Chevrolet Avalanche 1500
The Avalanche, which Chevrolet refers to as an "Ultimate Utility Vehicle," is designed to give consumers the best of a pickup and an SUV. To accomplish this, the Avalanche uses a folding midgate that allows for the space of the bed to be expanded into the cab for longer objects.
Besides the folding midgate configuration and interesting bed design, the Avalanche also has a look that we can best describe as, uh, distinctive. Look, let's get this right out there: Never before have our judges been so united in something as in their dislike of the looks of the Avalanche. Every judge had negative opinions on the excessive use of plastic that is a major part of the Avalanche's look. Luckily for the Avalanche, our competition isn't based on looks alone.
The Avalanche is based on the Suburban chassis, and that stroke of luck gives it the same strong points that the Suburban has. All of our judges deemed that the Avalanche had the most comfortable and quiet interior of this set of competitors. The leather seats are extremely comfortable, provide enough support, and have plenty of adjustment. However, more than one judge noticed that the driver's seat was an odd mix of manual and electric adjusters. Another quirk that our judges discovered is that with the driver's door closed, there is barely enough space to get a hand down the side of the driver's seat to adjust the back. The interior of the Avalanche earned more points, with plenty of legroom and a large rear seat that folds flat for cargo stowage. Also receiving praise was an instrument panel that conveys lots of information and is easy to read.
Another strong point of Suburbans is that they ride great on the highway, and this was also true of the Avalanche. A soft, bump-absorbing suspension made for a plush ride on the bumpy freeways and backcountry roads of Southern California. The excellent highway ride combined with the cushy and comfortable interior made our testers agree that the Avalanche was the most desirable of this bunch for long, cross-country drives.
Interestingly, the Avalanche also is at home off the pavement, especially on our high-speed dirt course. In fact, in this section of testing, it easily spanked every other vehicle in this competition. Shocks and spring rates were spot-on, and the Avalanche could be pushed much faster through our whoop-infested course than the others. On slow-speed trails the Chevy also performed very well, thanks in part to its Eaton Gov-Loc locking rear diff. Our only gripes were that, first, the Gov-Loc diff required considerable wheelspin to engage, and second, that the Avalanche's lack of clearance made it drag its belly in a few locations.
Once the Avalanche got in the sand, however, a problem that plagued it for the whole test became even more apparent. The power produced by the 5.3L V-8 is less than stellar. While the engine produces 285 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque, it just is not up to the task of powering a vehicle the size of the Avalanche, whether in the sand or on the highway. All of our judges wished the Avalanche had more motor.
The Avalanche is an interesting vehicle and definitely a unique design. It handles some tasks very well, and performs others less well. Combining that with the lackluster power of the 5.3L V-8 resulted in a mid-pack finish for Chevy's Avalanche.
The front seats. Maybe the best in the business. Well contoured, with plenty of support and adjustability. We like 'em. The back ones we like less well.
Plastic exterior cladding. Plastic everywhere. Plastic held on by plastic. Enough, already. Especially when it's used as a styling element, and not for protection. Protection? Not hardly. Hard knocks prune it right off.
Check it out if...
Your 'wheeling isn't hard-core. Just be sure to get the Z71 option.
Avoid it if...
You want to haul cargo you'd like to keep secure. For that, a Suburban would be a better choice.
25 Words or Less
A passenger compartment I really like, a look I don't care for. A Suburban without the Suburban's utility. Can't knock the Gov-Loc rear diff, though.
The Avalanche has a strong foundation, but for me, it's just plain ugly. There is way too much plastic for my tastes.
My only gripe lies with the different and confused exterior/interior designs. Keep the interior's plushness, but make it more in sync with the exterior look.
The Avalanche is an odd combination of parts, with way too much plastic. Oddly enough, this vehicle was the most comfortable and the smoothest riding.