- The Washington Times - Friday, November 16, 2001

Our lifestyles are allowing us more leisure, more variety in our pursuits and more flexibility in our cars. Too often we have had to have multiple vehicles or compromise the ones we own to take care of our needs. Now, Chevrolet has taken the new crop of crossover vehicles to new extremes with a truck that works as a car, and can carry just about any combination of people and things that a normal family will think of, plus solve a lot of abnormal requests.
At the heart of the Avalanche is the exclusive Convert-a-Cab System, featuring the Midgate design. "Avalanche's innovative design allows it to provide the roominess of Suburban-style first- and second-row seating with the practicality of a Silverado-style cargo box," Chevrolet General Manager Kurt Ritter explains.
It can be reconfigured to function as either a pickup or an SUV or both at the same time. Avalanche is built on Suburban bits and uses more than 80% of its parts, but has some restructuring to make it even stiffer despite the open back end. There is a sturdy diagonal bar under the sail area's cladding, allowing that angle over the rear bed to be doubled as a tie down point. There are 8 other tie downs in the bed, and handholds used to aid climbing aboard that can also serve, so you can secure anything with the possible exception of a Tasmanian devil.
Along with the grab handles at the rear corners, there are slip resistant steps built into the bumpers. The tail gate is easily removable, and all load areas are finished with dent, scuff and wear resistant heavy duty plastic that is likely to put the bed coating business into chapter 11.
The cargo box features a standard, heavy, one-piece rubber mat to help protect the floor. Since the mat is not affixed to the floor, it may be easily removed for cleaning. And the bed can be segmented by 2X wood boards to form different levels or dividers for a variety of loads.
Also, the hard cover can support all but the heaviest people, with a 250-pound load rating.
The defining feature is the Midgate that flips and folds the divider between the back seats (including the rear window) to allow up to ten foot items to be carried without a warning flag. One person can reconfigure the vehicle, and all its removable components can be stored on board.
The Midgate permits a pass-through between the cab and the cargo box. It is constructed of GM's PRO-TEC composite material, making it lightweight, yet durable and strong. When the Midgate is in place, the vehicle offers a five-foot, three-inch long protected cargo box and can be expanded to carry any 4X8 item, completely inside, protected and dry.
Even with the Midgate closed, the bed space allows seven feet of cargo area when the tubular flip over unit is installed to add the tailgate to the load area. And the bed is covered with a standard hard cover which can be installed in any or all of three components that clip together to form a locking, secure area since the tail gate locks. Also, there is an optional soft cover that is easier to stow, although the hard covers only weigh 67 pounds total and have a handy bag, complete with tie down straps.
For valuable items, there are 3.5 cubic feet of locking tool boxes in the fender sides, and as a clever touch these have drains for the occasional iced beverage use.
The Avalanche maintains the off road capability that made the Suburban the favorite vehicle of oil field and survey workers long before suburbanites discovered it.
In keeping with the style of the vehicle, Chevrolet has entered into an agreement with tough, outdoor outfitters North Face for a special edition Avalanche that includes a special seat package, black on white instruments and some North Face back packs incorporated into the seat backs. It lists for $37,415 and they will produce up to 10,000 units if demand justifies.
For those with truly rugged needs, the 3/4 ton Suburban bits have been worked into an Avalanche 2500 model that includes the 8.1-liter engine and a towing capacity in excess of 12,000 pounds. It will be distinguished by some markings, revised grille, 8 bolt wheels and wheel arch protectors. Look to pay $32,865 for the 2WD version and $35,865 for the four-wheeler.
The strikingly bold exterior styling is crafted with a form-follows-function design. "Within our own design staff, a close-knit, highly focused group of hard-core outdoor enthusiasts guided this project from concept to completion," says John Cafaro, Vehicle Chief Designer of Chevrolet Trucks, who also conceived the latest Corvette. "It reveals its purpose with a single glance."
With the removable rear window and the optional power sunroof, open-air driving enjoyment is easily available. The balanced interior design maximizes passenger roominess and cargo-carrying capability in a body size that is easy to maneuver, park and garage. The overall length of the Avalanche is 221.7 inches, less than a Silverado extended-cab pickup, and it has a tight turning radius (curb-to-curb) of 43 feet.
The standard Vortec 5300 V8 engine is mated to the smooth-shifting 4L60-E four-speed automatic transmission. The tow/haul mode programs the trans to hold each gear longer for better towing performance.
The Avalanche has an 8,300-lb. maximum trailering capacity on two-wheel-drive models.
The Avalanche offers responsive, confident handling and a smooth ride regardless of the number of passengers or amount of cargo. The braking system includes standard four-wheel anti-lock vented four-wheel disc brakes with GM's advanced Dynamic Rear Proportioning (DRP) system that automatically modulates the pressure to the rear brakes to ensure that braking loads are balanced. This provides for smooth, consistent, even braking performance.
Standard dual front air bags for the driver and front-seat passenger along with front seat-mounted side-impact air bags offer extra occupant protection. The optional OnStar service also provides several levels of around-the-clock security. GM's after market parts group has a wonderful array of options to take care of every use, and if the catalog doesn't show it, it's probably under development to provide any robust application imaginable.
Boasts Ed Schoener, Chevrolet Avalanche Brand Manager. "The name 'Avalanche' definitely fits those qualifications. And it's a little edgy and aggressive, like the truck itself."


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