2007 Chevrolet Avalanche

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Review: 2007 Chevrolet Avalanche

By Ann Job of MSN Autos
Rating: 8.75

Bottom Line:

Chevrolet keeps refining its most flexible of pickup trucks, the Avalanche. And the revamped-for-2007 version is the best yet. Besides new, streamlined styling, the Avalanche has a better ride, nicer interior, improved seats and E85-capable V8s vs. its predecessor. The fold-down Midgate remains, too. But pricing is high.
Pros:
  • Flexible bed and interior space
  • More inviting interior
  • Ugly outer cladding is gone for good
Cons:
  • Ballasts at rear passenger compartment are ungainly
  • Some views out are badly obscured
  • MSRP starts around $32,000

Arguably the most flexible of full-size pickup trucks because of its fold-down Midgate between the passenger compartment and pickup bed, the Chevrolet Avalanche just keeps getting better.

The once awkward-looking Avalanche that used to wear way too much cladding is streamlined and clutter-free on its exterior now.

A new-generation model for 2007, the Avalanche has a refined interior, too, that includes improved fronts seats, more rear shoulder room and better views out because the dashboard is lower vis-à-vis passengers and the windshield is more steeply raked.

With a new platform underneath, the Avalanche has a more comfortable, less bouncy ride than before.

And the base, 5.3-liter Vortec V8 under the Avalanche hood now is capable of running on either gasoline or E85, so truck drivers who'd like to contribute to efforts to reduce U.S. reliance on Middle East oil can opt for the E85 ethanol-gasoline blend of fuel, instead. E85 contains 85 percent ethanol, typically corn-derived in the United States, and only 15 percent oil-based gasoline. (But don't forget: The Avalanche is no fuel-thrifty vehicle, to start with.)

Not bargain priced
The multi-featured Avalanche isn't a bargain-priced pickup, even in its base form.

Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price at introduction of the 2007 truck was around $32,000 for a base LS model with two-wheel drive and 320-horsepower V8.

Competitors at the time, including the Ford F-150 Super Crew, and Dodge Ram 1500 Quad Cab, had lower starting prices by at least $1,500. But neither the 248-horse, V8-powered Super Crew nor the Quad Cab with base, 235-horsepower V8 had the horsepower of the Avalanche.

So it's apt to acknowledge that Chevrolet positions the Avalanche as a bit of a premium-type truck. The Avalanche also gets up to some lofty prices quickly.

The test truck for example, was well over $40,000 when a rear-seat entertainment center, a power moonroof, a XM satellite radio, dual-zone air conditioning and other amenities were added.

SUV meets pickup
Basically, the Avalanche is a four-door, five-passenger pickup truck with a 5.3-foot-long bed.

It's based on Chevrolet's successful full-size sport-utility vehicle, the Tahoe, which was re-engineered from the ground up for 2007. So it's apt to think of the Avalanche as an SUV-meets-pickup-truck kind of transport.

Offered in two- and four-wheel drive and in three trim levels—LS, LT and LTZ—the Avalanche is all about flexibility and capability.

Notably, unlike competitor vehicles, the Avalanche's rear wall of the passenger compartment—where the rear seatbacks are—can be manually unlocked and folded down inside the vehicle.

The rear window stays in place, but with the Midgate down flat, the Avalanche allows 4-foot-by-8-foot sheets of plywood to slide through to the interior in the bed. This means the big plywood can sit in the bed while the tailgate at the back of the vehicle remains closed.

And all the while that cargo is neatly arranged, the Avalanche can tow a hale and healthy 8,000 pounds. This is enough for a sizable boat or trailer.

I admit I don't think that many truck owners want or need to open the back passenger compartment of their vehicle very often to slide in long items from the bed, especially if they have a truck with a lengthy bed.

Indeed, when the back passenger compartment wall is down, the Avalanche ride is obviously noisier because outside sounds can creep in. This arrangement also isn't likely to appeal in inclement weather, because it can allow moisture to get inside the rear passenger compartment. And the opening from bed to interior is sort of oval-shaped and can't accommodate every kind of item.

These are likely reasons why full-size pickups competitors like Ford, Dodge, Toyota and Nissan haven't adopted a Midgate mechanism, though the Avalanche has been around since spring 2001. The other automakers also are aware that the Midgate adds cost.

Indeed, the only other full-size pickup with the Midgate is the Cadillac Escalade EXT, which is another product of Chevy's parent company, General Motors Corp. Like the Avalanche, the EXT is based on GM's full-size SUVs. But the EXT's starting MSRP of more than $50,000 is even higher than that of the Avalanche.

Accommodating storage
Still, I couldn't help feeling like I had one clever truck, because I kept finding nifty storage spots in the Avalanche.

For example, the test truck featured a three-piece, hard cover over the pickup bed and a locking tailgate, so nosy passersby didn't see and couldn't get at the tools and lawn equipment that I carried in the bed.

At the sides of the bed walls, near the tailgate were small, locking storage compartments. They were perfect for little items that would otherwise bang around in the bed.

But at 5 feet 4, I couldn't reach all the way down into these compartments unless I stood up on the tailgate.

I also couldn't see or reach items inside the pickup bed when standing next to the Avalanche. The sides of the pickup bed are too tall. So I scrambled up and into the bed to get at things.

Only V8s provide the power
Because the test vehicle was four-wheel drive, it had the base 5.3-liter Vortec V8 with slightly less power—310 horses. This power plant is tuned for 320 horses in two-wheel-drive Avalanches.

This 5.3-liter V8 is now "FlexFuel" capable, meaning it can burn E85 that's being offered at more filling stations nationwide.

But because there were no E85 stations in my area, the test Avalanche traveled on standard unleaded gasoline.

I didn't lack for power, though the Avalanche didn't necessarily have a rip-snorting, sporty personality. I did wait just a bit for the power to kick in, and the engine sounds aren't as sporty as those in a Dodge Ram or Nissan Titan pickup truck.

Keep in mind, though, that the four-wheel-drive Avalanche tester was a heavy, 5,645 pounds, and peak torque for this Avalanche base engine is a strong 335 lb-ft at 4200 rpm.

The 5.3-liter V8 was the only engine offered at the start of production for the new-generation Avalanche. But a new, 355-horsepower 6.0-liter V8 and variable valve timing was planned for 2007, too.

Only the 5.3-liter engine is compatible with E85, and Avalanche drivers should be aware that government mileage ratings are lower if this truck uses E85.

Specifically, the city/highway rating was 11/15 miles per gallon vs. 15/20 mpg for the same Avalanche using regular gasoline. This reflects the fact that ethanol has a lower energy content than does gasoline, so drivers using E85 can expect to stop and fill up the tank more often.

Unfortunately, I didn't get anywhere near the government ratings. Running on regular gasoline, the test Avalanche got only 14.4 mpg in combined city/highway travel. This is despite the fact the 5.3-liter Vortec V8 includes an Active Fuel Management system that automatically deactivates four of the eight cylinders when they're not needed.

All Avalanches come with a four-speed automatic transmission only.

Odds and ends
I had to climb up to get inside the tall-riding Avalanche. Thank goodness the test vehicle had optional side steps.

Seats are comfortable and roomy up front, with a good amount of space between the two separate seats.

In the back seat, three adults have decent space.

The Avalanche tailgate is spring-loaded now. But it's still heavy. I couldn't push it closed, for example, with just one hand.

I was thankful the tester had optional rear park assist. There was simply no way for me to know what was behind the Avalanche's high tailgate, otherwise.

And I had to actively dart my head around the sizable pillars at the sides of the windshield in order to see if anything—or anyone—was in the roadway as I made turns.

The 2007 Avalanche has more safety features than its predecessor. A tire-pressure-monitoring system and stability control that now includes a rollover sensor are among the standard features. But curtain airbags are optional.

Final notes
Avalanches are hardly plentiful on the roads. Although more than 379,000 Avalanches have been sold in the States since 2001, this pales in comparison with more mainstream pickup trucks.

As an example, Chevy sold more than 379,000 Silverado pickups just in the first six months of calendar 2005! So owners of Avalanches can relish a bit of a unique status.

And, sales have been declining. Chevrolet officials said they expect Avalanche sales to remain about where they have been. In calendar 2005, 63,186 were sold, down from 80,566 in calendar 2004.

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BB03 - 7/26/2014 12:33:41 AM