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Chevrolet Avalanche – New Look and New Engines for Chevy's Jack-of-all-Trades

Latest Avalanche Matures
At the 2006 Chicago Auto Show, Chevrolet took the wraps off the second-generation Avalanche. The Avalanche introduction was overshadowed by Toyota’s much-anticipated Tundra launch, but as Chevrolet sold about 379,500 units between its spring 2001 launch and December 2005, the truck is certainly important in its own right. The latest Avalanche goes on sale in the second quarter of 2006.
We have not had the opportunity to drive the updated Tahoe, GMC Yukon, or Cadillac Escalade, but initial accounts from our friends in the industry are that the new products are terrific to drive. Expectations are high for an equally enthusiastic response to the Avalanche.


Avalanche gets the same updates its sibling SUVs (Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban, GMC Yukon and Yukon XL, and all three Cadillac Escalade products) see for 2007 model year, which GM promises improve ride and handling, improved fuel economy from more powerful engines, and a more refined interior. The first Avalanche took on a face more like the Silverado pickup truck, but this second-generation aligns itself with the SUVs by taking on a face more similar to the Tahoe.

E85 Card Played Strong in Chicago
Not only are GM and Ford emphasizing their E85 ethanol/gasoline capable offerings in early 2006 everywhere they can, GM brought a large display focusing on E85 products to the Chicago Auto Show. The 5.3L V8 of the Avalanche is E85 capable, displayed with a bright yellow and green Avalanche. E85 has its best acceptance in the Midwest and farming communities, where E85 fuel is also most readily available. The Chicago auto show brings in more consumers than any other U.S. show, and as these consumers are also more likely to have access to E85 fuel, Chicago is a terrific venue for GM to promote the option. While Ford pulled out Kermit the Frog and “It’s Not Easy Being Green” to promote and introduce the E85-compatible Escape Hybrid, GM takes the green theme and the tr Mid-aditional yellow of corn to encourage everyone to “live green by going yellow,” complete with a dedicated website.


Midgate Continues
The first Avalanche, you may recall, was the first GM Midgate product, allowing owners to change up the rear section of the passenger compartment for open cargo hauling, or to put the seats back up to haul up to six people. With the second generation, Chevy carved another two inches of cargo-hauling space when the Midgate is open (requiring the second-row to be folded). The magic bed goes from 5.3 feet long with Midgate closed to 8.2 when open. Aside from the extra room, however, not much about the basic system changes.



The Details
Avalanche gets three trim levels (LS, LT, and LTZ), of course all available with two- or four-wheel drive. The traditional Z71 off-road package is due by the end of the model year. The Avalanche draws from the same engine pool as the rest of the GMT900 full-size truck and SUV family, in this case offering 5.3L and 6.0L V8s; the base 4.7L offered in the Tahoe and Yukon is not being offered in the Avalanche, a similar engine story as the first generation.
Motive power at launch is a 320HP 5.3L V8 with GM’s cylinder-deactivation system, but later in the year a 355HP (estimated) 6.0L V8 will be available. Both engines use Active Fuel Management, which switches between four- and eight-cylinder operation, conserving fuel when coasting but still making the full 320HP and all eight cylinders available immediately under acceleration. The 5.3L V8 is offered in GMT800 trucks with either an aluminum or iron engine block, and in either form it is compatible with E85 ethanol/gasoline fuel. When the right tow-package boxes are checked, the Avalanche can tow up to 8,000 pounds.

Among the improvements to the latest Avalanche are a central-locking tailgate and remote-vehicle start, as well as a spring-loaded tailgate for easier opening and closing. Interior updates make for a quieter cabin. Front seats were redesigned for more comfort and easier ingress/egress and extra interior space should make for more comfortable passengers. Roof-mounted head curtain side airbags, with rollover protection for both rows, are optional; Stablitrak with rollover mitigation continues on the standard-equipment list.

Adopting the Tahoe face makes for a good-looking Avalanche, and the cladding of the first iteration is not missed. Avalanche looks more grown-up without the unnecessary plastic add-ons, which were an opt-out on the first generation, and the struts behind the C-pillar are less bulky and overdone. The result is a more purposeful look, though some will criticize it’s round edges as looking too soft for a truck. The designers have treated the second Avalanche with respect rather than keeping the excess plastic, which left the first Avalanche looking toylike rather than tough.
Overall, the new Avalanche should be a strong product. Convenience features are upgraded, it offers a stronger but more efficient powertrain, and the platform and powertrain updates promise a stronger driving experience.

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