Chevrolet pickups have slimmed down their powertrain offerings in the past few years, and for the 2011 Avalanche, the choice is singular. Order the midgate-equipped pickup and you'll be getting a 5.3-liter V-8, a six-speed automatic, and a choice of rear- or four-wheel drive. Period.
The V-8 is one of GM's best drivetrains, so the lack of drivetrain options isn't a major concern. In this installation, it turns in good, not great, performance figures of 310 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque. It's a workhorse of an engine, able, torquey, and pleasant to listen to from the driver's seat, though it can be easy to tax if you load it up with passengers and a trailer. It's also outfitted with cylinder deactivation and flex-fuel capability, which give it a greener tinge than some of the engines from Toyota, Dodge and Nissan. Shifting duties are handled by a great six-speed automatic.
Like its GM truck cohorts, the Avalanche has a capable chassis, with an independent front suspension, well-sorted steering feel and good ride damping. Though the Ram 1500 is still one of the best for ride quality, and Ford's F-150 and its new electronic power steering is zingy, the Avalanche feels predictable and lively, by truck standards. It's bulky for sure, and makes for a tight squeeze in some spots, but it's fairly maneuverable.
Chevy offers a Z71 off-road package that beefs up the running gear for trailblazing; the package brings bigger wheels and tires and a more punishing ride quality.
The Avalanche tows up to 8,100 pounds and hauls up to 1,350 pounds of payload.