2012 Chevrolet Avalanche Performance

7.0
Performance

Over the years, GM has pared down the powertrain offerings in some of its SUVs and trucks. But while you can still choose from a range of sixes and eights in the traditional pickups, the nontraditional Avalanche is offered in just one powertrain configuration.

The Avalanche is fitted with what's arguably the best overall engine and transmission combination of all the "GMT900" vehicles (Silverado, Tahoe, Suburban, etc.). It's the 5.3-liter V-8, paired to a six-speed automatic, with a choice of rear- or four-wheel drive.

Handling and acceleration are quite good by truck standards, but no one will ever confuse a Chevy Avalanche for a quick-footed compact.

While there's only a choice of driven wheels, there's not much missing from this alterna-truck. The V-8 grants the 'Lanche good, if not great, acceleration thanks to its ratings of 310 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque. It's a workhorse powertrain, pleasantly torquey and with a throbby engine note just off idle. With a full complement of six passengers, a bed full of payload and a trailer towed off the tail, the engine could be taxed--but we haven't experienced anything like max capability. The engine also is flex-fuel capable, and has cylinder deactivation, which explains very good fuel economy numbers of 15/21 mpg, no matter if you've opted for four-wheel drive or not.

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.

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