What's New for 2009
The 2009 Chevrolet Avalanche is largely unchanged. The truck's OnStar system gets a few enhancements; also, Bluetooth connectivity and a rear back-up camera that does not require a navigation system have been added. A new six-speed automatic transmission is added to improve fuel economy slightly, and there are newly available 20-inch chrome wheels for those who haven't purged the word "bling" from their vocabulary. Finally, the LTZ trim now includes features like heated and cooled leather seats and a Bose surround-sound stereo as standard.
If ever there was a vehicle that represents the happy convergence of pickups and SUVs, it would be the Chevrolet Avalanche. Essentially, the Avalanche is an attempt to combine the best of both worlds, and in many ways it works. Like a pickup truck, the Avalanche has a four-door crew-cab configuration. However, it lacks the separate cab and bed of most pickups. Instead, the Avalanche uses a one-piece body like that of a typical SUV -- think of the Avalanche as a Suburban with the roof and rear windows cut out, and you'll have a fairly accurate understanding of what it's all about.
The Avalanche's main selling point is a uniquely flexible midgate design that considerably enhances its functionality. The midgate is a removable partition separating the cabin from the bed. When combined with the watertight, three-panel lockable bed cover, the midgate allows a variety of configurations, including a fully open pickup bed or a fully enclosed dry cargo area.
The 2009 Chevy Avalanche is one of only a few full-size pickups offering this convertible midgate design configuration. The other trucks with this feature are also GM products; the lineup includes the Cadillac Escalade EXT and the Hummer H2 SUT. The Avalanche is by far the cheapest of these three, and it's easily the most practical as well. Just like other full-size trucks, though, it feels big and bulky around town, and doesn't exactly deliver stellar fuel economy. It's also more costly than traditional crew-cab pickups.
Considering this, Honda's Ridgeline might work out better for some people; it provides a more manageable size. Being car-based, however, it's not as rugged, nor does it offer a midgate. Even its fuel economy is surprisingly similar. All told, the 2009 Chevrolet Avalanche will be invaluable for those who can take full advantage of its flexibility and do-it-all design character.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Chevrolet Avalanche is a full-size crew-cab pickup with a removable rear window and exclusive midgate. There are four trim levels: LS, LT1, LT2 and premium LTZ. The basic LS features a composite cargo bed, a removable three-piece cargo cover, full power 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, Bluetooth, basic OnStar capability and a stereo with a single-CD player, an auxiliary jack and satellite radio. The LT1 is similar to the LS, but has standard front bucket seats, rear audio controls and enhanced OnStar with turn-by-turn navigation.
Moving up to the LT2 package provides dual-zone automatic climate control, power-adjustable pedals, a six-CD changer, rear park assist and remote vehicle starting. The top-drawer LTZ offers 20-inch wheels, chrome exterior accents, an adaptive suspension, rain-sensing wipers, heated and cooled leather seats and a premium Bose audio system. Most of these upper-trim-level features are available as options on the lower trims.
Add the Z71 Off Road Package and you get specialized springs and shock absorbers, upgraded 18-inch off-road tires, an automatically locking rear differential, front recovery hooks, a skid plate and a high-capacity air cleaner. The Z71 looks different too, thanks to large color-keyed wheel flares, an aggressive front fascia and chrome assist steps.
Depending on the trim level, other stand-alone or packaged options include a navigation system, power running boards, 20-inch wheels, an integrated rearview camera, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system and a sunroof. This year's heavy-duty towing package includes an integrated trailer brake controller.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2009 Chevrolet Avalanche is available with either two-wheel drive (2WD) or four-wheel drive (4WD). All 2WD models come standard with a 5.3-liter V8 putting out 310 horsepower and 335 pound-feet of torque, driven through a new six-speed automatic transmission. A larger 6.0-liter V8 delivering 366 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque is optional. A properly equipped 2WD Avalanche can tow up to 8,100 pounds. EPA-estimated fuel economy for 2009 is 14 mpg city/20 mpg highway and 16 mpg combined for 2WD versions with the 5.3-liter engine.
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 in all front- and side-impact tests.
In previous years, the Avalanche's rearview camera couldn't be had without spending the money to add a navigation system, since the camera relied on the nav system's screen to display its images. For 2009, the camera has been redesigned in a way that makes it a stand-alone feature. Its display is now featured on the rearview mirror instead of the nav screen, and as a result, it may be added without also adding a navigation system.
Interior Design and Special Features
Inside, the second-generation Chevy 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 you want 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 2009 Chevrolet 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. Though the Avalanche is certainly no sports car around corners, it deals with them in a competent, predictable manner. Thanks to its SUV-like body, this big Chevy boasts a ride that's quieter and smoother than that of the typical pickup.