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The Chevrolet Avalanche is a large four-door sport utility truck (SUT) which seats either five or six passengers depending on the interior setup. It is a midgate model which combines an SUV-type body plus a truck-styled bed in the rear. It uses a long wheelbase to accommodate its unique body style, the same as used on the Chevrolet Suburbans and the Cadillac Escalade EXT (which is also a midgate model). The exterior more closely resembles a truck with a long front hood area and similar profile. Where it differs is the open bed which opens from the backseat as well as with the traditional rear gate. There is a folding panel behind the rear seats and the rear seats may be removed for additional bed room. The rear window is also removable for the same purpose. This allows for nearly equivalent bed space despite what appears to be a stunted bed area from the outside. The cargo bed is accessed from the outside by removing three water proof panels and there is more storage behind each wheel well.
The Chevrolet Avalanche was first introduced for the 2001 and 2002 model year and was the first mainstream model (released the same year as the Cadillac Escalade EXT) to feature the unique midgate body style which attempted to combine SUV properties with the utility of a truck. From the beginning the body style was met with mixed reviews. Though more common now, originally the body style was considered very unorthodox. It did not offer the room of an SUV and use of the bed when in “truck-mode” required a number of steps. Its very large body made it inconvenient in urban settings and visibility was a major complaint throughout its lifespan. Though the goal was the best of both an SUV and a truck, it was pointed out that the interior had little more room than a king cab and was not nearly as convenient when used as a work truck. Despite this the Avalanche enjoyed a couple solid years of high popularity, even winning North American Truck of the year from Motor Trend Magazine for the 2002 models. The first generation models were sold from 2002 through 2006 and offered very powerful 5.3- or 8.1-liter engines combined with a four-speed automatic transmission. After 2003 the very unpopular exterior cladding was dropped, and though the prior year saw the Avalanche's largest collection of accolades, new models sold even better remarketed as "slick sides" which was in reality simply a stripping down of the body cladding. The second generation models kept a virtually identical profile but with a host of detail changes including Chevrolet's more popular redesigned grille, logo and headlights, one-tone body paint and reworked bumper areas. These had a 5.3-liter of a six-liter, V-8 engine with a four or five-speed automatic transmission. These models' styling was more inline with the luxury Escalade EXT models, and received higher marks in this category than previous models. Despite this sales for the Avalanche had been dropping for a number of years, from 80-90 thousand units sold during its 2002 -2004 heyday to fifty thousand plus the following years and less and less until in 2009 when only sixteen thousand units sold. As the entire car industry began to pickup in 2010 and 2011 the Avalanche remained with low figures, selling just over twenty thousand units. The 2013 models are slated to be the last midgates sold by Chevrolet, and Cadillac likewise is discontinuing the Escalade EXT.
The innovative attempt to combine and SUV and a truck often overshadows the Avalanche's other properties like very powerful available engines with towing capacity the equal of just about any pure truck in its class, very high marks for dependability, and a long list of luxury and comfort features the equal most SUVs within its price range. For those who do have use of a truck bed occasionally, but primarily could use a descent sized SUV, and don't mind maneuvering a very bulky vehicle, the Avalanche is one of the only perfect fits. Gas mileage was the other major concern throughout the lifespan of the Avalanche. The most fuel efficient models only ever achieving 15/21 mpg city/highway, which is poor whether compared to SUVs in its class or trucks in its class. Visibility never improved to a great degree either and drivers reported large blind spots on the side-rear and virtually no visibility in the rear unless the object was taller than about five feet or far away. A rear view camera on later models solved this problem.
The 2013 Chevrolet Avalanche has a 320-hp 5.3-liter V-8 with a six-speed automatic transmission with overdrive and auto-manual. It comes in rear of all-wheel drive with three trim levels, LS, LT, and LTZ. It gets 15/21 mpg city/highway. Price ranges from $35,980 to $47,885. Notable features include standard air, CD, and Bluetooth connectivity, and optional touchscreen navigation, heated and cooled seats, and rear seat entertainment system. Safety features include front, side-impact, and side curtain airbags, all-disc antilock brakes, and electronic stability.
Minus the stripping down of the body cladding the profile of the Avalanche stayed almost the same throughout production. Body details were modified with the 2007 lineup, primarily focusing on the front grille. The engine got smaller at the upper end, from an 8.1-liter V-8 to a six-liter V-8 ,but other advances in engineering made up for this and it actually gained about 40-hp. The Avalanche will be discontinued after the 2013 models.