Is it a four-door pickup truck or a sport utility vehicle that happens to have an open cargo bed? Essentially, the Avalanche is both.
Manufactured in Mexico, the Avalanche features Chevrolet's Convert-a-Cab system. Whenever more space for hauling cargo is needed, folding the rear seat and lowering the midgate extends the pickup bed. The rear window can be removed at any time for open-air driving.
A tire-pressure-monitoring system joins the standard-equipment list for 2006. A 5.3-liter V-8 powers the half-ton 1500 series, while the 2500 series uses an 8.1-liter V-8. Hydroboost brakes, which are standard on the 1500, provide enhanced reserve power assist. General Motors' StabiliTrak electronic stability system is available.
Based on Chevrolet's Silverado full-size pickup truck and Suburban SUV, the Avalanche has four full-size doors. Styling features include a massive front bumper and gray lower-body cladding. The rear bumper incorporates steps for easier access to the 5-foot-3-inch cargo box. The Avalanche 1500 can be optioned without body cladding or the bumper steps.
When a configuration change is needed, the rear seat folds and the midgate lowers to expand the cargo area by 34.6 inches. Locking cargo-box storage compartments are fitted with drains.
Measuring 221.7 inches long overall, 73.6 inches tall and 79.8 inches wide on a 130-inch wheelbase, the Avalanche 1500 has an 8.6-inch ground clearance with standard 16-inch tires; 17-inchers are available.
The Avalanche can hold as many as six occupants when properly equipped. The front section can have two bucket seats or a three-place 40/20/40-split bench seat. A three-passenger 60/40-split, folding bench seat goes in back. XM Satellite Radio and a DVD-based entertainment system are optional.
Under the Hood
Available with rear- or four-wheel drive, the Avalanche 1500 holds a 295-horsepower, 5.3-liter V-8 that generates 335 pounds-feet of torque. The four-speed-automatic transmission has a tow/haul mode. Autotrac four-wheel drive automatically distributes power to the front and rear wheels to maintain traction. The Avalanche 2500 packs a 325-hp, 8.1-liter V-8 that yields 447 pounds-feet of torque.
A rear-drive Avalanche 1500 can tow up to 8,200 pounds when properly equipped. Maximum towing capacity for the 2500 series is 12,000 pounds.
All-disc antilock brakes are standard, and side-impact airbags are optional. LATCH child-safety seat anchors are installed in the rear.
An Avalanche rides more smoothly than expected, at least on relatively unblemished pavement. The firm suspension absorbs a fair amount of road imperfections.
Even though the Avalanche looks immense, it seems considerably less gargantuan when you're inside. Steering and braking feel unusually light. The Avalanche is easy to maneuver in the city and feels controlled on the highway.
Passing performance is fairly exuberant. Other than momentary hesitation after downshifting, the automatic transmission produces no unpleasant surprises. The Avalanche suffers only a little road noise, and comfortable seats deliver great thigh support.