Chevy's redesigned 2007 Avalanche retains its forebear's midgate magic, but the entire package has been overhauled as part of GM's full-size truck platform revamp — everything from the Chevrolet Suburban SUV to the GMC Sierra pickup was upgraded for 2007. Although it's plagued by a few low-tech components, I found that the Avalanche offered a refined ride, plenty of luxury features and a much-improved interior over its predecessor.
The Avalanche originated as GM's solution to the forced tradeoff between pickup truck cab space and bed space. When crew cab pickups became mainstream around 2000, their roomy, four-door cabins seemed liberating, but they required the cargo beds to be shorter, a significant drawback. The 2002 Avalanche addressed the issue with a trick midgate that folded down to extend the bed into the cab, effectively turning a short-bed crew cab into a long-bed regular cab.
Three trim levels are available: LS, LT and LTZ; each can be equipped with rear- or four-wheel drive. I tested a four-wheel-drive Avalanche LTZ.
Exterior & Styling
The previous Avalanche's body cladding is gone, replaced with integrated rocker panels and bumpers. The face closely resembles that of Chevrolet's 2007 Tahoe, with jeweled headlights and a preponderant grille, with the gold bowtie front and center. It's a rugged but refined look that I found pleasing from most angles — and after seeing the redesigned Silverado pickup, I wonder why Chevrolet felt the need to go with a different design.
Key elements of the previous model remain — namely the triangular pillars descending from the cab's C-pillars to its bed. At 221 inches long, the Avalanche is about the same length as its predecessor and just an inch short of Chevrolet's extended-length Suburban.
Here's how the Avalanche stacks up against some crew cab alternatives:
|Crew Cabs Compared|
|2007 Chevrolet Avalanche||2007 Chevrolet Silverado 1500**||2007 Ford F-150||2006 Dodge Ram 1500|
|Ground clearance (in.)||9.1||9.0||8.3||7.7|
|Maximum payload (lbs.)*||1,355||2,010||1,560||1,880|
|Turning circle (ft.)||43.0||47.2||45.1||49.7|
|Maximum towing capacity (lbs.)*||7,800||8,500||9,200||8,200|
|EPA gas mileage (city/highway, mpg)||15/20||16/20||14/18||14/18|
|Manufacturer data. Data applies to 2007 Chevrolet Avalanche 5.3L LTZ 4x4, 2007 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Crew Cab 5.3L LTZ 4x4, 2007 Ford F-150 SuperCrew 5.4L Lariat 4x4 and 2006 Dodge Ram 1500 Mega Cab 5.7L Laramie 4x4.|
*May require optional equipment.
Ride & Handling
A coil-over-shock independent front suspension replaces the previous torsion bar arrangement. GM says the new setup is lighter and has reduced fore-aft stiffness for a better ride. The rear suspension keeps its five-link, non-independent design. An optional Autoride adaptive suspension system on my test vehicle proved useful through turns, automatically firming up the outboard side and diminishing the truck's body roll. Cornering at moderate speeds induces gradual understeer, and the Avalanche's Bridgestone AL2 all-season tires provide more noise than grip.
Minimum ground clearance is 9.1 inches. Over rough roads, the chassis swallowed potholes and other bumps with little cabin disturbance.
Steering is now rack-and-pinion instead of the previous (and somewhat archaic) recirculating-ball type that has more parts and usually provides little steering feedback. It feels less assisted than the earlier setup, but it still lacks much in the way of feedback.
Going & Stopping
The 5.3-liter V-8 in my four-wheel-drive Avalanche LTZ makes 310 horsepower and 335 pounds-feet of torque. Two-wheel-drive models carry a different version of the engine with slightly higher output, while a 6.0-liter V-8 is optional across the board. The previous Avalanche offered a heavy-duty model with an 8.1-liter V-8, but it's been dropped because of low demand.
All three engines come with a four-speed automatic transmission. A cylinder deactivation system shuts down four cylinders in low-load situations for better gas mileage.
|5.3-liter V-8 (RWD)||5.3-liter V-8 (4WD)||6.0-liter V-8|
|Availability||Standard, RWD||Standard, 4WD||Optional, RWD/4WD|
|Construction||Iron block/ aluminum head||All-aluminum||All-aluminum|
|Horsepower (@ rpm)||320 @ 5,200||310 @ 5,200||366 @ 5,500|
|Torque (lbs.-ft. @ rpm)||340 @ 4,200||335 @ 4,400||380 @ 4,300|
|Required fuel||Regular (87-octane) gasoline or E85||Regular (87-octane) gasoline or E85||Regular (87-octane) gasoline|
|EPA gas mileage (city/highway, mpg)||15/21||15/20||14/19 (RWD), 14/18 (4WD)|
The 5.3-liter V-8 produces adequate acceleration around town, and it's whisper-quiet. Highway acceleration is less energetic, however. GM's four-speed automatic is among the best in the business — it offers buttery-smooth shifts that are often imperceptible — but it wouldn't hurt to have a five- or six-speed gearbox. Left to its own devices, the Avalanche finds fourth gear as early as 35 mph, and it takes a concerted jab on the accelerator to kick down. I found myself thinking twice about pulling into the passing lane — and most of the time I was driving solo.
Four-wheel drive includes an electronic transfer case with rear- and four-wheel-drive modes. There's also an automatic four-wheel-drive mode that activates the front axle but keeps power in the rear during normal driving. It can detect slippage and send power up front, not unlike an all-wheel-drive system. Lest you think it's best to leave it there all the time (as I did for the better part of a week), be warned that there's a (slight) gas mileage penalty compared with the two-wheel-drive mode.
Four-wheel-disc brakes with ABS are standard. I thought the pedal felt linear, stopping the Avalanche without any undue excitement.
The Avalanche and its siblings are proof that GM is serious about interior quality. Gone are the boxy dashboard and chintzy controls from the previous version, replaced by a carlike environment that's far beyond GM's previous interiors — and even beyond the current Toyota Sequoia, for that matter.
Recessed into their own portholes, the gauges are easy to read. The center control panel holds intuitive, chrome-ringed climate controls, and I found the varying shades of wood trim in my test vehicle reasonably tasteful. Panel fit is excellent, though most surfaces are covered in hard plastic, and even the armrests — the last vestige of soft-touch surfaces in many cars today — are thinly padded.
Step-in height is fairly high, so getting in requires using the running boards. Optional power-articulating boards can supplant the fixed standard ones, which didn't offer much grip for my worn-down sneakers.
The driver's seat offers a commanding perch. Sightlines drop steeply just beyond the hood, however, so parking in close quarters can be dodgy. The triangular fixtures over the pickup bed leave a prominent blind spot at 5 o'clock, but fortunately the large side mirrors keep most traffic in view. Rear visibility is largely obstructed by the high pickup bed, so I recommend springing for the optional rearview camera.
The seats are wide and comfortable. Cloth upholstery and a three-seat front bench are standard; my test vehicle came with front buckets upholstered in leather. Both seats were power-adjustable, and there was plenty of movement in all directions. There are also optional power-adjustable pedals, which are valuable because the tilt steering wheel doesn't telescope. I'm 5-foot-11, and I had plenty of headroom despite my vehicle's optional moonroof, which typically robs an inch or two.
The cabin is impressively quiet, even at highway speeds. When called upon, the seven-speaker Bose stereo in my tester broke the silence with concert-hall clarity.
Storage provisions up front include a medium-sized glove box, a center tray with removable cupholders, plastic door pockets and a large center console. The center stack holds two 12-volt power outlets, while the console has two more. Beware that the optional backseat DVD entertainment system fills half the center console with headsets, a quick-start manual and a remote.
There's ample room in back for two adults — three for a short trip. The outboard seats are substantially large, though I found the cushions angled too low for my legs. Four cupholders — two behind the center console, two in the fold-down armrest — seems like overkill, considering the armrest-embedded ones interfere with, um, arm-resting.
As of this review, neither the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has crash tested the 2007 Avalanche.
All Avalanches include four-wheel-disc antilock brakes, traction control and an electronic stability system. The system includes GM's Active Roll Mitigation, a new technology that attempts to recognize conditions ripe for a rollover and apply individual brakes to avert it. Though it's a step above a basic electronic stability system, it does not sense an actual rollover à la Ford's Roll Stability Control.
Side curtain airbags that protect both rows of seats are optional. They include a rollover sensor that causes them to deploy — and stay inflated for several moments — if the Avalanche goes wheels-up.
Front head restraints offer ample protection, but the rear ones are more decorative than useful, and the center seat doesn't have one at all.
Child seat provisions include two lower anchors each for the center and right-hand seats; both are clearly visible. (Most vehicles lack these anchors in the center location, which is the safest place for a child.) The top tethers are placed underneath and behind each seat, a location that requires folding up the cushion to find them. Many SUVs and pickups mount top-tether anchors on the seatbacks or rear wall — sometimes with guide hoops through which to pull the strap taut — but the Avalanche's setup is regrettably minimalist.
Cargo & Towing
A 5-foot, 3-inch bed extends to 8 feet, 1 inch courtesy of the flip-down midgate. Folding the midgate is best shown in pictures, so check out the animation in the photos at right. On the whole, it's a nifty operation that does what's advertised without too much trouble. It's worth mentioning that messy cargo should not go in a converted bed, as the folded backseat — which becomes the de facto partition between the bed and the front seats — would let plenty of dirt through.
The bed offers a non-slip mat that even held bags of ice in place. Each rear fender incorporates a lockable compartment, accessible from the top. A three-piece cargo cover is standard, though it's difficult to remove and even harder to stow. Click on the "bed cover storage" thumbnail at right for more information.
Maximum towing capacity for both the 5.3-liter V-8 and 6.0-liter V-8 is 8,000 pounds on two-wheel-drive Avalanches. With four-wheel drive and the smaller engine, capacity drops slightly to 7,800 pounds.
All Avalanches come well-equipped with power windows, power door locks and keyless entry, as well as a power driver's seat and steering-wheel audio controls. The Avalanche LT comes in LT1, LT2 and LT3 flavors, offering ascending levels of luxury. My Avalanche LTZ test vehicle was decked out with heated leather seats, a Bose stereo, dual-zone automatic climate control and a navigation system.
A base two-wheel-drive Avalanche LS starts at $32,690. Including the $2,145 navigation package and a $1,295 backseat DVD entertainment system, my Avalanche LTZ came to $47,730, including an $875 destination charge. That's rather steep, but consider that Lincoln's Mark LT, a comparable luxury pickup, can cost the same with fewer features.
Avalanche in the Market
Its combination of refinement, styling and durability make the Avalanche a winner. It sets new standards for interior quality, and now its rivals have some catch-up work to do.
Despite all that, neither the Avalanche nor its full-size siblings are likely to sell as well as they did several years ago, as rising fuel prices have produced a more gas-conscious buyer. GM knows that all too well, and it isn't selling false expectations this time around. To me, these trucks are not so much gas-guzzling giants as a sign of the quality and refinement to come for all GM vehicles. Provided it stays on this tack, Detroit's top automaker should do just fine.
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