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The Chevy Avalanche Z66 Was an Obscure Premium On-Road Truck

Every truck enthusiast knows what Z71 means. Z71 is code for the rugged off-road style and capability of GM trucks. It’s an option package for trucks such as the Chevy Silverado or the Chevy Tahoe, and it’s even been shared with GMC trucks in the past. Another one of those trucks that had this option was the Chevy Avalanche, but did you know there was another Z package for the Avalanche that wasn’t available on any other truck? It was the Z66 package, and it turned the Avalanche into a “premium on-road truck,” according to Chevy.

First, here’s a recap on what the Avalanche was. The Chevy Avalanche was something a little different from the typical GM truck fare. It was intended to be part truck, part SUV. When you needed a long bed, you could make the back seats disappear, and it was like you had a single-cab Silverado. When you needed the back seats, it was a roomy quad-cab truck with a bed that could be fully enclosed. Think of it like a Suburban with a bed.

When the Avalanche first came out for the 2002 model year, it had a very simple model range without traditional trims. You either picked rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, and on top of that, you could either get the Z71 package on the 4×4 model or the Z66 package on the RWD truck.

Here’s what you got with the prestigious Z66 package: premium suspension with specially tuned load-leveling shocks, traction assist, a rear locking differential, rubber floor mats with gold Chevy bowtie logos, 17-in aluminum wheels with all-season tires and, of course, Z66 badging on the bed. The upgraded wheels, floor mats and locking differential were shared with the Z71, and the Z71 added off-road suspension, high-capacity air cleaning, skid plates and off-road tires.

So, why would anyone want the Z66 rather than the Z71? The idea was to make a truck/SUV that caters to drivers who don’t do a lot of off-roading, which is most truck and SUV drivers. It was aimed at people who were going to use their Avalanche as a family vehicle and liked the idea of having a truck bed for occasional hauling. However, not a lot of people bought it, and that’s why the Z66 package never caught on to the rest of the GM truck family. The existence of the Avalanche Z66 was kind of confusing, and everyone already knew what Z71 meant, so that was by far the more popular option package.

Another thing that made the Z66 a tough sell was its claim of being a “premium on-road” truck. You know what else was a premium on-road truck? The Avalanche’s corporate cousin, the Cadillac Escalade EXT. The Escalade EXT had the same bones as the Avalanche but was obviously fancier since it was a Cadillac. For drivers who were looking for a truck/SUV hybrid and wanted a premium vehicle, that’s what they bought. Also, the Z66 was RWD-only, while the Escalade EXT could be had with 4WD.

As of this writing, there are 34 Avalanche Z66 models for sale on Autotrader, and 119 Avalanche Z71 models, which gives you an idea of how much more popular one was than the other. There just wasn’t enough to make the Z66 package stand out, but if you get one of your own, you’ll have a truck that almost no one else has. Plus, that premium on-road suspension is probably pretty comfy. Find a Chevrolet Avalanche for sale

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  1. I have a 2003 Z66 with 222,000 + miles and still going strong. Best vehicle I have ever owned. It had over 100,000 miles before I had to replace the brake pads. In the 18 years I’ve owned it, I have spent less than $5,000 in maintance (not counting tires, brakes pads, oil changes, etc).

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Eric Brandt
Eric Brandt
Eric Brandt is an author specializing in Oversteer content, new car reviews, and finding the best car, truck, and SUV deals each month. Born and raised in Wisconsin, Eric can often be found exploring the north woods on his 1983 Honda Gold Wing when the weather allows it. Father of four, husband of one, and unapologetic minivan enthusiast. Eric mastered driving stick by having a 3-cylinder Chevy... Read More about Eric Brandt

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