The Chevrolet Avalanche has always seemed like a good idea to me. It’s a mixture of crewcab pickup, sport utility vehicle and utility van. Chevrolet has upgraded the Avalanche for the 2007 model year – part of a platform renewal program that has seen major design and component changes for all full-size Chevrolet trucks, including Silverado pickups and Suburban SUVs.
On the surface, the Avalanche shares more than a passing resemblance to its full-size stablemates. Gone is the exterior plastic cladding that did so much to set early Avalanches apart from other GM trucks. I was never a cladding fan, and find the ’07 Avalanche incarnation to have a much cleaner profile, both head-on and when viewed from the side. Up front, the Avalanche takes its styling cues from Chevy’s Tahoe SUV, which it strongly resembles when viewed head-on. Chevy opted to retain the C-pillars extending from the rear of the cab to the truck bed, so the Avalanche is still instantly recognizable as an Avalanche when it’s out on the road. Three trim levels are available: LS, LT and LTZ. Each can be equipped with rear- or four-wheel drive. All retain the cargo and storage boxes that made Avalanches famous, as well as the folding midgate that allows quick and easy conversion from SUV to long-bed pickup.
[Subhead] New power management system enhances on-highway fuel economy
Standard power for the Avalanche is Chevy’s 5.3-liter Vortec gas engine. This engine features Chevy’s new Active Fuel Management feature, which helps the Avalanche pull in 15 mph in the city and 20 mph on the highway.
General Motors has been testing prototype versions of its Active Fuel Management for years, but the system is finally seeing widespread introductions in 2007. Active Fuel Management allows an onboard electronic command module to control the number of cylinders active based on vehicle speed and throttle inputs.
Starting out, the computer gives you all eight cylinders banging away. As the Avalanche builds up speed and horsepower demands decrease, the computer will cut back to four cylinders, easily maintaining cruising speeds while burning less fuel.
Out on the road, Active Fuel Management works seamlessly. In fact, it is virtually impossible to tell if the computer has disengaged engine cylinders by feel alone. For the curious, a selectable dashboard readout tells you when the engine is running on four or eight cylinders. And response to throttle inputs is instantaneous – if you’re cruising along on four cylinders, and decide to pass another vehicle, simply depressing the gas pedal will instantly give you full V-8 power.
[Subhead] Surprisingly fun to drive
In the cab, Chevy shows once again that it understands the importance of driver comfort and control. A new dash and completely revamped controls are easy to read and reach. I’m particularly happy to see a new set of HVAC controls: These are much easier to use than those found on previous generation GM trucks. The onboard navigation/stereo system has been simplified as well. And selecting four-wheel drive on ’07 Avalanches is as easy as turning a dash-mounted dial to the preferred drivetrain mode.
Despite its size, I’ve always found the Avalanche to be surprisingly agile and well-mannered on the road. A new rack-and-pinion steering system, which replaces the older recirculating ball system, certainly enhances on-highway handling and makes tackling heavy traffic and mall parking lots a breeze. The 5.3-liter V-8 provides ample power, although you really have to stand on it in passing situations. GM’s venerable four-speed automatic gearbox is nearly perfect, offering incredibly smooth shifts in all driving conditions.
[Photo caption] The body cladding is long gone. But the Chevy Avalanche still offers a ton of integrated storage space and can easily switch from full-size cab to long-bed pickup.