Full 2008 Chevrolet Avalanche Review
What's New for 2008
A few detail improvements mark the changes for the Avalanche in 2008. Most notably, side curtain airbags and satellite radio are now standard on all models, and OnStar with turn-by-turn navigation is standard on LT models.
For full-size pickup buyers, the crew cab body style is very popular because it features a pickup's usual cargo bed, plus a rear seat that's as roomy as one found in a sport-utility. The only drawback is that the bed is typically short in length and doesn't offer the enclosed security of an SUV's cargo area. To address this concern, Chevrolet introduced the popular Avalanche six years ago.
Now in its second generation, the 2008 Chevrolet Avalanche functions primarily as a crew-cab pickup but also offers a uniquely flexible "midgate" design that considerably enhances its functionality. The midgate is a movable partition separating the cabin area from the bed. On the Avalanche, both the rear window and the wall can be opened up as desired to increase utility and improve cargo management. When combined with the three-panel lockable bed cover, the midgate allows for a variety of configurations.
The Avalanche is built on General Motors' latest full-size truck platform, and incorporates a fully boxed frame and a redesigned suspension with rack-and-pinion steering that delivers more refined ride and handling characteristics and better on-road feel than before. Compared with older Avalanche models, we also like its updated exterior styling and new interior design, featuring higher-quality materials and premium features.
The 2008 Chevrolet Avalanche is still one of the few full-size pickups to offer a convertible midgate design configuration. Others include its closest sibling, the Cadillac Escalade EXT, and the Hummer H2 SUT. The Avalanche is by far the cheapest of this trio, and it's easily the most practical as well. Like all full-size crew cabs, of course, the Avalanche feels big and bulky around town and can be a pain to park precisely. It's also more costly than traditional crew cab pickups. But for those who can take full advantage of its do-it-all design character, the 2008 Chevrolet Avalanche is an impressive and unmatched choice.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Chevrolet Avalanche is a full-size crew cab pickup with a removable rear window and exclusive "midgate" that can be lowered into the cabin to provide additional cargo-carrying capabilities. There are two main trim levels, LS and LT, plus a premium line-topping LTZ package. The basic LS features a composite cargo bed, a removable three-piece cargo cover, fully powered accessories, a front 40/20/40-split bench seat with center storage, cloth trim, a power driver seat with manual lumbar control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a single-CD player with auxiliary jack, satellite radio and basic OnStar capability. The LT is similar to the LS but has standard front bucket seats, rear audio controls and enhanced OnStar with turn-by-turn navigation.
The Avalanche LT is generally more desirable because it's upgradeable with additional extras for those who want more than an entry-level vehicle. Moving up to the LT2 package provides dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, power-adjustable pedals, a six-CD changer, rear park assist and remote vehicle starting. The even more upscale LT3 package provides these features, plus heated outside mirrors, upgraded power front seats, driver-seat memory and a Bose audio system with subwoofer. The top-drawer LTZ package supplies 20-inch wheels, chrome exterior accents, the Autoride adaptive suspension, heated windshield wiper fluid and rain-sensing wipers. Depending on the trim level, other stand-alone or packaged options include a navigation system, the Z71 off-road suspension group, power running boards, an integrated rearview camera, rear-seat DVD entertainment and a sunroof.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2008 Chevrolet Avalanche is available with either rear-wheel drive (2WD) or four-wheel drive (4WD). All 2WD models come standard with a 5.3-liter V8 putting out 320 horsepower and 340 pound-feet of torque and driving through a four-speed automatic transmission. Four-wheel-drive Avalanches are E85-capable and rated slightly less at 310 horses and 335 lb-ft of torque; this version of the 5.3-liter is optional on 2WD models. A larger 6.0-liter V8 delivering 366 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque is optional on LT3 and LTZ models. A properly equipped 2WD Avalanche can tow up to 8,200 pounds. EPA-estimated fuel economy for 2008 is 14 mpg city/20 mpg highway on 2WD versions with the 5.3-liter engine. The 6.0-liter engine drops the estimates to 12/17.
Standard Avalanche safety equipment includes antilock disc brakes, stability control, GM's OnStar emergency communications system and a full-length side-curtain airbag system with a rollover sensor. In government crash tests, the Avalanche earned a top five-star rating for protection of front occupants in head-on collisions.
Interior Design and Special Features
Inside, the second-generation Chevrolet Avalanche is significantly improved over its predecessor. Constructed of high-quality materials, the cabin features straightforward ergonomics and top-notch fit and finish. The more common front bucket-seat arrangement seats five, but the Avalanche can accommodate up to six occupants when equipped with the split-bench front seat. To convert the Avalanche's 5-foot-3-inch cargo bed into a longer and more useful space measuring just over 8 feet, one simply lowers the midgate and rear seats. The rear window can also be removed if desired to maximize cargo room and provide the sensation of open-air driving. Removing the cargo covers and using the compartments on the outside of the cargo box offers additional storage opportunities.
Despite its considerable size and heft, the 2008 Chevy Avalanche is relatively quick, even when equipped with the standard 5.3-liter V8. However, its acceleration and fuel economy begin to suffer when the truck is loaded down with passengers or cargo. And though the Avalanche is certainly no sports car around corners, it deals with them in a competent, predictable manner while delivering a quiet and comfortably controlled ride on the highway.