2013 Chevrolet Avalanche Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
April 20, 2012

The clever, useful Chevy Avalanche takes a final bow largely unchanged; we like the idea, but not enough truck buyers were into its short bed or its fold-down midgate.

In the full-size pickup-truck market, it's all about payload, towing and vast stretches of spread-out space. There's not much room for a truck that tries to deliver carlike seating and a truck bed in as little overall length as possible. The road's littered with failed examples, from the Explorer Sport Trac to the Ridgeline to the El Camino and Caballero.

Chevy thought it had a better idea with the Avalanche, a pickup truck that pioneered the midgate, a clever idea that allowed owners to choose between an SUV-like five- or six-seat cabin and a medium-sized bed. A fold-down panel with removable glass, the midgate made the Avalanche both things to all owners—just not at the same time—and an interesting spin-off of GM's full-size truck family, which also includes the GMC Sierra and Chevy Silverado.

Introduced in the 2002 model year, Chevy's Avalanche was updated for 2007 and carries over largely unchanged into what will be its final year in production. It's a full-sized truck in almost all respects, and not as easy to pick out from other four-door Silverados as it once was. The front ends are similar; the differences almost wholly noticeable after of the cab where the Avalanche's large diagonal brace connects its roofline to the short truck bed hung off the back. The cockpit's a duplicate of the one found in the Silverado, from the rear seatbacks forward, with a choice of five or six seats. The five-seat model sports considerable storage in its console; the six-passenger model has a plainer dash and lacks a console, naturally. Both are fitted with big gauges, big door handles, and big, easy-to-use knobs and buttons, all designed for use with work gloves and/or meaty hands, rightfully identified as a key market for the 'Lanche.

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For all its configurability, the Avalanche doesn't spoil for choice under the hood. GM's 310-horsepower, 5.3-liter V-8 is the Avalanche's sole motivator, mated to a six-speed automatic in two- and four-wheel drive. Equipped with a cylinder deactivation system and the ability to burn E85, the 5.3 brings a pleasant grunt with its torquey performance. The Avalanche's on-road comfort is provided by a independent front suspension and a well-damped ride, similar to its Silverado sibling, while an optional Z71 Off-Road package brings underbody protection and more aggressive rubber for those wanting to leave tarmac in the rear view. Towing? Hauling? The Avalanche has you covered there, too, with a tow rating of 8,100 pounds and the ability to haul 1,350 pounds of payload in its bed.

The Avalanche converts some of its interior volume into cargo capacity with a few simple moves of your hands. Lowering the rear window, folding its rear seats, and opening the truck's midgate opens the passenger compartment to accept larger items sharing space with its pickup bed, extending its length from 5'3" to 8'2". But there is a downside to this versatility: it leaves the passenger compartment open to whatever weather is happening outside and negates second-row seating. This could introduce problems for those needing to haul vast quantities of construction materials and an entire team to install them all in one trip, but the Avalanche's versatility may still be the perfect solution to those limited to one parking space and a need for one vehicle to do it all. That is, unless, you're willing to spend thousands more for a Cadillac Escalade EXT, which performs near identical tricks for more well-heeled buyers.

A basis of good crash-test performance can be paired with rear parking sensors, rearview camera, and a blind-spot monitor—recommended additions due to the Avalanche's visibility-killing, thick pillars.

While the LS trim is aimed at a buyer who intends to use his Avalanche for work, the base model comes equipped with power windows, power locks, power mirrors, power driver sear, keyless entry, steering-wheel audio controls, and a AM/FM/XM/CD audio system with MP3 capability as standard. Moving up to the LT and LTZ trims introduces some luxury to the mix with navigation, Bluetooth, upgraded Bose audio, leather seating with ventilation for the front row, power-adjustable pedals, and remote start.

The idea was a clever one—but in the end, the midgate pioneered by the Chevy Avalanche wasn't enough to win over a ton of truck buyers. The 2013 Avalanche will be the final model year for the pickup truck. Chevy will commemorate the end of the line with a special Black Diamond edition that bundles more standard equipment and special badging.

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