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The Chevrolet Avalanche is a distinctive utility vehicle that blends the comfort and passenger capacity of an SUV with the cargo capacity of a long-bed pickup truck. Its unique "midgate" feature allows it to be converted from a five- or six-passenger crew cab pickup with a short cargo box into a two- or three-passenger pickup with a long cargo box. A lockable hard plastic cover keeps the bed contents safe.
Produced for two generations, the Avalanche was based on Chevy's related full-size trucks and SUVs and therefore shared basic underpinnings and powertrains. Though it may command a price premium on the used-car market, the Avalanche also has more to offer than most pure trucks or SUVs. For the shopper in need of a jack-of-all-trades vehicle, either generation of this unusual truck should make for a smart choice.
Used Chevrolet Avalanche Models
The most recent Avalanche is the second-generation model produced from 2007-'13. Sleeker exterior styling, a sharper and more precise driving feel and increased interior refinement were its chief advantages compared to the first-generation model. It was offered in three trim levels: base Avalanche LS, midgrade Avalanche LT and plush Avalanche LTZ. Numerous luxury and technology features were available, including Bose audio, leather upholstery and a rear-seat entertainment system.
Rear-wheel drive by default, this Avalanche was also offered with two four-wheel-drive (4WD) systems -- one with a single-speed transfer case (introduced on the 2010 model) and one with low-range gearing (previously the only option). All models started with a 5.3-liter V8 that initially produced 320 horsepower and 340 pound-feet of torque (310 hp and 335 lb-ft with 4WD). A 6.0-liter V8 with 366 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque was optional from 2007-'09. (Note that rated power on these engines varied slightly through the years, but you shouldn't notice any real-world difference in performance.) Earlier Avalanche models had a four-speed automatic transmission, while a six-speed automatic (which helped improve fuel economy) became standard for 2009.
In reviews of the second-generation Chevrolet Avalanche, we consistently praised its exceptional versatility on account of the adjustable-length bed. From behind the wheel, we found the Avalanche to be comfortable and smooth-riding for such a workhorse, with robust acceleration from either of the proven V8 engines. The towing capacity impressed us at over 8,000 pounds, easily outdoing the car-based Honda Ridgeline, though trailing pure trucks with V8 power. Maneuvering in tight spots was a challenge, however, due to the Avalanche's massive size and considerable blind spots astern. Still, with its updated platform, it was markedly more pleasant to drive than the previous-generation model.
Aside from the powertrain changes noted above, this Avalanche received standard side airbags for 2008, and the LTZ was upgraded for 2009 with standard Bose audio, heated and ventilated front seats and leather upholstery. The final-year 2013 model was technically known as the Black Diamond Avalanche; it was treated to special badging and some additional features as standard.
The first-generation Chevrolet Avalanche was produced on an older platform from 2002-'06, making a name for itself with its innovative midgate, which was largely carried over to the second-generation model. This Avalanche is also very similar to the newer version in terms of passenger space. At its debut, the first-generation model was offered with two- or four-wheel drive and in 1500 (half-ton) or 2500 (3/4-ton) designations. The 1500 came with a 5.3-liter V8 good for 285 hp. The 2500 model had a 340-hp 8.1-liter V8 as well as higher towing and payload capacities. Both engines came standard with a four-speed automatic transmission.
In reviews of the original Chevrolet Avalanche, we gave it high marks for its trick adjustable bed and comfortable seating. Downsides included compromised outward visibility, low-grade interior materials and awkward exterior styling. The latter was partly attributable to the truck's standard-issue gray-color lower body cladding. Chevrolet wisely made it an option starting in 2003.
There were a few other notable changes during this Avalanche's run. The 2003 model year also saw the arrival of standard multistage airbags, optional stability control and a number of new features, while 2004 saw a slight drop in rated power for the 8.1-liter V8 (to 320 hp). Stability control was made standard across the board for 2006.