For a big rig, Chevy’s Avalanche is surprising maneuverable, with good acceleration off the line and a much smoother ride than the 2006 model.
If you’ve driven a previous version of the 2007 Chevrolet Avalanche, prepare to be surprised. This redesigned version of Chevrolet’s SUV with an identity crisis is a much better all-around ride. No longer will the Avalanche be forced to rest on the laurels of its unique flexibility: this is a capable driver in its own right, echoing the improvements made to stablemates such as the Escalade and the Suburban. Indeed, when you think of the new Avalanche, think of a Suburban with a truck bed, an SUV-ized Silverado, or a common man’s Escalade EXT – as each of these models share basic components.
Those components include an improved interior, a new fully-boxed frame, a redesigned suspension, and a rack-and-pinion steering setup with significantly better response than the old recirculating ball system. These upgrades result in a vastly better ride than the outgoing Avalanche. It’s nimble, it’s quick, and though at 5,700 lbs. it won’t be jumping any, uh, candle sticks, it will handle bumps and rough roads with ease. Around town, the Avalanche drives like a powerful SUV with manners, thanks to suspension and steering upgrades that produce a much better mix of ride and handling.
For example, while driving through a construction zone on Interstate 10 in Southern California, the asphalt became uneven across lanes in several locations. Each time we hit those spots, and at varying speeds, the Avalanche displayed solid footing and exhibited very little bump steer. On twisty roads, however, the Avalanche’s big truck mission in life revealed itself through plenty of body roll and tire squeal, and thanks to GM’s StabiliTrak system the Avalanche is quick to react to excess steering input, nudging you back in line early and often. Overall, the improvements made to the Avalanche – especially to the steering and the stiffer frame – have significantly improved its ride and handling, whether cruising on the freeway, making a u-turn, or blasting from red light to red light.
For a big truck, it also hauls, with quick response to throttle commands and acceptable acceleration off the line. The powerful 320-horsepower, 5.3-liter V8 churns out some nice torque at 340 lb.-ft., but with just a four-speed transmission available the Avalanche’s power delivery could be improved. For the most part, however, the Avalanche can handle passing at speed and accelerates with verve from a standing start. Traveling in traffic was less of a treat, however, with blind spots hampering lane changes. Braking in traffic was also less than ideal, thanks to a soft brake pedal with more play than we’d like. As far as fuel economy goes, the Avalanche is horrific – we averaged just 13.4 miles per gallon on regular gasoline, and only 10.4 mpg on a tank of E85. And that’s with around 70 percent highway driving.
Inside, the Avalanche’s cabin is quiet when underway. There’s a little tire noise, and we noticed some wind noise across the windshield, but overall the Avalanche is very composed and certainly comfortable. The interior, in fact, will likely be a big selling point for the Avalanche, just as it is for the rest of the new SUVs from General Motors. Materials are significantly better than before, the seats are comfortable and supportive, the fit-and-finish is vastly improved, and the location of the controls is simple and intuitive. This is the kind of cabin that sells people on a car. Combine that with a drive that’s significantly better than the 2006 version, and you can score the Avalanche a big win for Chevrolet.