Chevy Avalanche a Big, Brawny brawler
By Jim Bray
There are trucks, and there are TRUCKS.
Chevy's 2002 Avalanche falls into the TRUCK category: it's big, powerful and
comfortable. It's also unique.
It's unique because GM has seen fit to make the Avalanche a kind of hybrid
between a pickup truck and a sport utility vehicle. Its big cab seats five
people comfortably, with the enclosed short truck deck offering plenty of storage
space for the stuff you might want to haul.
That may not sound particularly unique, but what other vehicle can you name
that also offers the capability to turn the short bed crew cab truck into a
long bed standard truck by folding down the rear seats and opening a pass-through
to the deck?
I can't think of one. The Avalanche occupies a market niche of its own.
The pass-through, which GM calls a "Midgate" is made of tough plastic
and appears quite strong. The actual conversion is very easy. All you do is
fold down the 60/40 split rear bench seat, turn a latch, and fold the Midgate
flat on top of the now-folded rear seat backs. As if by magic, your cargo bed
is extended from about just over five feet to just over eight.
Its advantage is that when it's down you have instant access to the bed, and
can haul longer things (and more things) than when it's up.
The disadvantage, of course, is that when it's down anything dirty in the
bed is sure to end up in your lap the first time you have to slam on the brakes.
And those 2x4's or concrete blocks can slide forward as well.
Well, maybe the concrete blocks won't move too much
There's more. You can also remove the rear window, either separately or with
the Midgate. I'm not sure why you'd want to do this, except to give the dog
an extra place to stick its head out, but you can.
I guess it gives you a long box crew cab in the space of a short box crew
cab, so if that's what you want this is your vehicle.
Other than that bit of technical (or is it marketing?) wizardry, the Avalanche
isn't much different than a big Chevy truck, except perhaps for the way it
looks. Depending on your mindset, the body styling can be thought of as either "aggressive," or "ugly." I
leaned toward the latter, but then I'm not really a truck guy anyway.
The bed is covered by a three piece hard top and there are also a couple of
small, lockable compartments on either side that can be used for storing smaller
The rest of the truck has plenty to like for those who are into such vehicles.
Power is plentiful, thanks to GM's 285 horsepower (with 325 pound feet of torque)
5.3-liter V-8 engine, the same power plant that's available in all of GM's
full-size trucks. I didn't do a zero to 60 test run in the Avalanche, but it
got up and went with plenty of get up and go. The transmission is a four speed
automatic with overdrive, the brakes are power discs with ABS all around.
Avalanche is also relatively pleasant to drive. It feels a mite sloppy (this
is a big truck, after all), but on the whole it goes where it's pointed and
is intimidating enough that you're tempted to merely muscle other traffic out
of the way.
My test unit was the Z71 four wheel drive version, but even though I never
had a chance to take it into any serious hills it gave the impression that
it would be perfectly at home in the boonies.
Big side mirrors are really helpful going forward and backward and, while
the turning circle is more like a bus's, it's actually a pretty easy vehicle
to parallel park.
The power adjustable, heated leather front seats are quite comfortable and
there's a nice, big sliding moonroof, too.
Other nice conveniences include a pair of running boards that came in extremely
handy (otherwise I would have needed a springboard to get inside). GM also
throws in most of the usual gadgets, including power everything, cruise control,
a decent AM/FM/CD stereo, air conditioning, automatic headlights and an voice
memo recorder for storing moments of road rage.
The four wheel drive Chevrolet Avalanche Z71 starts at about $34,800.