As we roll on the miles during the third quarter of our Avalanche's stay with us, something is becoming apparent to our testers-the Avalanche is a favorite for long trips. It has plenty of room for the family with gear, gets good fuel economy, and offers one of the most comfortable truck accommodations in the market.
During this quarter, we added another 5,800 miles to the Avalanche's odometer, taking it on many road trips. The 5.3L V-8 is smooth running and torquey, although we have found that the four-speed transmission sometimes feels mismatched with its fuel-economy-inspired delayed downshifts. We think the six-speed automatic that will eventually find its way in to the Avalanche will be a better match for the 5.3L, but the four-speed still gets the job done. Our Avalanche is also equipped with the Active Fuel Management cylinder-deactivation system, which works as promised and it is imperceptible to the driver or occupants.
The 5.3L V-8 is a fantastic engine for the Avalanche and delivers good fuel economy.
The coil-spring rear suspension (straight from the Suburban 1500) offers excellent ride quality for a fullsize pickup, especially off the road, where it takes the edge off of impacts that are generally felt with rear leaf springs. The rear suspension is probably the Avalanche's biggest selling point for someone considering it to a traditional pickup.
While the overall build quality is superb, we have noticed an intermittent rattle in the dash that we haven't been able to pinpoint, and we have found that the tire-pressure monitoring system is highly sensitive to outside temperature swings. On cold nights we have had low-pressure warnings, followed by high-pressure warnings on hot days-just something to note.
One strange anomaly our testers reported was a "Service Airbag" indicator in the message center that came on during some spirited wheeling up near Big Bear, California. However, upon restart, the message cleared itself, never to return again.
Other than that, our staff continues to praise the Chevy's high-quality materials, great ride, and surprising functionality from the covered rear box. In fact we even question whether the Midgate is even necessary, considering we have only used it a couple of times-mostly to show how it works to curious bystanders.
Report: 3 of 4
Previous reports: May '08, Aug. '08
Base price: $36,040
Price as tested: $47,310
Four-wheel-drive system: Electronic knob activated, part-time with low range and auto settings
Miles to date: 19,896
Miles since last report: 5,818
Average mpg (this report): 15.47
Test best tank (mpg): 18.36
Test worst tank (mpg): 13.18
17,838-miles-Oil Service ($56.12)
Problem areas: Intermittent dash rattle, service airbag message
What's Hot, What's Not
Hot: Comfort, fuel economy, almost 500-mile highway range (!)
Not: TPM Accuracy affected by outside temp, transmission kickdown lag
* "Throttle response is lackluster when passing at highway speeds, the transmission takes an eternity to downshift."
* "Wow, almost 500-mile range, this truck outlasted my bladder."
* "The kids were comfortable in the back and all of our gear was secure and dry under the lockable tonneau."
* "The rattle in the dash has returned, only to disappear again."
* "I wouldn't mind the HVAC controls to be a bit bigger."