The 2007-2013 Chevrolet Avalanche was the second generation version of General Motors' unique blending of a 4-door crew-cab pickup truck with a sport-utility vehicle. It was far cleaner-looking than the cladded-up 2001-2006 first generation version, which nevertheless sparked a light-duty crew-cab trend. Based on the full-size Chevy Suburban, the Avalanche replaces the 4-door SUV's rear roof section with a 5.3-inch long pickup bed. Between the cab portion and the bed is a midgate, which can be flipped down into the interior after folding the rear seat to create a load space which is 8-ft and 2-in long and wide enough to carry 4x8 sheets of plywood with the tailgate up. Lockable storage compartments alongside the cargo box with drain hoses built in, a spring-loaded and lockable tailgate and a 3-panel hard tonneau tough enough for an adult to stand on are but a few of the other unique Avalanche features. Because the Avalanche is based on the Suburban, it shares that SUV's coil-spring rear suspension, which has a superior ride to Chevy pickups with more basic leaf springs. For 2007, the Avalanche was redesigned with all-new, sleeker sheet metal, more aerodynamic wraparound fronts and a new, more refined interior with more comfortable seats. A stronger chassis aided ride and handling. Both rear-wheel-drive and 4-wheel-drive (4WD) models were offered, the latter with both 1- and 2-speed transfer cases.
Why You Want It
It's a pickup truck and an SUV all wrapped into one. Avalanche offers up to 8100 pounds of tow capacity on 2WD models, 7900 pounds on 4WD models and will haul payloads up to 1300 pounds. It has much of the capability of a full-size crew-cab pickup with seating for five or six passengers, yet because its passenger and bed areas are integral, it feels more solid structurally than a pickup with a separate bed. And due to the fact that it rides on a Chevy Suburban chassis, it has a coil-spring rear suspension for a smoother ride. All Avalanches come standard with a full suite of safety systems, including 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front and side airbags and tire-pressure monitoring, and are available with ultrasonic rear park assist and a backup camera. The 2002 Avalanche was named Motor Trend magazine's Truck of the Year. The Avalanche has consistently received Recommended Buy ratings from Consumer Reports magazine, a publication that doesn't often give American-made products high rankings.
Notable Features and Options
The Avalanche is available in base LS, mid-level LT and top-of-the-line LTZ trim. LS standard equipment includes a split front bench seat with fold-down armrest and power driver's seat, air-conditioning, cruise control, a leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel, OnStar, keyless remote entry, 17-in alloy wheels and a 6-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system. Also standard are stability and traction control, a split fold-down rear seat, a security system, a trip computer, a rear defroster, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, intermittent wipers, automatic headlamps and power windows, mirrors and door locks.
Moving up to LT gains standard fog lamps and power front bucket seats. Also, with LT trim a number of options not selectable on the LS are available, including a power sunroof, navigation, automatic air-conditioning, a rear-seat entertainment system, leather seats, a premium 7-speaker audio system and 20-in alloy wheels.
Upgrading to LTZ adds standard leather seats, 20-in wheels, continuously variable shock-absorber damping, automatic air-conditioning, a Homelink garage door opener, heated front seats with memory, adjustable pedals, rain-sensing wipers, ultrasonic reverse sensing and limited-slip differential.
A popular option is the Z71 Off Road appearance package. Its main feature is off-road suspension with high-pressure gas shocks, but it also includes 18-in on/off road tires, skid plates, a high-capacity air cleaner, auto-locking differential and front recovery hooks. Z71 appearance items consist of large body-color wheel flares, chrome tubular running boards and an aggressive front appearance, plus leather seats and brushed metal trim inside.
Other options include ultrasonic rear parking assist, remote starting, rain-sensing wipers, touchscreen navigation and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system.
The 2007-2009 models were also available with a Hot Shot windshield washer system that heated the fluid to make cleaning dirty and icy windshields easier, but electrical issues led to a recall of the system and GM dropped the option in 2009.
2008: Head curtain airbags become standard.
2009: Standard 6-speed automatic transmission replaces 4-speed. OnStar 8.0 with turn-by-turn navigation, stolen vehicle slowdown and destination download debuts. Bluetooth connectivity with hands-free calling is available. NavTraffic feature added to XM. Backup camera display in rearview mirror is a new option. Fuel-saving 3.08:1 rear axle available on 2WD models. New integrated trailer brake controller. LTZ adds heated and cooled 12-way power leather front seats, surround-sound Bose audio system, a rear hitch cover and other trim upgrades. Newly optional are 22-in chrome wheels developed with DUB Magazine.
2010: 6.0-liter V8 is dropped. The 3.08:1 rear axle now standard, with the 3.42:1 optional. USB outlet added to console. LT adds dual-zone air-conditioning, power adjustable pedals, remote start and heavy-duty locking rear differential. 1-speed transfer case made standard on 4WDs, 2-speed is optional.
2011: Body-color mirrors are made standard on LS. 2-speed transfer case is standard on LTZ 4WD models.
2012: Heated seats added to LT and heated steering wheel to LTZ. Electronic trailer sway control and hill-start assist are now standard.
2013: For the final model year, all models receive Black Diamond Avalanche commemorative badges and a standard backup camera, power adjustable pedals, fog lamps and remote start. Powertrain grade braking is now available in normal transmission mode.
Engines and Performance
All 2007-2013 Chevy Avalanches come standard with small-block Chevy V8s. Most numerous is the 5.3-liter V8, rated either at 310 or 320 horsepower. Many of the 5.3-liter V8s are flex-fuel engines, meaning that they can run on regular unleaded gasoline, clean-burning E85 ethanol or any combination thereof. Just look for the yellow fuel filler cap. Note that because E85 has less energy in it than gasoline, fuel mileage will decline by about 25 percent. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fuel mileage estimates for the 5.3-liter vary from year to year, but expect 14 to 15 miles per gallon city and 19-21 mpg highway.
A 6.0-liter V8 with 366 hp and variable valve timing was an option on 2007-2009 models, but was dropped for the 2010 model year. Both the 5.3-liter and 6.0-liter feature active fuel management, a cylinder-deactivation system that shuts down four of the eight cylinders when coasting or under light load to save fuel at highway speeds. The 6.0-liter was EPA-rated at 12-14 mpg city/17-19 mpg highway.
An automatic transmission is standard on all Avalanche models, with a 4-speed unit on 2007-2008 models and a more efficient 6-speed phasing in for 2009-and-later models. All feature tap-up/tap-down gear selection on the column shifter as well as a tow/haul mode which the driver can select for better flexibility and control of transmission shift points when dealing with heavy loads.
In a 2007 test of an Avalanche with the 5.3-liter V8 and 4-speed automatic, Car and Driver magazine achieved 8.3-second 0-to-60 miles per hour and 16.4-second one fourth mile times. Observed fuel economy was 14 mpg. Truck Trend magazine later tested a 2012 Avalanche also with the 5.3-liter V8, but with the newer 6-speed automatic, and received 8.6-second 0-to-60 mph and 16.7-second one fourth mile test results.
Recalls, Safety Ratings and Warranties
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced the following safety recalls on the 2007-2013 Chevrolet Avalanche:
2007: Some vehicles were produced with an incorrect tire certification label on the rear of the front door edge. The dealer is to install the correct label.
2007-2009: On Avalanches with the optional heated windshield washer system (Hot Shot), a short circuit may overheat the washer system's electronics, possibly affecting other electrical features and creating an odor and smoke. The fix is for the dealer to install an in-line fuse.
2009: Improper sealing may allow water to enter the fuel system control module, causing hard starting. The dealer is to replace defective modules.
2011: Defective lock pins in the rear axle can fracture and jam, locking up rear axle. The dealer is to replace them with new heat-treated pins.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) did not rate the 2007-2013 Avalanche for impact performance. In NHTSA testing all Avalanche models received a 3-star rollover rating, 2007-2010 models received 5 stars for driver and passenger front impact performance and 2008-2009 models received 5 stars for side impact performance.
All 2007-2013 Avalanche models came with a 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty with free roadside assistance, a 6-year/100,000-mile corrosion perforation warranty and 5-year/100,000-mile powertrain coverage.
Chevrolet Certified Used Trucks must be five years old or less and have no more than 75,000 miles on the odometer. Each Avalanche undergoes a 172-point inspection. Those that pass receive a 12-month/12,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty plus whatever remains on the transferable original 5-year/100,000-mile powertrain coverage. Also included is a new 2-year/24,000-mile maintenance plan and roadside assistance.
Word on the Web
Caranddriver.com lauded the 2007 Avalanche for its cargo cleverness and handsome interior. It called the Avalanche sort of a lumbering beast, but found that the second generation model's stiffened frame got rid of the jiggliness over washboard surfaces that the 2001-2006 model was prone to.
Pickuptrucks.com gave the 2007-2013 Avalanche good marks for its refined interior, quiet ride, storage options, bed utility, roomy backseat, driving position and power with the optional 6.0-liter V8. It took issue with the Avalanche's gas mileage, tepid acceleration with the 5.3-liter V8, child-seat compatibility and blind spots when backing up.
Consumerreports.org gave the Avalanche top ratings in the pickup category and declared it a recommended buy. In its review of the Avalanche, the testing agency liked the truck's cargo versatility, rear seat, comfortable ride, quiet cabin, ample V8 power, available full-time 4WD and good reliability. It criticized the truck's vague steering, skimpy payload for its size, lackluster fuel economy (13 mpg), long braking distances, poor rear visibility and the bed's high load floor.
Carcomplaints.com reported high incidents of excessive oil consumption with the 5.3-liter V8 and dashboard cracking on 2007 models.
The Avalanche, along with the upscale Cadillac Escalade EXT with which it shares most of its components, is unique in the market. It's the only pickup with a midgate that folds into the truck's interior to expand the cargo area for long items. Other full-size, light-duty crew cabs, such as Ford's F-150, Toyota's Tundra and Dodge's Ram 1500 come close when equipped with a sliding rear window. But all three lack the plastic-lined bed, 3-piece hard tonneau and fold-down midgate panel access to the truck's interior. And only the Ram is available with lockable bedside storage compartments similar to the ones in the Avalanche with built-in drains that allow them to be filled with ice and used as coolers.
The midsize Honda Ridgeline offers the same integral cargo bed/body design as the Avalanche, it has unique hidden storage under the cargo floor and its V6 fuel economy is far better than Avalanche's. But the Ridgeline's 5-foot bed has limited hauling capacity and towing is rated at just 5000 pounds.
Auto Trader Recommendations
Because of reports of excessive oil consumption and dashboard cracking on 2007 models, and due to the fact that 2007-2008 Avalanches came with the less-efficient 4-speed automatic transmission and not the more flexible 6-speed unit that was standard beginning in 2009, we'd recommend sticking with 2009-and-newer models. It always makes sense to buy models that have been in production for a few years to allow manufacturers time to work out the bugs. The fuel economy of the 5.3-liter and 6.0-liter V8s are close enough to not make much of a difference, unless you plan on towing -- in which case the 2009 model with the higher torque 6.0-liter V8 and 6-speed automatic is probably your best bet. 4-wheel drive is a necessity for buyers in the upper Midwest or mountain country. Stay away from customized trucks with oversized aftermarket wheels. Due to the high step-in height, running boards are a good idea, but the fixed ones may be a wiser choice in the long run in comparison to motorized bars with moving parts that are exposed to the elements. And as always, get a car history report before you buy.