Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com
June 14, 2013
Monday: Chevrolet Malibu Turbo
Wednesday: GMC Acadia Denali
Friday: Chevrolet Avalanche LTZ Black Diamond
How do you write a review on a vehicle that will be going away after this year?
This thought had been rolling around in my mind since the 2013 Chevrolet Avalanche LTZ Black Diamond Edition arrived for a few days of evaluation. You can’t suggest any improvements since they will never be implemented, nor give a clear indication of whether you would recommend a vehicle or not. It seems like a futile exercise.
But after giving it some serious thought, I felt the best way to do this review is to figure out what went wrong and determine the Avalanche’s legacy. Let’s dive in shall we?
The current Avalanche, which was introduced back in 2006 as a 2007 model still looks as fresh as the day it was first shown. You have to give General Motors a round of applause for designing such a handsome group of machines that are a part of the GMT900 platform family. Draped in black paint, the Avalanche’s exterior shows that a simple design with minor touches such as a chrome grille, twenty-inch aluminum wheels, and chrome trim pieces works very well. The only real exterior design change to make note of is the Black Diamond emblem next to back doors, denoting that this is final year of the Avalanche.
Stepping inside the Avalanche, the simple design theme continues. While other truck manufacturers are going with many shapes, buttons, and screens, the Avalanche’s dash is very clean and logically laid out. Gauges and controls are within easy reach and can be read at a quick glance.
Passenger comfort in the Avalanche is excellent. Front passengers are treated to very supportive seats that are power adjustable and provide heat and cooling. Back seat passengers will find enormous amount of head and legroom.
One downside the to the Avalanche’s cabin is the materials. I’ve complained about this before in the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra Denali HD reviews, and will be doing it again with the Avalanche. For a vehicle with an as-tested pricetag of $51,295, using hard plastics and glossy, plastic wood is a massive no-no. Now, I have sat in the new GM trucks and it seems GM has learned its lesson. I just wished they learned it sooner.
The big selling point on the Avalanche was its unique midgate. Basically, there is a tailgate that sits between the bed and cab. Flip the tailgate down and you expand the standard 5’3” bed to a whopping 8’2” bed. You can expand the space even more by removing the bed lid and rear window. The process of expanding the bed is very easy; just flip the seats down, turn a couple of knobs to unlock the midgate, and turn a latch. Well done, GM.
The Avalanche is powered by GM’s familiar 5.3L Vortec V8 engine, which produces 320 horsepower and 335 pound-feet of torque. While on paper the engine sounds perfect for the vehicle, on the road it’s a bit of a different story. Step on the accelerator and the V8 makes a lovely noise that makes you think you’re really moving. It’s only when you look down at the speedometer that you realize you’re really not. This is thanks to the Avalanche’s 5,803 lb curb weight, which makes the 5.3L V8 somewhat overmatched. Thankfully, the six-speed automatic in the Avalanche is a high point. The transmission shifts very smoothly and is quick to go down a couple gears when passing power is needed.
Fuel economy on the Avalanche is rated at 15 City/21 Highway/17 Combined. During my six day evaluation of the Avalanche, I recorded an average around 15.2 MPG. On the highway, I saw my fuel economy rise to about 20 MPG.
One place that the Avalanche really surprised me is with its ride. I was expecting the ride to be bouncy and too firm. But taking the Avalanche out for the first time, I was shocked on how smooth the ride was. The suspension seemed to smooth out the imperfections and potholes that dot the roads of the Metro Detroit area. Much of this can be traced to Avalanche having the same suspension tuning as the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban, and not the Silverado.
At the end of the six days that I had the Avalanche, I found it to be a very capable and impressive truck. The capability the midgate offers can’t be matched by any other truck, nor can any other truck match the comfort and space of the Avalanche. It seems to be a jack of all trades that works.
If you’re interested in an Avalanche, you should head over to your Chevrolet dealer...Right now.
Going back to beginning of the review, I left two questions unanswered. First, what went wrong with the Avalanche? Well, nothing went wrong with the Avalanche per se. Sales began to plummet at a steady rate after 2003, when the truck recorded its best sales of 93,482. Over time, truck manufacturers introduced four-door versions of their light-duty trucks that ultimately caused the downfall of the Avalanche.
Second, what will be the Avalanche’s legacy? That’s a tougher question to answer right now. It could just fall to the wayside in automotive history or it could have a spot in it. It seems GM is hoping the latter happens since all of Avalanche models for 2013 are Black Diamond Edition to mark the end.
GM should be proud with what they accomplished with the Avalanche. It might not have been a success in the sales chart, but it was a true success as trying to be something different in the class.
Disclaimer: General Motors provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gasoline.
Year - 2013
Make – Chevrolet
Model – Avalanche
Trim – Black Diamond LTZ
Engine – Vortec 5.3L SFI V8
Driveline – Four-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic
Horsepower @ RPM – 320 @ 5,400 RPM
Torque @ RPM – 335 @ 4,000 RPM
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 15/21/17
Curb Weight – 5,803 lbs
Location of Manufacture – Silao, GJ Mexico
Base Price - $47,885.00
As Tested Price - $51,745.00 (Includes $995.00 destination charge)
Sun & Entertainment Package - $2,435.00
Heavy Duty Trailering Package - $230.00
Trailer Brake Controller - $200.00