- Easy-to-use controls
- V-8 and automatic are a happy couple
- Midgate flexibility
- Down to a single powertrain
- Fuel economy's just OK
- Midgate's niche appeal
The 2010 Chevrolet Avalanche flexes its midsection to show off a versatile Midgate, but you'll notice its luxe features and nicely trimmed cabin, too.
It's GM's Transformer truck-since 2002 the Chevrolet Avalanche has taken the full-size pickup for an interesting ride by offering a flexible cabin and bed that trade places when needed. There's a Midgate in the middle, and when it's up, the Avalanche seats five and carries a short bed full of stuff; when it's down, the ‘Lanche seats up to three across the front, and opens the bed into the cabin for more than eight feet of linear bed space. With a base price of about $36,000 and rising to more than $47,000, the Avalanche has few competitors save for GM's own Cadillac Escalade EXT, the four-door Ford F-150 and Dodge Ram 1500 Crew Cab, and the Honda Ridgeline.
The latest Avalanche joined the GM lineup in 2007, and it's changed very little in terms of styling. Compared to the first-generation Avalanche, the new truck is significantly less plasticky, without the big add-on trim that gave the original a gaudy look. Trim and with a bit of the off-roading look built into the sail panels behind the cabin windows, the Avalanche has a nicely brief truck bed, pronounced fenders, and a big twin-grille front end that cues up like the noses on the new Chevrolet Malibu and Traverse. The cockpit's very well designed and fitted, and the six- and five-passenger versions have distinct interiors. Ordering twin bucket seats in front leaves the ‘Lanche with a wide center console that can be trimmed in wood grain; in six-seat form, the console goes away, leaving a higher, plainer dash in its place. The door panels echo the fenders, and the gauges are big and clearly laid out, with minimal fuss.
A single powertrain couples to rear- or four-wheel drive on the 2010 Chevrolet Avalanche. With the optional 6.0-liter V-8 dropped, the only engine offered is a 5.3-liter V-8 with flex-fuel capability, 310 horsepower, 330 pound-feet of torque, and cylinder deactivation to help fuel economy. It's a workhorse of an engine, able and torquey and pleasant to hear from inside the truck, and it's coupled to a great six-speed automatic that works very well to generate acceleration as good as some passenger cars. Fuel economy isn't wonderful, but 14/20 mpg is respectable for a truck of this size and capacity. The latest generation of GM trucks has well-sorted steering, ride, and handling, thanks to independent suspensions up front and coil springs in the rear. The 2010 Dodge Ram may ride a bit better, but the Avalanche is quite smooth on most road surfaces, with a measure of steering feel that's untrucklike in a good way-and it tows up to 8,100 pounds and hauls 1,350 pounds of payload.
With an interior like that in the latest Chevy Silverado and Tahoe, the Avalanche has comfortable seats front and back, with a high-quality look and feel. Comfort and controls are first-rate and simple to use. Seats are generously proportioned in front especially, and there's plenty of space in back for adults. Some drivers will opt for the optional rear camera system, though, as rearward vision can be obscured. With the exception of a couple of cheap bits, you'll find little to gripe about. The big center console on five-passenger versions is wide and deep, and all versions have good storage in the glove box and the door panels, but it doesn't have the flat floor of the Ford F-150 or the flexible storage bins of the latest 2010 Dodge Ram. The truck's hallmark-the Midgate-is either a blessing or not useful enough. The bed expands from 5' 3" to 8' 2", giving it more full-size capacity, and there's not much of a downside to the Midgate for body structure. If you truly need long-bed hauling all the time, a four-door Silverado's a better bet, and if you only use a truck occasionally, the smaller Ford Explorer might be more practical as a daily driver. In between, the Avalanche is a singularly reasonable solution.
The 2010 Chevy Avalanche earns five-star crash ratings from NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), but hasn't been tested by the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety). It's fitted with a comprehensive set of safety features, including front, side, and curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; and stability and traction control. Safety options include a rearview camera; rear parking sensors; a blind-spot warning system; power-folding tow mirrors; and an integrated brake controller for towing systems.
The Avalanche offers more technology features than most buyers might expect, which is also the case with GM's other full-size trucks. Standard equipment includes power windows, locks, and mirrors; an AM/FM/XM/CD player with MP3 capability; a USB port for iPod/MP3 players; and the Midgate. Options include a navigation system; a rear-seat DVD entertainment system; Bluetooth; and a Bose Centerpoint audio system. Also offered: leather seats; ventilated front seats; and packages like the Z71 Off-Road option, which loads on fog lamps, special trim, and big recovery hooks, in case you're caught in deep slop.