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2002 Chevrolet Avalanche Road Test

By John Heilig  
Photos by Charles Ofria

Category: $30,000 - $35,000 Large 4-Door Pickup Truck
Who should buy this car: Someone looking for a cross between an SUV and a pickup truck
Comparable models in this class: Ford Super Crew

Avalanche is one of the totally new vehicles on the road for 2002. It is a Chevrolet "configurable" that is based on the Suburban. You can get a leather-and-wood version called the Cadillac Escalade EXT, but the Chevy Avalanche is the exact same vehicle for many thousands less.

What makes a vehicle configurable?  In the case of the Avalanche, you have what is essentially a pickup. But you also have full five-passenger capability with four full doors. That's the Suburban part forward of the C-pillar.

If you don't need room the three extra passengers, though, you can convert the Avalanche to a pickup with a longer bed (8 feet), you can pop out the rear window and stow it so that you have an almost-convertible, or you can use it the way it comes from the store, with a covered rear deck.

Let's start at the back. The bed of the Avalanche is a short bed in normal mode. It has a cover made of a new composite material that is quite strong. We saw 200-pound engineers jumping on the bed cover to demonstrate its toughness, and I tested it myself when I had the truck. I weight more than 200 pounds and while the cover dented a bit (not permanently) it didn't break.

This cover is lockable, along with the tailgate, and is waterproof.  True, if you trained a high-pressure hose on the seams, some water might get through, but in normal situations, it's waterproof.

The area between the inner truck bed and the outer shell is often wasted space. On the Avalanche, this is turned into lockable cargo area, with 3.5 cubic feet on each side. It's also waterproof, so that area can be used as a small ice box to carry beverages for the tailgate party.

Let's say, for instance, that your cargo is longer than what you have room for with the standard Avalanche bed. All you do is fold the rear seat forward, remove the rear window, and fold down the midgate, which is the forward edge of the box. This creates a carrying area that extends the 5'-3" standard bed to 8'-1". It's more than four feet wide, too, so you can carry the industry standard 4 x 8 sheet of plywood if you want with the tailgate closed.

Since the Avalanche is based on the Suburban platform, which has been around forever, you know it's not totally new, although it is a new use for the platform. The interior and driving attitude is the same as with aSuburban. You have a long, wide vehicle, but it's easy to become accustomed to driving such a vehicle. One advantage to Avalanche over Suburban is that it's easier to see the back of the vehicle when you're parking.

Under the hood of our tester was a 5.3-liter Vortec V8 engine that was rated at 285 horsepower. Even though the Avalanche weighed 5600 pounds in 4WD configuration, this was enough power for normal use.  Realize that the Avalanche is not a sports car, it's a truck, and it's a truck that will probably not be overloaded with buckets of dirt and gravel like the ones in television commercials. So 285 horses under the hood are enough.

The engine was connected to an electronic four-speed automatic transmission with overdrive. Fuel economy with this mix is 13 mpg city/17 mpg highway. Our experience with similar vehicles indicates that you'll be happy if your mileage is in this range.

Our tester came with a base price of $33,245 and a bottom line of $37,556. Among the options were 6-way power bucket seats with sport leather/cloth trim ($1,115), electric sunroof with Homelink ($1,095), the off-road package ($835) that included off-road tires, specially tuned shock absorbers and springs, a locking rear differential, skid shields, 17-inch aluminum wheels and a high capacity air filter. A convenience package ($546) included a driver's side self-dimming mirror and OnStar, as well as an electronic climate control.

Avalanche isn't an inexpensive vehicle for what it is.  But it is versatile, while not being a cookie-cutter SUV.  We used Avalanche to take some friends to dinner and they were comfortable in the back seat. And you can't say that about too many trucks these days.

2002 The Auto Page Syndicate

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Impressions:

Good Stuff: Quiet, smooth ride.  Solid rattle-free structure. Great attention getter. Handles & stops well. Plenty of people space.  Lots of smart storage space.  Bed can be extended by flipping down the rear seat and bulkhead, giving it enough room for 4x8 foot building material with the tailgate up. 

Bad Stuff: Loose on-center steering feel.  Hearty appetite for fuel.  Some tire whine on smooth roads from aggressive off-road treads.

Overall:  GM is winning me back with some great products of late.  Welcome back General. 

Specifications 

2002 Chevrolet Avalanche 1500

Engine Type  5.3-liter V8 with cast iron block & cast aluminum heads, overhead valves, hydraulic roller follower, two valves per cylinder, chain cam drive 
Horsepower 285 @ 5200 RPM
Torque 325 @ 4,000 RPM
Fuel Recommended Regular 87 Octane Unleaded. 
Transmission  4L60-E Electronically controlled 4-speed automatic
Tires  P265/70R16 all-season, steel-belted radials 
Overall Length 221.7"
Wheelbase 130.0"
Width 79.8"
Turning Diameter 43.3 ft Curb to Curb
Curb Weight 5437  - 5678  lbs.
Fuel Tank 31 Gals.
Miles Per Gallon (2WD)
Miles Per Gallon (4WD)
EPA  city 14 mpg, hwy 18 mpg
EPA  city 13 mpg, hwy 17 mpg 
Acceleration 0 to 60 8.6 Seconds
Base Sticker Price  $30,245 plus  $720 Destination charge
Standard Equipment
  • Front and rear ventilated disc brakes 
  • ABS
  • Front side-mounted airbags
  • Remote vehicle anti-theft system
  • Remote power door locks
  • Premium cloth upholstery
  • Split-bench rear seat
  • Auto-dimming inside rearview mirror
  • Leather-wrapped steering wheel
  • Power windows
  • Power mirrors
  • Heated mirrors
  • Hard bed cover
  • 16 in. Aluminum rims

Major Available Options

  • Power sliding sunroof
  • Electronic climate control
  • OnStar Safety and Security system with one year of service
  • HomeLink universal transmitter
  • Auto-dimming driver's outside rearview mirror.
  • Driver 6-way power seat
  • Front Bucket Seats w/ Leather and Cloth Trim
  • Heated bucket seats with 2-position memory
  • Locking Rear Differential
  • Self-leveling rear suspension
  • 17" alloy wheels with P265/70R17 all season tires
  • Roof Mounted Luggage Carrier
  • Assist Steps
  • 4.10 Rear Axle Ratio
  • Off-Road Package -- Includes: locking rear differential, specially tuned shocks and springs, 17" alloy wheels with P265/70R17 all terrain tires, skid plates, high capacity air cleaner, rubber floormats with yellow Chevrolet logo and Z71 decals on rear quarter panels.
  • The North Face Edition -- Includes:  driver's and passenger's 6-way power bucket seats with green and black accents and The North Face logo, seatback storage pockets, floor console with rear air conditioning vents, locking rear differential, specially tuned shocks and springs, 17" alloy wheels with P265/70R17 all terrain tires, skid plates, high capacity air cleaner, floor mats, green and black door trim panels and white instrument cluster with The North Face logo, engine block heater, two waterproof "Water Duffalo" bags and two "Summit Pod" daypacks that hook on to the front seatbacks.

For more information on the Avalanch, visit chevrolet.com

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