2004 Avalanche 1500 New Car Test Drive
Longer than a Suburban, the Chevy Avalanche combines the passenger-pampering 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 an eight-foot bed yet needs seating for four, five or six people.
It may not be cheap, but the Avalanche is one slick, innovative truck, an impressive concept vehicle that made it all the way to production. The key to its versatility is its clever Midgate, which is like having a second tailgate between the cabin and 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 when you need more space, the rear seats fold down, the Midgate folds forward, and voila! You have an eight-foot bed capable of hauling 4x8-foot sheets of plywood. And your plywood, or drywall, stays dry inside the covered bed, out of the rain. Or take the cover off the bed, remove the rear window and you can park an ATV back there.
Avalanche debuted for 2002, and was significantly tweaked and refined for 2003. The 2004 Avalanche gets an enhanced brake system.
One thing that hasn't changed, however, is the attention to detail seen throughout the Avalanche. The people who designed this truck were into fishing, hunting and boating; they knew the needs of outdoor enthusiasts, and they have provided for those needs with flush-mounted cargo lights that illuminate the bed, foldaway tie-down hooks, and footholds and handholds for climbing onto the bed. The hard cargo cover over the bed is made of a highly rigid material that can easily support your weight.
Chevrolet Avalanche comes in two weight ranges: 1500 and 2500, the latter built on Chevy's heavy-duty platform for towing heavy loads. The 1500 model is offered in rear-wheel drive ($32,515) or four-wheel drive ($35,515). The 2500 now comes in 4WD only ($37,350).
Avalanche 1500 models are powered by a 5.3-liter Vortec V8 producing 295 horsepower and 330 pounds-feet of torque. They come with the 4L60-E four-speed automatic transmission (with overdrive and tow/haul mode) and are rated to tow 8200 pounds with 2WD, 7900 pounds with 4WD. (Trailer brakes are required.) Published payload capacities are 1313 pounds with 2WD, 1266 pounds with 4WD.
Avalanche comes in only one trim level, and includes a level of luxury equipment associated with premium cars. A few of the amenities that aren't standard are included in the Driver Convenience Package ($540), which adds dual-zone automatic climate control; power adjustable pedals; a HomeLink universal transmitter; steering-wheel-mounted controls for the audio system; and an expanded driver information center. Even more extensive options groups are available, and include a premium Bose stereo with rear-seat controls and headphone jacks; heated side mirrors with a curb-tilt feature, ground illumination and turn signals. Other entertainment options include a rear-seat video entertainment system ($1295-$1485) and XM Satellite Radio ($325). OnStar ($695-$820) and a power tilt-and-slide sunroof ($995-$1290) are available as stand-alone options.
StabiliTrak electronic stability control ($750) is available on premium package 2WD models. Avalanche 1500 4WD can be ordered with Chevrolet's Z71 off-road package ($1955), which combines 265/70R17 on/off-road tires, a high-capacity air cleaner, skid plates, and off-road suspension with a long list of luxury extras.
Avalanche 2500 4WD is powered by the Vortec 8100, an 8.1-liter V8 rated 320 horsepower and 445 pounds-feet of torque. It comes mated to a 4L85-E heavy-duty automatic transmission, also 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 two-stage, heavy-duty leaf springs. Towing capacity is boosted to 11,900 pounds, with a payload rating of 1807 pounds.
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 rubberized floor mats, a larger (37.5-gallon) fuel tank, a transmission temperature gauge, transmission oil cooler, and skid shields. Wheels are forged rather than cast, and tires are higher-profile 245/75R16s, rather than the 1500's 265/70R16s.