First Glance at the Chevy Avalanche
Because the Avalanche was conceived as this in between vehicle, it looks more balanced than a crew cab/short bed pickup truck, as the bed and cabin are more unified. Thanks to a makeover for 2009, Avalanche is no longer burdened with an excess of exterior plastic. I think it's a strikingly good looking truck with a lot of presence, thanks to design elements that it shares with the Chevy Silverado.
My loaded LTZ test vehicle was equipped with 20" polished aluminum wheels, running boards and assist steps, as well as a chrome grille and luggage rack rails, all standard with the LTZ trim level. The shiny parts added a welcome dose of flash, and made the Blue Granite Metallic paint look even better.
In the Avalanche Driver's Seat
Avalanche has plenty of useful storage in the front cabin, with a big center console that can swallow a laptop computer and a useful glove compartment in front of the passenger seat.
GM's excellent infotainment/navigation system is included with the LTZ trim level, optional on other trims, accessed primarily through a touchscreen display in the center stack. The display is too low in the stack for my taste. I found that I had to take my eyes off the road in order to change settings. Most infotainment commands can be accessed via redundant steering wheel controls, so the longer I drove the Avalanche, the less I had to take my eyes off the road, but it still could be better.
GM's secret weapon, as always, is OnStar. Pushing a button on the rear view mirror puts you in touch with a real live person who can help you find your destination and then download navigation instructions directly to your onboard system. The great thing about OnStar is that you can interact with an advisor while you are on the go -- you don't have to pull over to the side of the road in order to change your destination
On the Road in the Chevy Avalanche
Avalanche is available with just one basic powertrain: A 5.3-liter V8 engine that's tuned to produce 320 hp and 335 lb-ft of torque (figures are slightly higher with E85 fuel), hooked up to a six-speed automatic transmission with either rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. Curb weight is between 5,840 and 5,969 lbs, so this baby is no lightweight, but the power and weight seem very well matched. If you need to tow, Avalanche is ready with 7,900 lbs (4WD) or 8,100 lbs (2WD) capacity, and a payload of 1,263 (4WD) or 1,326 (2WD). A hefty 31.5 gallon fuel tank yields a potential 661.5 mile range -- very impressive.
Avalanche... Journey's End
If I needed Avalanche's towing and hauling capability, I might try to save some dough by choosing an LS 2WD model (starting at $36,800) or an LT 2WD (starting at $40,195). The $50,305 starting point for a loaded LTZ 4WD gives me a severe case of sticker shock -- I'm way too cheap to pay that much for luxury features in a truck.
I'd also look at the competition -- there isn't really any direct competition for Avalanche, but I'd consider the Honda Ridgeline, I'd also look at the Crew Cab/short bed pickup trucks, and think long and hard about whether or not I would get enough use out of the Midgate, or whether I might not be better served by a bed extender.
I really wish I had the extra money and space to pick up an Avalanche and just park it in my garage with the other odd ducks I would buy. The Subaru BRAT, Dodge Magnum, Chevy El Camino, Ford Ranchero, Volkswagen Pickup and the Amphicar would welcome the Chevy Avalanche to my museum of useful, multipurpose vehicles that never got the chance they deserved.