2006 Avalanche 1500 New Car Test Drive
It may not be cheap, but the Chevy Avalanche is one slick, innovative truck, an impressive concept vehicle that made it all the way to production. Built on the same chassis as the Chevrolet Suburban and every bit as big, the 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 sometimes wants the utility of an eight-foot bed and other times needs seating for four, five or even six people.
The key to this truck's versatility is its clever Midgate, which is like having a second tailgate between the cabin and bed. 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.
As neat as that is, almost equally impressive is the attention to detail seen throughout the Avalanche. Some of the people on the team that designed and marketed the Avalanche spend their weekends fishing, hunting or boating. These folks fully understood the needs of outdoor enthusiasts and they provided for those needs with features such as 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, handy when trying to get things done. We've seen the Avalanche employed by all kinds of people, including building contractors who need the utility of a pickup but want a luxurious cab for passengers.
Avalanche debuted as a 2002 model and was tweaked and refined for 2003. 2004 brought an upgraded braking system. Only trim and equipment changes distinguish the 2005 Avalanche from the 2004.
Chevrolet Avalanche comes in two weight ranges, called 1500 and 2500, the latter built on Chevy's heavy-duty platform for towing heavy loads. The 1500 series is offered in rear-wheel drive ($33,320) and four-wheel drive ($36,320). The 2500 comes in 4WD only ($38,155). As with other Chevy trucks, Avalanche is offered in standard LS and more upmarket LT trim.
Avalanche 1500 models are powered by a 5.3-liter Vortec V8 producing 295 horsepower and 330 pound-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 1363 pounds with 2WD, 1349 pounds with 4WD.
LS models are well equipped with dual-zone air conditioning; AM/FM/CD stereo with RDS and speed-compensated volume; four-wheel disc brakes with ABS; cruise control; tilt steering; programmable power door locks with remote keyless entry; power windows and mirrors; a 40/20/40 split front bench seat with cloth upholstery; driver information center; fog lamps; recovery hooks; seven-wire trailer harness; map lights, cargo lamps, heavy-duty battery; and P265/70 touring tires on 16-inch aluminum wheels. The LS Preferred Equipment Group ($1,575) adds front bucket seats with six-way power for the driver; floor console; six-disc CD changer; and a Bose premium sound system with headphone jacks and rear-seat controls.
The LT group ($4,040) includes all of the above and adds dual-zone automatic climate control, 10-way power bucket seats with driver-side memory, power adjustable pedals, HomeLink transmitter, OnStar telecommunications, ground-illuminating side mirrors with auto dimming on the driver's side; compass and outside temperature indicator on the inside rear-view mirror; steering-wheel-mounted audio controls; and heavy-duty trailering equipment.
Chevrolet offers the Z71 package ($2,130) for 4WD 1500 models, which combines selected luxury items from both the LS Preferred and LT groups with some more serious off-road equipment, including skid plates, heavy-duty suspension, a high-capacity air cleaner and P265/70R17 on/off-road tires.
Meanwhile, 2WD buyers can choose the Z66 package ($1,090), with its own suspension tuning, traction control, and P265/70R17 touring tires.
Entertainment options include a rear-seat video setup ($1,295-$1,485) and XM Satellite Radio ($325). A touch-screen navigation system is also available ($1,995). A power tilt-and-slide sunroof ($995-$1,290) is available, and many of the items bundled into the various groups and packages are also available as stand-alone options.
The heavy-duty Avalanche 2500 4WD is powered by the Vortec 8100, an 8.1-liter V8 rated 320 horsepower and 440 pound-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, the 2500 rides on two-stage, heavy-duty leaf springs. Towing capacity is boosted to 11,900 pounds, with a payload rating of 2,021 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. The 2500 comes in the same LS, LS Preferred Equipment and LT trim levels as the 1500; but the Z66 and Z71 packages are not available.
Safety is enhanced on all Avalanche models with dual-level frontal air bags with an automatic passenger-sensing system that measures the weight in the front passenger seat, as well as seat-belt tension, and automatically de-activates the air bag if a small child is sitting there. The airbag re-arms when an adult sits in the seat. The dual-level inflation syste.