2003 Avalanche 1500 New Car Test Drive
Longer than a Suburban, the Chevy Avalanche combines the comfort of a Tahoe with the load-hauling capability of a long-bed Silverado pickup. That's an impressive combination for someone who wants the utility of a full, eight-foot bed, yet needs seating for four, five or six people.
It may not be cheap, but the Chevrolet Avalanche is one slick, innovative truck. Introduced last year and revised for 2003, this is an impressive concept vehicle that made it all the way to production. The key to its versatility is the Midgate, GM's clever tailgate that separates the cabin from the pickup box. Normally, the Avalanche can carry five adults in comfort and a large amount of cargo in a covered 5-foot 3-inch indestructible bed. But the rear seats fold down like in an SUV, the Midgate folds forward like a tailgate and voila! You have an eight-foot bed capable of hauling 4x8-foot sheets of plywood. Your plywood (or drywall) stays dry inside the covered bed, out of the pouring rain. Or take the cover off the bed, remove the rear window, and you can park an ATV back there. (We've done this.)
For 2003, the Avalanche is available without the plastic body cladding. We think it looks better, cleaner, if a bit plainer this way. But don't worry. Cladding is still available. Made of a practically bullet-proof material that will protect the rocker panels from years of flying gravel, it comes in a darker color for 2003
For 2003, the Avalanche benefits from a long list of improvements to all the full-size pickups and SUVs from GM. The new electrical system architecture ha. New features improve safety, comfort, convenience, and performance. One thing that hasn't changed, however, is the attention to detail seen throughout the Avalanche. The people who designed this thing are into fishing, hunting, and boating, and the execution shows, with flush-mounted cargo lights that illuminate the bed, foldaway tie-down hooks, and footholds and handholds for climbing onto the cargo cover, made of a highly rigid material can easily support your weight.
Chevrolet Avalanche comes in two weight ranges: 1500 (often referred to as half-ton) and the 2500 (three-quarter ton). Both are offered in 2WD and 4WD.
That makes four possible permutations, which retail as follows: 1500 2WD ($31,394); 1500 4WD ($34,394); 2500 2WD ($33,294); 2500 4WD ($36,294). Two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive models use the same suspensions and have the same ground clearance.
Avalanche 1500 models are powered by a 5.3-liter Vortec V8 producing 285 horsepower and 325 pounds-feet of torque. It comes with the 4L60-E four-speed automatic transmission and is rated to tow 8200 pounds with 2WD, 7900 pounds with 4WD. (Trailer brakes are required.) Published payload capacities are 1363 pounds with 2WD, 1322 pounds with 4WD.
Avalanche 2500 models are powered by the Vortec 8100, an 8.1-liter V8 rated at 340 horsepower and 455 pounds-feet of torque. It comes mated to a 4L85 heavy-duty automatic transmission with overdrive and tow/haul mode. In place of the 1500 model's five-link rear suspension with coil springs and automatic load leveling, the 2500 rides on heavy-duty leaf springs. Towing capacity is boosted to 12,000 pounds, with two or four-wheel drive. Payload ratings for the 2500 are 2241 pounds with 2WD, 1958 pounds with 4WD.
Avalanche comes in only one trim level, but it's very complete, with nearly every luxury you might find in a premium automobile. Relative to the 1500, the 2500 does not add any luxury equipment or interior appointments, but it does come with its own heavy-duty carpeting and floor mats, a larger (37.5-gallon) fuel tank, and skid shields on 4WD models. Wheels are forged rather than cast, and tires are higher-profile 245/75R16's, rather than the 1500's 265/70R16s. Available as an option for 1500 models are 17-inch wheels with 265/70R17 tires.
New for 2003 is a Driver Convenience Package ($717) that includes multi-zone automatic climate control; power adjustable pedals; a HomeLink universal transmitter; power-folding outside mirrors with turn signals and ground illumination; and programmable, steering-wheel-mounted controls for the audio system, OnStar, trip computer and message center.
The North Face Edition ($5100) for the 4WD 1500 features Chevy's Z71 off-road suspension, green and black seats, floor mats with North Face logos, a white instrument cluster, the Driver Convenience Package, and The North Face badges on the C-pillars. Medium-gray interior trim and inner door panels are new for 2003. Sage Green exterior paintwork is still exclusive to the North Face Edition, with Sunset Orange, Onyx, Black, Pewter and Summit White available as well. Also included are two Summit Pod backpacks, as well as Water Duffalo storage bags.