2008 Avalanche 1500 New Car Test Drive
The Chevy Avalanche successfully combines the hauling capacity of a long-bed pickup with the comfort of a five-passenger SUV. We found it an innovative, well-designed vehicle, impressively executed.
Avalanche switches roles via its ingenious Midgate, a removable rear bulkhead between the passenger compartment and the pickup bed. Along with a hard, tonneau-like bed cover, the Midgate allows the Avalanche to be configured as a Tahoe-sized sport utility with a five-foot pickup bed and comfortable, five-passenger seating. But fold down the rear seats and open the Midgate, and it's a pickup with an enclosed eight-foot bed, capable of securing valuable gear from thieves or shielding drywall from weather. Remove the rear glass and the tonneau panels and it's capable of hauling an ATV.
Versatility is what makes the Avalanche so desirable. It also offers an 8,000-pound towing capacity, making it an excellent choice for pulling an enclosed car trailer or a fairly big boat. It's as long as a Chevy Suburban and can haul a lot of stuff, with payloads over 1,400 pounds and a bed designed for abuse.
Avalanche was launched for the 2002 model year. It was redesigned and re-engineered for 2007, and there are no major changes for 2008.
As good as the first generation was, the revised version is better, with vastly superior driving dynamics, including an improved ride and taut handling. The previous-generation Avalanche handled impressively well for a Suburban-sized truck, but this new one handles much better.
The cabin is nice. It has a more car-like look and feel than on pre-2007 models, with a classier dash and more comfortable seats. Combined with better-integrated driver-assist and entertainment features, the creature comfort upgrades were as welcome as the modernized mechanicals. Also, the Midgate, removable rear window, tonneau covers and other features now snap together even better than before, and everything appears to be of high quality. The Avalanche is well-designed throughout, with impressive attention to detail.
For 2008, side curtain airbags are now standard on all models. XM satellite radio is also standard. 2008 models get a few interior detail changes, including more storage space designed into the standard 40/20/40 split bench front seat, brighter pointers in the instruments, and more woodgrain trim in the LTZ.
The 2008 Chevy Avalanche comes in one configuration: a half-ton, full-size pickup with four doors, room for up to six passengers, and a unique fold-down rear bulkhead allowing access to an enclosed bed. The heavy-duty Avalanche 2500 was discontinued last year.
Several engines are offered; how many depends on how you count. There are two standard 5.3-liter V8s, one making 320 horsepower in the two-wheel drive (2WD) version, another 310 horsepower in the four-wheel drive (4WD) model. Flex-fuel capability is a no-cost option with 2WD and standard with 4WD. A 366-hp, 6.0-liter V8 is optional ($1,095) on up-level LT and LTZ models with both 2WD and 4WD. The only type of transmission offered is a four-speed automatic, although you get a more heavy-duty unit with the 6.0-liter engine. Four-wheel-drive models come with an electronic transfer case.
Avalanche LS 2WD ($33,435) and LS 4WD ($36,485) are the entry-level models. Seats are cloth covered benches, front and rear. The front splits 40/20/40 with six-way power for the driver and manual recline on both driver and passenger side. The rear seat splits 60/40. Other standard features include dual-zone air conditioning, the usual array of powered utilities, plus multi-media stereo with XM satellite radio, OnStar, leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel, front and rear carpeted floor mats, two auxiliary power outlets, ready-to-tow trailer setup and P265/70R17 all-season tires on 17-inch aluminum wheels.
Options include a stereo upgrade adding an in-dash, six-CD changer ($300); luggage rack ($195) and cross rails ($90); auto-lock rear differential ($295); tow-friendly 4.10:1 rear axle ratio, instead of the standard (and more economical) 3.73:1 ($100); an engine-block heater ($75); transmission oil cooler ($95); and white-letter-highlighted tires ($125). Power-adjustable pedals and rear park assist, which were available separately last year, are now bundled with a remote starter as the Convenience Package ($610). And on the LS only, the standard three-piece hard cargo cover can be deleted for credit ($600) and replaced with a soft cover.
Avalanche LT 2WD ($34,305) and 4WD ($37,355) feature an upgraded interior with cloth bucket seats, OnStar with Directions & Connections navigation service, a center console, and rear-seat audio controls with dual headphone jacks. Halogen fog lamps are standard. A front bench seat is a no-cost option. Other options, in addition to those offered on the LS, include automatic, dual-zone climate control ($195); a DVD-based rear-seat entertainment system with remote and wireless headphones ($1,295); touch-screen, DVD-based navigation system with voice recognition ($2,250); Bose premium speakers ($500); power tilt-and-slide sunroof ($995); universal remote transmitter ($120); rain-sensing windshield wipers and heated washer fluid ($230); and P275/55R20 blackwall tires on painted ($695) or polished 20-inch aluminum wheels ($1,795).
Option packages for the LT include 2LT ($2,125), with automatic climate control, the universal remote, the six-CD stereo, leather upholstery, power adjustable pedals, rear park assist and remote vehicle starter. The 3LT package ($3,190) includes all 2LT equipment plus 12-way power and heated front bucket seats with two-setting driver memory; outside mirrors with dip-to-park, integrated turn signals, driver-side auto-dim and ground courtesy lighting; and the Bose premium speakers. A rear-view camera ($250) is available on LT models with navigation. A discount package ($3,790) bundles navigation, DVD entertainment, and the rear-view camera.
The Z71 Off-Road package ($1,830) is available on LT models with 2WD or 4WD. It includes heavy-duty springs and jounce bumpers, gas-charged shock absorbers, tow hooks, wheel flares, P265/65R18 on/off-road tires, skid plates, tubular assist steps, a high-capacity air cleaner, and unique exterior trim.
Avalanche LTZ 2WD ($40,825) and 4WD ($43,875) come standard with leather upholstery,.