- The Washington Times - Friday, June 29, 2001

The Avalanche from Chevrolet was not conceived to simply fill an existing slot in the automotive marketplace. It was born from the concept that there just might be a better way to achieve more than one goal with a singular vehicle.
Many American households currently possess as part of their rolling stock a family sedan, a sport utility vehicle and a pickup truck all filling a specific role in the transportation scheme of things, one being better suited for a given task than another member of the family stable.
Wouldn't it be great, thought the folks at Chevrolet, if one vehicle could deliver on all fronts? Indeed it would a vehicle capable of comfortably transporting five adults in comfort, with their gear. A vehicle suited for basic transportation, heavy work duty, or for recreational use. A vehicle at home on city streets, superhighways or adventuring off road.
The race was on to deliver the ultimate utility vehicle (UUV) or a better mousetrap, if you will. In fact, the Avalanche project took a mere 24 months to move from concept to fruition.
The Avalanche's makeup consists primarily of Suburban DNA, borrowing nearly 85 percent of its parts from the king of SUVs' supply bins. One might want to think of the Avalanche as a Suburban with a pickup bed replacing the enclosed third-row-seating area, but in reality it is much more than that. It is truly the ultimate utility vehicle with literally more than 24,000 variable configuration possibilities more on that later.
Where Suburban is considered the "King of SUVs," the segment-busting Avalanche is destined to be crowned the "King of Adaptability." It is not a niche vehicle but a new brand creating a new segment in the marketplace, with sales projected to reach 100,000 units in its first year. Pricing falls between the full-size Extended Cab Pickup and the Suburban. A standard high-content 1500 Series two-wheel-drive Avalanche with standard Z66 suspension will be base priced at $30,965, with a four-wheel-drive model equipped with the Z71 Off-Road suspension beginning at $33,965 prices include a $720 destination charge.
Standard power for the Avalanche will come from a 5.3-liter Vortec 5300 V-8 engine producing 285 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 325 pounds-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. The power is delivered to the driving wheels via an electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission with automatic overdrive and a torque converter clutch. Two-wheel-drive models will feature traction control, while the 4WD models will employ the electronic Autotrac 4WD on-demand system featuring 2WD Hi, 4WD Hi, 4WD Lo and fully automatic electronic push-button settings, whose upper ranges may be operated "on-the-fly."
Chevrolet will be adding to the Avalanche lineup soon, a special North Face edition priced at $37,465 and a 2500 series heavy-duty model with a 12,000 pounds of towing capacity, powered by the new 8100 Vortec big-block V-8 pumping out 340 horses and 455 pounds-feet of stump-pulling torque.
Now, down to the nitty-gritty the heart and soul of the Chevy Avalanche (we're told that no similar GMC model is planned) is its innovative, reconfigurable, Convert-a-cab midgate system. The rear glass is easily removed and stowed in the rear bulkhead (midgate), which folds flat atop the foldable split rear seats to extend the cargo box. With the tailgate down and the midgate lowered, Avalanche will accommodate a 10-foot-long load. If a person completed a single configuration per day, there are enough variants to last for 75 years.
The bed features a lockable, removable Pro-Tec composite tailgate that is 15 percent longer, lockable side-rail storage boxes and a lockable rigid bed cover consisting of three panels weighing 20 pounds each, which may be removed individually the TPO shell, foam-filled panels are capable of supporting up to a 250-pound load. The bed also provides built-in grab handles at each rear corner with steps integrated into the rear bumper for easy bed-level access along with two-tier loading, eight tie-downs and cargo-box illumination.
The Avalanche sports a new hood, grille and lighting system, in addition to unique styling aft of the C pillar. A TPO polymer cladding surrounds the entire vehicle and is incorporated in the construction of the distinctive sail panel attached to the rear of the cab and the bed-rail storage boxes, as well as the lock and tailgate handle housing. The latter may need some rethinking for improved security, as the lock cylinder is anchored in the polymer material. A single key works for all locks, including the ignition. The overall look of Avalanche is big, as in really big, bold and aggressive.
I drove away a preproduction Avalanche after the vehicle introduction in La Quinta, Calif., to San Francisco, where it would be based in the press fleet an eight-hour-plus trip through the dark of night, fog, pouring rain and even snow without a problem. My 1500 Series 4WD Avalanche sported a bright red exterior and a black leather interior. The base price was $35,965, while extras boosted the final total to $37,663.

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