap bits here and there, you'll find little to gripe about.

On the road, the 2008 Chevrolet Avalanche drives a lot like a Chevy Suburban. This is a good thing, as its ride is smooth and handling acceptable for a 5,400-pound vehicle.

For those familiar with the first-generation Avalanche (2002-2006), problems with the color fading from the high-impact body and bed cladding have been resolved--no more worries about fading with the new model.


2008 Chevrolet Avalanche


The 2008 Chevrolet Avalanche’s unique body has an upscale interior hiding inside.

From its debut as a 2002 model, the Chevrolet Avalanche has been defined by its unique Midgate and the one trick it performs: flipping down its Midgate to extend its pickup bed inside the cabin, turning it from a short-bed pickup to a sort of long-bed truck with a partial roof covering its bed. Cadillac builds a similar vehicle dubbed the Escalade EXT.

ForbesAutos deftly describes the 2008 Chevrolet Avalanche as "a cross between a full-size SUV and a full-size pickup truck." Cars.com says the Chevrolet Avalanche 2008 "closely resembles the 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe up front, though with an overall length of 221 inches it's nearly as long as Chevrolet's full-size Suburban SUV." Edmunds comments favorably on the 2008 Chevy Avalanche's "versatile midgate-based body style," while Kelley Blue Book notes that the Chevrolet Avalanche 2008's "monochromatic exterior features wraparound fascias that eliminate bumper-to-body gaps," adding that a "sleek windshield angle extends into a smoother roofline, the front air dam is low and wide and prominent fenders with integrated wheel flares complement the bulging power-dome hood." Edmunds complements the “sleeker exterior styling” in this generation. “The previous Avalanche's body cladding is gone, replaced with integrated rocker panels and bumpers,” Cars.com says. “Key elements of the previous model remain—namely the triangular pillars descending from the cab's C-pillars to its bed.”

The 2008 Chevy Avalanche has a "decent interior," according to Car and Driver; the 2008 Chevrolet Avalanche takes "interior styling cues [that] echo the Tahoe and Suburban, with a curvaceous dashboard," notes Cars.com. They add, “Gone are the boxy dashboard and chintzy controls from the previous version, replaced by a carlike environment that's far beyond GM's previous interiors — and even beyond the current Toyota Sequoia, for that matter.” ForbesAutos simply reports that the 2008 Chevy Avalanche's "nice two-tone interior is crafted from high-quality materials." Car and Driver pays a halfhearted compliment to the “decent interior.”


2008 Chevrolet Avalanche


The 2008 Chevrolet Avalanche drives just like the large truck you’d expect, and it rides and tows especially well.

The 2008 Chevrolet Avalanche is all muscle with a surprising amount of finesse—and a considerable appetite for fuel.

Cars.com reports that for the Chevrolet Avalanche 2008 "an iron-block 5.3-liter V-8 that makes 320 horsepower and 340 pounds-feet of torque is standard," noting "an all-aluminum version that generates 310 hp and 335 pounds-feet of torque is available." ConsumerGuide avers that "acceleration with the 5.3-liter V8 is good around town," but remarks that the 2008 Chevy Avalanche has only "adequate highway passing power...[with] no noticeable difference in acceleration between 2WD and 4WD models, despite the latter being heavier and having 10 less horsepower." Cars.com says, “The 5.3-liter V-8 produces adequate acceleration around town, and it's whisper-quiet.”

A 6.0-liter, 366-horsepower V-8 is available; it also shuts off cylinders under low engine loads to reduce fuel consumption. An E85 flex-fuel engine is offered, as well. With any powerplant, Car and Driver calls the Avalanche “not quick.” Edmunds begs to differ, however: "despite its considerable size and heft, the 2008 Chevy Avalanche is relatively quick, even when equipped with the standard 5.3-liter V8." Edmunds acknowledges "acceleration and fuel economy begin to suffer when the truck is loaded down with passengers or cargo." Towing power is impressive, rated at well over four tons.

Two- and four-wheel-drive drivetrains are available with the Avalanche. A heavy-duty Z71 Off-Road package is optional and features larger recovery hook openings; larger, more prominent fog lamps; and specific grille texture and platinum chrome grille trim. Eighteen-inch wheels and tires are also part of the package.

The 2008 Chevy Avalanche has a four-speed automatic transmission that some reviewers felt was a little outdated. Car and Driver reports that the "transmission only has four speeds." Cars.com feels it’s “among the best in the business — it offers buttery-smooth shifts that are often imperceptible — but it wouldn't hurt to have a five- or six-speed gearbox.”

Fuel economy, predictably, isn’t great. Cars.com reports "all three engines feature cylinder deactivation, which automatically shuts down four cylinders during low-load driving situations like highway cruising." Nonetheless, "the Avalanche is not frugal, even with the Active Fuel Management System," according to Kelley Blue Book. The EPA reports 14 mpg city and 20 mpg highway for the 5.3-liter V-8 and 12/17 mpg for the 6.0-liter engine.

In the handling department, Car and Driver acknowledges that it's "big and hard to maneuver, [but] for a monster truck, the Avalanche drives pretty well, with good steering and brake-pedal feel." ConsumerGuide says "the Avalanche rides surprisingly well for a large pickup truck. It betrays its design with only mild bounding over large bumps." Edmunds observes that while "the Avalanche is certainly no sports car around corners, it deals with them in a competent, predictable manner while delivering a quiet and comfortably controlled ride on the highway." This 2008 Chevrolet Avalanche handling characteristic is most likely due to "a wider track and a lower center of gravity [that] contribute to enhanced on-road stability," as well as a "revised suspension [that] provides a comfortable ride and more precise handling," according to ForbesAutos, allowing that the truck "may be too large for some motorists (or garages) to handle." Kelley Blue Book quips "piloting an Avalanche through crowded urban streets is no picnic because of the vehicle's bulk, though maneuverability is better than some might expect."


2008 Chevrolet Avalanche

Comfort & Quality

The 2008 Chevrolet Avalanche has full-size passenger space and, when it’s needed, full-size truck capacity.

Despite a limited bed, the 2008 Chevrolet Avalanche offers a fair amount of versatility when it comes to storage space because of its Midgate.

Car and Driver comments that there's "not much people space" inside the 2008 Chevy Avalanche. Cars.com says that "two rows provide seats for up to six occupants," however. Edmunds reports that the "more common front bucket-seat arrangement seats five, but the [2008 Chevy] Avalanche can accommodate up to six occupants when equipped with the split-bench front seat." According to ConsumerGuide, the Chevrolet Avalanche 2008's "bucket seats are supportive and provide generous room."

Car and Driver raves about "cargo flexibility" in the 2008 Chevrolet Avalanche, noting "this truck has GM's innovative Midgate feature, which allows pass-through capability between the cargo box and the cabin, vastly increasing versatility." Cars.com says Chevrolet Avalanche 2008 rear seats "can fold to extend the cargo bed, but once the midgate is down there is no partition separating the driver and front passenger from the elements." They also report that the "Avalanche's bed measures 5.3 feet long and has 45.5 cubic feet of volume -- roughly equal to a four-door Dodge Dakota Club Cab." Kelley Blue Book notes "true pickup-truck fans might shun the Avalanche's relatively short cargo bed and SUV foundation, but the Midgate gives it a degree of versatility that's absent from traditional pickups."

According to Edmunds, the interior is "constructed of high-quality materials, the cabin features straightforward ergonomics and top-notch fit and finish." ConsumerGuide says the 2008 Chevy Avalanche is "trimmed mostly with hard plastic, but many surfaces are textured, lending an upscale appearance," and notes that "gauges are large and easy to read...the climate controls are mounted slightly low but are no trouble to reach."

ConsumerGuide also reports that while there is "noticeable highway-speed wind rush and tire rumble...bump noise is well-suppressed, [and] engine whine intrudes only in rapid acceleration."


2008 Chevrolet Avalanche


The 2008 Chevrolet Avalanche has some visibility issues, but it performs exceptionally well in crash tests.

The 2008 Chevrolet Avalanche earns great safety scores and carries a long list of safety features as standard equipment.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) awarded the Avalanche five out of five stars for front and side impact protection. It did not do as well, receiving only three stars, in rollover resistance tests. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has not performed tests on the 2008 Avalanche.

Cars.com reports "curtain airbags are now standard," as well as "all-disc antilock brakes and an electronic stability system with rollover mitigation." The Chevrolet Avalanche 2008 "rollover mitigation feature senses impending rollovers and can apply individual brakes in an attempt to stop them." In addition, the 2008 Chevy Avalanche is equipped with "GM's OnStar emergency communications system," according to Edmunds.

Where the 2008 Chevy Avalanche falls short is in visibility. Edmunds reports that the 2008 Chevrolet Avalanche's "large size and rear-quarter blind spots hinder maneuverability in tight spots." ConsumerGuide notes "the tall tail restricts vision directly aft." While the 2008 Chevy Avalanche "rear obstacle detection and rearview camera are helpful...the camera distorts distances, compromising its usefulness."


2008 Chevrolet Avalanche


The 2008 Chevrolet Avalanche comes with a full list of standard features, and can be outfitted with plenty of luxury equipment.

What you get with your 2008 Chevrolet Avalanche depends on how much extra you're willing to spend.

Cars.com reports that "three trim levels are available: base LS, LT and top-of-the-line LTZ," and notes “all Avalanches come well-equipped with power windows, power door locks and keyless entry, as well as a power driver's seat and steering-wheel audio controls.” According to Edmunds, "there are two main trim levels; LS and LT, plus a premium line-topping LTZ package." ForbesAutos details the following standard 2008 Chevy Avalanche base-model standard equipment: "Power driver seat, Split folding rear seat, Radio data system, Driver front impact airbag, Passenger front impact airbag, Overhead airbag [and] Electronic stability."

As the buyer opts for higher-level trim packages, Cars.com reports they'll encounter "two new colors...available for [the 2008 Chevy] Avalanche: Blue Granite Metallic and Deep Ruby Metallic." This source adds "the Avalanche LS gets standard 17-inch alloy wheels. The LTZ upgrades to 20-inch wheels and an electronic continuously damping suspension, both of which are available on the LT [as options]."

The bed has built-in features designed to make carrying cargo a snap. “The bed offers a non-slip mat that even held bags of ice in place. Each rear fender incorporates a lockable compartment, accessible from the top,” Cars.com reports. “A three-piece cargo cover is standard, though it's difficult to remove and even harder to stow.”

Edmunds suggests that the Chevrolet Avalanche 2008 "LT is generally more desirable because it's upgradeable with additional extras for those who want more than an entry-level vehicle" than a base 2008 Chevrolet Avalanche.

Options include a navigation system and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, Cars.com says, as well as "heated front seats” and “DVD-Audio," according to ForbesAutos.

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August 10, 2015
2008 Chevrolet Avalanche 4WD Crew Cab 130" LT w/3LT

Great Truck for anyone and everyone

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I Have had my share of cars and trucks and the Avalanche is by far my favorite. It has the look and comfort of A Tahoe and Suburban but the durability and features of a great truck. Great for those who want a... + More »
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June 10, 2015
2008 Chevrolet Avalanche 4WD Crew Cab 130" LTZ

2008 Chevrolet Avalanche Z71 ~Best Ride in its Class!!!

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I have had many vehicles, and my Avalanche is the best by far for my needs. It has plenty of room, looks great, rides even better and not too bad to operate daily. I would recommend one to anyone that asks... + More »
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