2009 Avalanche 1500 New Car Test Drive
The Chevy Avalanche successfully combines the hauling capacity of a short-bed pickup with the comfort and capability of a five-passenger SUV.
It switches between these roles using 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. Unlike a pickup, however, there is no full-height barrier between long loads like that and the front seatbacks.
Versatility is what makes the Avalanche so desirable. It 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 1,300 pounds and a bed designed for abuse.
The 2009 Avalanche comes with a six-speed automatic transmission, replacing the four-speed automatic on the 2008 model. New for 2009 is an available integrated trailer brake controller (a great feature), more features for the LTZ model and more options for LT versions. First launched for the 2002 model year, the Avalanche was redesigned and re-engineered for 2007. Changes since have centered on refinement, tuning and packaging.
We've been impressed with the Avalanche. As good as the first generation was, the revised version (2007 and later) is better, with vastly superior driving dynamics, including an improved ride and taut handling. The previous-generation Avalanche handled well for a Suburban-sized truck, but this latest generation model handles much better.
The Avalanche is well-designed throughout, with impressive attention to detail. The cabin is nice, with a car-like look and feel, a well-designed dash and comfortable seats. Creature comforts and integrated driver-assist and entertainment features make traveling in the Avalanche enjoyable.
The Midgate, removable rear window, tonneau covers and other features snap together nicely, and everything appears to be of high quality.
The 2009 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, called a Midgate, allowing access to an enclosed bed.
Engines include the standard 5.3-liter V8, 310 horsepower, 335 pound-feet of torque, E85-capable, with six-speed automatic. Optional is a 6.0-liter V8 ($1,095) with 366 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque (not E85 compatible). All engines use Active Fuel Management and can be teamed with rear-drive or 4WD.
Avalanche LS 2WD ($35,460) and LS 4WD ($38,510) come with cloth-covered bench seats, 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); an engine-block heater ($75); towing cooler package ($230); and trailer brake controller ($200). and white-letter-highlighted tires ($125). Power-adjustable pedals, rear park assist, remote start and rearview camera displayed in the mirror make up the Convenience Package ($1,060).
Avalanche LT1 2WD ($36,330) and 4WD ($39,380) 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 and rear camera ($2,500); Bose premium speakers ($500); stereo upgrade ($295); power tilt-and-slide sunroof ($995); universal remote transmitter ($120); and P275/55R20 blackwall tires on polished 20-inch aluminum wheels ($1,795).
LT2 2WD ($38,455) and 4WD ($41,505) models add dual-zone automatic climate control, in-dash 6-disc changer, power front seats, and universal gate opener. Options for LT2 include the Autoride suspension ($1120), Z71 off-road package ($1830) with heavy-duty springs and shocks, tow hooks, wheel flares, P265/65R18 on/off-road tires, skid plates, tubular assist steps, a high-capacity air cleaner, and unique exterior trim), 6.0-liter V8 ($1,095), and a Luxury package ($1,965) that includes leather, heated front seats, Bose audio, power folding exterior and auto-dimming inside mirrors.
Avalanche LTZ 2WD ($43,650) and 4WD ($46,700) come standard with leather upholstery, heated and cooled front seats, driver memory, Bose Centerpoint sound system, 20-inch wheels, and much of the luxury and convenience equipment that's optional on the other models. Also standard on LTZ (and on LT2 with the 6.0-liter V8) is the Autoride premium suspension package with variable shock damping and air-assisted rear load leveling. Power retractable running boards ($1,095) and chrome covers for the 20-inch wheels ($500) are exclusive LTZ options. The luggage rack crossrails remain optional, along with the navigation (or rear-view camera only), the moonroof, the rear-seat entertainment system, brake controller, and block heater.
Safety features that come standard on all models include the required front-seat airbags and, for 2009, full-coverage, side-curtain airbags that protect against head injuries in side impacts and rollovers. LATCH rear-seat child safety seat anchors are standard, along with the OnStar crash-notification system. Side airbags are not available. Active safety features that come standard include antilock brakes, electronic stability control with rollover mitigation, all-speed traction control, and tire-pressure monitors.