After an 11-year run, the Avalanche, which has bridged the gap between Chevrolet's family-friendly full-size SUVs and its Silverado pickup trucks is coming to the end of the line. Chevy has announced that 2013 will be the final year for the Avalanche, but the Bowtie brand has introduced a special edition model to send the Avalanche off into the sunset properly.
The special edition model is known as the Black Diamond, which adds body-colored bed surrounds, a unique badge on the sail panel, additional features on LS and LT trim levels, and lower prices across the lineup.
For 2013, a rear backup camera, rear park assist, power adjustable pedals, fog lamps and remote start will be added as standard equipment on LS models, while LT models gain just a standard rear camera.
Base prices have also been reduced by $2,500 (after equipment adjustments), which puts the two-wheel drive Chevy Avalanche LS at a starting price of $35,980 plus $995 for delivery.
Early Avalanches featured extensive styling differences from the Suburban on which it is based, but the latest model is a dead ringer from the passenger area forward.
The Avalanche's bed deviates from that of the more traditional Silverado by being integrated into the front cabin with an innovative Midgate system. The normally static wall between the second row bench's back can be opened to extend the normally five foot, three inch cargo bed to eight feet, two inches. Inside, the Avalanche is all Suburban with an upscale dashboard and plenty of available luxury conveniences.
Available with either rear or four-wheel-drive, the Avalanche features body-on-frame construction with a rugged solid rear axle and coil springs designed for smoother riding than the leaf springs found on the Chevrolet Silverado.
Chevrolet's 5.3-liter Vortec V8 mates to a six-speed automatic transmission with a column shifter. The motor is good for 320 horsepower at 5,400 rpm and 335 lb-ft. of torque at 4,400 rpm on regular fuel. Fuel saving features include cylinder-deactivating Active Fuel Management, which turns off up to four cylinders at highway speeds, as well as two overdrive gears for low engine speeds. Efficiency is rated at 15 mpg in city and 21 mpg on the highway for both 2WD and 4WD models.
Given the Avalanche's more leisure-oriented underpinnings, its towing ability suffers a bit compared to more conventional pickups - but Chevrolet still rates two-wheel-drive models at an impressive 8,100 lbs. when properly equipped.
Both two and four-wheel-drive models are available with an optional Z71 Off Road package, which comes with high-pressure, gas-charged monotube shocks, 18-inch on/off road tires, automatic-locking differential, front recovery hooks, a durable skid plate and high-capacity air cleaner, as well as a number of styling upgrades.
Four-wheel-drive Avalanches feature an available two-speed transfer case with an automatic mode that can be used on all road surfaces. A single-speed transfer case is standard on LS and LT models, but the two-speed system is optional.
Avalanches are available in three trim levels. Base LS models come with cloth seats, a front bench seat, Bluetooth, 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone manual climate controls and a wide array of power features. LT models add leather trim, front bucket seats, automatic climate control and remote starting in addition to more convenience features. Topping the range is the LTZ, which includes heated and cooled front seats, an eight-speaker Bose audio system, 20-inch alloy wheels and a navigation system.
Safety features include standard front, side and front and rear head airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems and a tire-pressure monitoring system.
While it can be compared with crew cab versions of pickups like the Ford F-150, Ram 1500 and Chevrolet's own Silverado, the Avalanche's unique, passenger-oriented pickup configuration essentially puts the truck in class all by itself.