Second-generation Chevy Avalanche gets nice boost from redesign
By Bruce W. Smith - Special to GCN
One truck that a surprising number of people have come to appreciate is the Chevy Avalanche. It’s that odd-ball Suburban-turned-pickup that came out in 2001. I say odd-ball only because it’s not the best-selling pickup in the GM line despite, and perhaps because of its unique features and look. But those who own them seem to love their purchase decision.
Well, the “new” Avalanche should find even more loyal owners because the refinements in the “second generation” model, which is on sale now, make it the ideal switch-change artist for those who need a full-size pickup with great flexibility coupled with the road manners of a luxury SUV.
A FAMILIAR RIDE
In an earlier vehicle review we reported on the major redesign of the full-size GM SUV platform, which includes such models as the Chevy Tahoe, Suburban, GMC Yukon and Yukon XL. The new generation of these full-size SUVs is a significant improvement over last year’s models.
Although only about 380,000 Avalanches have been sold since it was introduced—a small number in comparison to the volume of Tahoe and Suburban models—it still reaps the benefits of sharing the new chassis, body, drivetrain, and interior refinements of its popular brethren.
That, in turn, elevates the new Avalanche to an unprecedented comfort and performance level in GM pickups.
I had the opportunity to drive a 2wd, mid-trim level LT ($32,295 MSRP) while spending a day with FLW touring bass pro Clark Wendlandt and towing his 20-foot Yamaha-powered, Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes Ranger bassboat.
The new Avalanche looks more refined and aerodynamic than the old model. The windshield is steeply raked, the front is wider and lower to the ground, the body gaps are tight, and the headlamps are much more European-looking.
The hood has a bulge to it now and the fenders flare more than before giving the Avalanche a muscular physique.
There also is a new family of 17-inch and 20-inch wheels; 17s are standard, with 20-inch factory-installed wheels available (standard on the high-end LTZ). The larger wheels fill Avalanche’s wheel houses, giving the vehicle a confident stance.
That’s the new face of Chevrolet trucks and SUVs: refined and sporty.
NO POWER SHORTAGE
The nicest surprise is the ’07 Avalanche performs like it looks. It only takes a couple minutes behind the wheel to feel and hear it’s a lot stronger, quieter, smoother, and far more precise than the old model.
Power is never a problem. Merging into 70mph Interstate traffic with nearly 4,000 pounds of boat/trailer in-tow is as easy as backing down a three-lane boat ramp when you’re the only one there.
Ease into the throttle and let the four-speed automatic and the power that comes from a new Gen IV small-block Vortec 5.3L V-8 family do the rest.
The new engine, with its cast-iron block and aluminum heads, delivers 320hp in the 2WD model—25 more horses than the previous model, giving the Avalanche a very responsive throttle and muscular exhaust note.
Four-wheel-drive Avalanches get the 5.3L all-aluminum V8 that delivers an estimated 310 horsepower and 335 lb.-ft. of torque.
Power isn’t sacrificed for fuel economy, either; the Gen IV V8 incorporates Active Fuel Management, giving it EPA numbers 15/21 for the 2WD model. And, both engines are designed to run on E85 fuel or any combination of it and regular gasoline.
For those who need even more power on tap, an option on both models later in the year will be the new all-aluminum 6.0L, 355hp V-8.
SOLID CHASSIS, SOFT TOUCH
The new chassis, with the host of related improvements made by the GM engineers, elevates this truck’s ride and handling above that of any other pickup on the road.
As mentioned earlier, Avalanche is built on GM’s new full-size SUV platform, which incorporates features such as a new, fully boxed frame, coil-over-shock front suspension, wider track and sports car-precise rack-and-pinion steering.
All this combines into a truck we found is much more stable and solid than any previous GM truck or SUV offered in years past.
What draws truck buyers to the Avalanche is it rides more like a Tahoe/Suburban than the traditional GM pickup. A plus in any vehicle choice.
Ample power and great handling are important. But so are ride comfort and cargo/passenger versatility. The Avalanche has those covered in spades.
There’s not another vehicle on the road like the Avalanche when it comes to flexibility in carrying cargo and passengers.
Need a big pickup bed? Twist a couple levers allow one to easily remove either or the rear window and the rear cab wall, called the Midgate, instantly changing the pickup’s storage capacity and load hauling capabilities.
Pioneered on the first-generation Avalanche, the clever Midgate opens to extend the cargo-carrying capability from the cargo bed’s 5.3-foot-long (1.6 m) length to 8.2 feet (2.5 m) – 2 inches (51 mm) longer than previous models.
Fold-down the rear seat and the flat, hard plastic floor that appears easily holds 4x8 sheets of plywood with the tailgate up; with the rear seat up and the Midgate closed, Avalanche has room to comfortably seat up to six passengers.
Speaking of cargo, the Avalanche has a couple small storage compartments alongside the cargo box that provide ample and lockable storage.
The compartments are not water/dust-proof, but they are excellent for hitch shanks, chains, first-aid kits, tow straps and the like. They also have drains, so they can be filled with ice and used as coolers while tailgating.
By the way, the ’07 Avalanche now comes with a central-clocking and unlocking spring-loaded tailgate instead of the conventional keyed lock in the tailgate. Locking and unlocking functions are handled by the interior lock switches or from the Remote Keyless Entry fob.
With the standard three-piece hard bed covers in place, the new locking system makes the Avalanche a very secure vehicle.
Inside, more refinements. The ’07 Avalanche shares the all new interior found in the Chevy Tahoe and Suburban. The instrument panel is lower and gauges easier to see, and the windshield is bigger and has a more raked set, improving outward visibility.
Avalanche’s new front seats are nicer, too. Although they feel firmer at first, they provide more long-distance comfort and are considerably easier on entry/egress with at least an inch more seat travel.
Another plus is the center console is a lot larger and perfectly situated for driving comfort. The glove box is also bigger, and there are a number of other smaller storage areas and spaces in the new cab.
Passenger space also is increased, including more shoulder room for those occupying the fold-flat 60/40 split bench seat.
The rear seat is unique to the Avalanche, allowing longer items to be carried between the cargo bed and into the rear passenger compartment through the Midgate while the rear window stays in place.
Avalanches come loaded with standard features that are options on other GM pickups. But there are options. Our test truck (Base MSRP $32,295) came with nearly all of them, adding more than $7,000 to the base price.
Some options we had no need for, but a couple we found very useful. One is the Ultrasonic Rear Parking Assist, which emits a beeping sound as the bumper nears another object. The Avalanche has a tall, wide rear stance that blocks rear vision a lot. The Parking Assist feature is most welcomed.
Parking Assists is one of the items in the popular LT2 package option package ($2,040) that includes leather interior, remote vehicle start, dual-zone AC and the upscale MP3-compatiable 6-disc CD stereo system.)
The other option that is extremely useful is the Rear View Camera ($195). It turns on every time the transmission is put in reverse, the image popping up on the touch-screen navigation radio system ($2,145) display. It’s great for getting a trailer aligned to the hitch ball or making sure kids and pets are not hidden behind the tailgate.
Avalanche buyers with kids will also like the $1,295 DVD rear-seat entertainment system. Those in the country will enjoy the XM satellite radio. And, all drivers would benefit from the optional locking rear differential ($295) that gives the 2WD Avalanche a big traction boost in slippery driving conditions.
The ’07 Avalanche proves Chevy can make an already cool truck even cooler.
2007 CHEVROLET AVALANCHE SPECIFICATIONS
*Horsepower and torque SAE-certified. A new voluntary power and torque certification procedure developed by the SAE Engine Test Code committee was approved March 31, 2005. This procedure (J2723) ensures fair, accurate ratings for horsepower and torque by allowing manufacturers to certify their engines through third-party witness testing. GM was the first auto manufacturer to begin using the procedure and expects to use it for all newly rated engines in the future.
**Horsepower and torque estimated.