The Chevrolet Avalanche is a four-door, five- or six-passenger pickup truck that was manufactured by General Motors. The Avalanche was a hybrid between the Chevrolet Suburban SUV and the Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck, sharing the same chassis as those two vehicles. Unlike a typical pickup truck where the bed is mounted separately from the cab on the frame, the bed of the Avalanche was integrated with the cab body. It also featured a "midgate" behind the second row of seats that could be folded down, with the seats, to create a longer bed area. The Avalanche was produced across two generations starting in 2001 and ending in 2013.
Breaking with a long-standing tradition, the Avalanche was not available as a GMC, but only as a Chevrolet. Instead, Cadillac would sell a re-badged Avalanche, however the midgate design would be adapted for use on the GMC Envoy XUV and Hummer H2 SUT.
The Avalanche was launched in September 2001 as a 2002 model on the GMT800 platform. First year Avalanches featured light gray plastic body cladding, intended to provide visual distinction from the Suburban/Yukon XL. The Avalanche also gave the public an advance look at the next generation of front fascia designs for the entire GM line. A full-length chrome strip splits each lamp assembly and the grille, with a gold Chevrolet "bow tie" in the center. The hood and fenders featured aggressive folds, in contrast to the softer designs seen on other models built on the GMT800 platform.
Avalanche was nominated for the North American SUV of the Year award and was Motor Trend magazine's Truck of the Year for 2002.
The Avalanche was originally marketed as being able to "change from an SUV to a super SUV." This was made possible by a plastic cover and an exclusive "midgate," called the Convert-a-Cab system by GM, which could open and close. The midgate was a divider behind the second row of seats that could be folded down, with the seats, to create a longer bed area, or folded up to make a larger cab area. A similar midgate was found on the Cadillac Escalade EXT (a rebadged Avalanche), Hummer H2 SUT, and GMC Envoy XUV.
The truck was offered as a half-ton 1500 series with a Vortec 5.3 L V8 producing 285 hp (216 kW) or as a three-quarter-ton 2500 series with a Vortec 8.1 L V8 with 340 hp (253 kW) and the 4L85-E four-speed transmission. The base layout is rear-wheel drive, but there is an available with selectable high/low four-wheel drive.
For those who planned to go off-road in their Avalanche, a Z71 Off-Road package was available that added features such as off-road suspension, GM's AutoTrac full-time push-button four-wheel-drive system, all-terrain P265/70R17 white-lettered Goodyear tires, seventeen-inch alloy wheels, leather seating surfaces with waterproof accents, front dual power bucket seats, cloth door panel inserts, GM's OnStar telematics system, all-weather rubber floor mats, Chevrolet bowtie emblems embedded into the backrests of the seats (for 2002 models), dual-zone automatic climate controls with rear HVAC vents and remote controls, remote radio controls with headphone jacks for two pairs of headphones, a security system, gray-finished side running boards, power-adjustable, heated side-view mirrors, SRS side impact airbags. Aside from these details, a Z71 Off-Road decal on the rear side panels identified an Avalanche equipped with this package. Full leather seating surfaces were an available option, also removing the cloth door panel inserts, and also added heated front seats.
For those who liked the styling of the Z71 Off-Road package but did not plan to take their Avalanche off-road, a Z66 Premium On-Road package was also available. The Z66 On-Road package featured all the equipment that the Z71 Off-Road package offered but replaced the off-road suspension with sport on-road suspension and did not offer four-wheel-drive. Aside from these details, a Z66 On-Road sticker on the rear side panels identified an Avalanche equipped with this package. As with the Z71 Off-Road package, full leather seating surfaces without the cloth accents were an available option, also removing the cloth door panel inserts, and also added heated front seats.
To further distinguish it from its Silverado siblings, the Avalanche was practically fully equipped and only came with bodyside cladding. The Avalanche included features such as 16-inch alloy wheels and tires (chromed steel on the 2500 model), an AM/FM stereo with single-disc CD player and six speakers, cloth seating surfaces, front bench seat with power front driver's seat, power windows, power door locks, keyless entry, full instrumentation, dual front airbags, and air conditioning. Options included OnStar telematics system, cassette player, leather seating surfaces, front dual power bucket seats that could be heated, and side airbags for the front seats. A North Face Edition, in partnership with the North Face brand included limited exterior color options, a unique Ebony/Green leather interior, special exterior ornamentation and decals, white-faced gauges, OnStar telematics system, specially colored door panel inserts and speaker grilles, and more.
For 2003, the Avalanche was slightly changed. 2003 models featured a darker cladding, but GM's new president, Rick Wagoner, demanded the removal of this "unpopular" trim (as did certain elements of the public). From mid-year, Avalanche could be ordered without cladding. The uncladded model, known as "Without Body Hardware" (or its initialism "WBH"), and alternatively called "slicksides" by GM marketers, resembles the 2003–2005 Silverado in the front. A new interior, shared with the Chevrolet Tahoe and Chevrolet Suburban, added a new, larger steering wheel with subsequent audio system and OnStar controls and cruise and speed controls, an optional six-speaker premium Bose sound system with external amplifier, a new gauge cluster with information center, memory for the front driver's seat, brake and accelerator pedals and side view mirror position (on some models), new radio head units, which included an AM/FM stereo with single-disc CD/MP3 player and Radio Data System or an AM/FM stereo with six-disc CD/MP3 changer and Radio Data System, optional XM Satellite Radio, standard OnStar telematics system, optional rear audio controls with headphone jacks, an optional rear DVD entertainment system by Panasonic with wireless headphones, new warning chimes that played through the vehicle's audio system instead of through a separate speaker behind the dashboard, and newly available 17-inch alloy wheels and tires.
A pre-production version of the Avalanche was shown as the Avalanche Base Camp Concept. The truck, which carried the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) of 1GCFK13U32X4618EX, was painted in Bright Yellow Clear Coat, and featured a Neutral cloth interior with contrasting yellow trim on the seats and Chevrolet Bowtie emblems on the seatbacks, speaker grilles, and door panels, as well as Cadillac Escalade-style wood trim on the instrument panel. The truck was powered by the 6.0L Vortec V8 gasoline engine, which was not offered on the production Avalanche. In addition, the Avalanche Base Camp Concept featured unique accessories that were not available on the production truck, such as a Bose premium audio system (which included a bass module (subwoofer) and bedside-mounted speakers, a unique roof rack, a rear DVD entertainment system with three LCD monitors, dual Nokia cellular phones with color-coordinated yellow faceplates, a "keyless" ignition system that included a push-button to start, a battery cutoff switch (for show purposes), a trailer hitch-mounted cooler, a unique front brush guard and side running boards, a bed painted to match the interior of the vehicle, a Diamond-Plate tailgate liner, a bed-mounted LCD screen, "Avalanche Base Camp" embossing on the body side cladding, and a mobile cooking stove and sink, among other accessories. The vehicle was sold at the 2006 Barrett-Jackson collector car auction in Palm Beach, Florida for $20,900 (~$29,335 in 2022). It was later listed with 2,000 miles on the Cars & Bids online auction website in July 2023.
Soon after the release of the Chevrolet Avalanche, customers began to notice cosmetic problems with the cladding on their vehicles. Over time exposure to heat and sunlight would cause a chalky faded appearance. It was especially noticeable on the cargo bed panels, and sail-panel windows where "Zebra Striping" would appear. Customer reaction to this problem resulted in General Motors agreeing to a one-time treatment of a product called ArmorDillo. This product would temporarily restore the cladding for a period of about 6 months. After that it would wear off then need to be re-applied. Realizing this was not a permanent solution, GM, together with Gatorback Coatings, developed a coating that could be applied to the cladding to restore it to a like-new shine. This product was designed to etch into the plastic and bond a new layer of tinted acrylic over the faded plastic. Customers within the original factory warranty could go to their dealership to have it restored. General Motors did not use side body cladding on the second generation model.
The second generation Avalanche was introduced at the Chicago Auto Show in February 2006. Production of the redesigned Avalanche, built on the GMT900 platform, began at the Silao Assembly in April 2006. The Avalanche maintained the styled front end much like its sister vehicles, the Tahoe/Yukon and Suburban/Yukon XL, yet it still had the distinct midgate and integrated bed as found on the previous incarnation. It had all the same standard and available features as the Suburban and the Tahoe. The 2500 model of the previous generation was discontinued.
A special Z71 package was offered for the second-generation Avalanche, available on the LT trim with either the 2LT or 3LT option groups. This off-road package consisted of a suspension tuned for rough terrain, an exclusive automatic locking rear differential, aluminum under body skid plates (visible from the front of the pickup truck), wheel flares, badges, wheels and tires.
Later models introduced another version of the Vortec 5.3-liter V8 as the engine is now capable of running on E85 ethanol. When the 5.3 is running on normal gasoline, it produces 320 hp (239 kW) and 335 lb⋅ft (454 N⋅m) of torque whereas its output rises to 326 hp (243 kW) and 348 lb⋅ft (472 N⋅m) of torque on E85, up from 310 hp (231 kW) and 335 lb⋅ft (454 N⋅m) in 2009.
A 2007 Avalanche was given away to the Most Valuable Player of the 2006 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, Michael Young.
For the 2009 model year, a Bluetooth hands-free phone system was added to all Avalanche models, and was integrated with the vehicle's OnStar telematics system, and the 4L60-E four-speed automatic transmission was replaced with the 6L80-E unit for both engines.
Following the 2009 model year, the 6.0L V8 engine option was dropped from the Avalanche lineup (in addition to being discontinued from the related Chevrolet Suburban 1500 and Chevrolet Tahoe), leaving the standard 5.3L V8 as the Avalanche's sole engine option.
The second-generation Avalanche came in three well-equipped trim levels:
For the 2013 model year, all three trim levels of the Avalanche were sold as special-edition Black Diamond Edition models to commemorate the final year of production. While options and packages were virtually unchanged from the 2012 model year, all 2013 Avalanches received special 'Black Diamond Edition' badging on the rear pillars and rear tailgate, and buyers also received a personalized coffee table book shipped to them after purchase that included a copy of their Avalanche's window sticker, as well as a letter from Chevrolet congratulating them on their purchase. The book included information about the development of the original 2002 Chevrolet Avalanche, as well as "behind-the-scenes" photos from Silao Assembly showing the Avalanche being assembled, and Avalanche owner photos of their trucks.
Production of the Avalanche ended after the 2013 model year, after 2011 saw a sales decline of 2.6% to 20,088 vehicles. Production of the Cadillac Escalade EXT also ended after the 2013 model year.
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