If you're looking for a versatile pickup that can carry both passengers and cargo with ease, check out the Chevy Avalanche. The Avalanche's ride won me over — amazingly smooth for a vehicle this size. The Avalanche glided over rough, construction-riddled roads and you barely felt it. A new fully boxed frame with redesigned suspension and the addition of rack-and-pinion steering gives the truck a luxury-car ride.
The Avalanche features Convert-A-Cab — a movable midgate that lowers into the cabin for additional cargo space. By removing the rear window and lowering the midgate and rear seats, the 5-ft, 3-in. cargo bed extends to more than 8 ft. For additional storage, there are compartments lining the cargo box.
The vehicle comes in two trim levels: LS and LT. The entry-level LS features a composite cargo bed, removable three-piece cargo cover, full power accessories, front 40/20/40-split bench seat, power driver seat, keyless entry, audio system with CD player, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The LT supplements these features with front bucket seats and rear audio controls.
Our test vehicle was the LT with the LT3 equipment group, which includes front seats with 12-way power and heat, 2nd-row leather seats, power-adjustable pedals, remote vehicle starter, stereo with MP3 compatible six-disc CD changer, head-curtain side air bags for both seating rows, Bose speaker system, XM Satellite radio, rear-parking assist, power folding outside mirrors with auto dimming and turn signals, and dual-zone air conditioning.
A 5.3-liter V8 turns out 320 hp and 340 lb-ft of torque for effortless entry onto highways or for passing. The vehicle can operate on either E85 ethanol blends or gas and is rated 15-mpg city and 20-mpg highway. Standard safety equipment includes antilock brakes, stability control, tire-pressure monitor, OnStar, and a full-length side curtain air-bag system with rollover sensor (standard on the LT-3 and LTZ packages and optional on all others).
Our vehicle also featured a navigation system, rain-sensing wipers, and a rear-view camera system. The camera system has a wide viewing angle but it should be more recessed or covered with a shield because rains greatly distorts the picture.
Base price of our test model was $35,295. Add in the LT-3 package ($3,650), nav system ($2,145), 20-in. polished wheels ($1,795), rear-seat entertainment system ($1,295), and $1,820 for a power sliding sunroof, locking rear differential, the rear-view camera, luggage rack, rain-sense wipers, and luggage rack – cross bars, and you're looking at $46,875 (with an $875 destination charge). While it's a little pricey for me, you might see one in my driveway if I ever hit the lottery.