GM has done a nice job on upgrading these trucks. Some of the positive attributes they all share are comfortable and quiet interiors, supportive seats, throaty exhaust notes, and refined rides-even with the dirt-road-oriented Z71 package. On all three trucks, braking performance was exceptional, but the pedal feel was judged to be too soft and tranny kickdown was thought to be too slow. While each of our testers came from a common platform, they each exuded a very different personality.
The Chevy Avalanche was considered by our staff to be the best-looking vehicle of the bunch, especially with the SUV front clip. The quality of interior materials is up there with the best of the industry and the cabin is very accommodating, though testers did wish our vehicle came with the Vortec Max engine, as it would have made it feel much livelier. Major complaints surrounded its horrible rear visibility, but the reverse camera system helped to alleviate part of that problem. We also didn't like that this new Avalanche has the old-style midgate, which doesn't have a power rear window like the Hummer H2.
Our Chevy Silverado left the staff feeling a little bit mixed. The styling is possibly the least satisfying of the group, with its odd, droopy grille and stacked headlights, but it was the only vehicle to offer the "Pure Pickup" dash, which was preferred by almost everyone. The Pure Pickup dash is so much more appropriate for this type of vehicle, is more functional with better placement of controls (up at eye level, where you can see them easily), and offers more storage. The extended-cab finally has F-150-like power rear windows in the doors and a Titan-like rear door that opens a full 170 degrees. Our only complaints were materials that were not up to par with the SUV dash, and a column-mounted tranny shifter that blocked some of the controls. Another oddity is the lack of a tow hitch on the Silverado. Why you would ever option a truck without a hitch, especially when it can be doubled as a rear tow point, is beyond us. It should be standard.
The GMC Sierra offered a good mix of comfort and utility with its Vortec Max engine and crew-cab accommodations, and the SUV dash worked well in this more luxurious truck, but we still prefer the Pure Pickup version. Even though the Sierra didn't come with the Z71 package, it still had the rear locker and the best tires of the group. Styling was better than the Chevy, but many still saw it as too derivative of Ford's Super Duty. One thing that caught our eye while going through the photos was an etching in the foglights that spelled out "4x4" in a shadow when viewing the Sierra from certain angles. There is someone out there who is proud that they snuck that Easter egg past the bean counters.
What's Hot: Vortec Max engine, best tires in the test, luxurious appointments
What's Not: Tailpipe begging to be crunched, air dam wants emancipation, you pay for 6.0L at the pump
Our Take: The Cadillac of crew cabs.
From the Logbook:
* "Tailpipe looks like it could get damaged easily."
* "The Max is awesome, a real Hemi-beater."
* "Love the wheel-and-tire package."
* "The drivetrain makes this truck."
* "Looks better than the Silverado."
We'll start off by saying none of these are hard-core trail machines, and we kept that in mind on the routes we chose to take these vehicles on. We were able to conquer the hillclimb, but it was a tire-spinning, rock-throwing, and hole-digging affair. The rear locker works well, but is just not enough. We'd like to see a front traction aid added to the front end of these trucks to make them much more trail-capable.
The Avalanche offered a marginally better approach angle than both the Silverado and Sierra, which both had their respective air dams ripped off on dirt roads before we even got on the trail. At least they rip off cleanly; no truck with any type of off-pavement pretensions should have an air dam that low. The Avalanche also had side steps that we would love to see replaced with real rocker protection. Several years ago, this request would have had us laughed right off the farm, but with factory rock protection on the Dodge Power Wagon, Jeep Wrangler, Hummer H3, and others, we don't think the request is that farfetched anymore. Where the Avalanche did excel in the dirt (loose gravel, hillclimb) was due to its linked and coil-sprung rear axle, which all but eliminated the axle hop noticed in the leaf-sprung Silverado and Sierra.
We appreciated that the Silverado felt more like a pickup on the road and on the trail. It also wasn't optioned with Stabilitrak, and it was able to climb and grab for traction on a mechanical basis where the electronics would cut in on the other trucks, causing the vehicles to lose momentum.
Despite not having the Z71 upgrade, the GMC worked well on the trail. The 17-inch wheel and Goodyear tire package has the same overall diameter as the other trucks', but with more sidewall than the Avalanche and Silverado. We also felt that the Goodyears had better traction on the trail than the Bridgestones.All of the pickups handled the mild trails with aplomb. The suspension tuning was dialed it, but torn-up trails can cause the trucks to end up on their bumpstops. We wished for more ground clearance, but on your typical fire-road trail or moderately rocky roads, these trucks will get you through just fine.
After a week of testing the General's trifecta in Southern California's desert playground, we tallied up the points, read the log books and crowned a winner ...