2008 Chevrolet Avalanche Performance
This performance review was written when the 2008 Chevrolet Avalanche was new.
The Avalanche's performance is good but not notable among its peers. A stiffer frame and new suspension and steering systems, acquired during a 2007 redesign, help deliver a level of refinement for the truck. Kelley Blue Book writes, "On good roads the suspension absorbs most imperfections, delivering an almost cushiony ride but not at the expense of control or security, and the Avalanche takes curves with a high level of stability."
Yet despite the improved performance, a few complain about the Avalanche's fuel-thirsty engine offerings. Autobytel notes, "Aside from its power and competency as a truck, the Avalanche offers poor handling, a ponderous ride, and a genuine thirst for fuel." Another repeated complaint is that steering lacks road feel.
Acceleration and Power
The Avalanche comes with a choice of three engines. The base engine is a 5.3-liter V8 with Active Fuel Management. Optional on 2WD models and standard on 4WD models is the same engine with E85 Flex Fuel capability. Optional on LT3 and LTZ models is a more powerful 6.0-liter with Active Fuel Management and Variable Valve Timing.
Consumer Guide reflects the general consensus on the base engine, finding acceleration with the 5.3-liter "good around town," but adding that it "has only adequate highway passing power." Edmunds finds the engine "fairly quick" but again notes "thrust and fuel economy dip noticeably when the truck is being used to carry a load of passengers or cargo." To Car and Driver, "The sprint to 60 mph still required a merely adequate 8.3 seconds." Reviewers recommend trading up the optional 6.0-liter for more power.
The Avalanche's three engines feature cylinder deactivation technology for increased fuel economy. It automatically shuts down four cylinders when they are not needed, such as when the vehicle is cruising at speed or coasting. The 5.3-liter engine is also compatible with E85 fuel, which contains 85 percent ethanol and typically costs less than traditional gasoline. But the Avalanche's fuel efficiency is a disappointment. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates the 5.3-liter engine to net 14 miles per gallon in the city and 20 on the highway, while the 6.0-liter engine gets 12 mpg in the city and 17 mpg on the highway. says, "No better than any other big truck, 12 or 13 mpg around town, despite GM's 'active fuel-management' feature." Likewise, calls fuel mileage "rather sorry" and notes, "Our long-term Suburban does better, and it is a similar vehicle."
All engines are paired with a Hydra-Matic four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission with overdrive that impresses reviewers. All models except the LTZ also get Tow/Haul mode. Cars.com says the transmission is "among the best in the business -- it offers buttery-smooth shifts that are often imperceptible." Kelley Blue Book similarly finds that the automatic "shifts in an easy and positive manner, with a brief delay for acceleration to pass or merge."
However, a few reviewers, Cars.com included, feel "it wouldn't hurt to have a five- or six-speed gearbox. Left to its own devices, the Avalanche finds fourth gear as early as 35 mph, and it takes a concerted jab on the accelerator to kick down." Likewise, Auto Mall USA finds "kickdowns for merging onto freeways or overtaking slower traffic bordered on lackadaisical." But the states, "I've had good luck with this automatic. It shifts smoothly and works well with a trailer, so why add more cost to the truck?"
Handling and Braking
The Avalanche's ride and handling is surprisingly car-like. PickupTruck.com writes: "Handling characteristics exceed expectations, and after climbing up into, and behind the wheel, one soon forgets the Avalanche's overall mass. The driving experience is really quite pleasant." The smooth ride is thanks to updated underpinnings as part of the 2007 redesign. Auto Mall USA concludes, "The previous-generation Avalanche handled well for a truck its size, but this new one handles much better."
The Avalanche features an all-new coil-over-shock front suspension with forged-aluminum lower control arms that replaces the previous torsion bar arrangement and has less sensitivity to smooth road shake. Rear suspension is multilink with coil springs. Edmunds says the new suspension "makes for more composed handling and a smoother ride than before." To the , the Avalanche's "new chassis is stiffer, more refined and offers better ride and handling abilities" than a Chevy Silverado. The LTZ features a special Autoride suspension package (optional on all other trims) that automatically varies the shock damping rate by monitoring road surface, speed, gas and brake pedals, steering angle and wheel height conditions to maximize handling and comfort.
Reviewers have mixed opinions on the Avalanche's power rack-and-pinion steering. While the Cars.com finds it "still lacks much in the way of feedback." Similarly, Autobytel says the steering "lacks road feel, and the floaty ride becomes even more pronounced as the body rolls in even slow-speed corners." The finds cornering difficult and quips that "maneuvering a big vehicle in tight quarters is akin to docking a cruise ship in Boston Harbor on a summer day with pleasure boaters all around." Kelley Blue Book says the Avalanche's 43-foot turning circle is "impressively tight." Yet Consumer Guide calls the turning radius "sizable" and says the Avalanche is "a challenge to park in tight spaces."finds the new steering set-up "more responsive,"
There's little to no fault with the Avalanche's four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes. Consumer Guide calls them "responsive, with short, firm pedal stroke," and the says braking is "extremely good." Auto Mall USA finds the brakes competent even in emergency situations, noting that the pedal "returned controlled stops, even when a green light at an intersection occasionally seemed to jump directly to red, compelling a hurried stomp on the pedal."
The Avalanche comes standard in rear-wheel drive, but any model is available in four-wheel drive with low-range gearing. The 4WD Autotrac on-demand system features several modes operated with a dial on the dashboard. Cars.com says the 4WD "can detect slippage and send power up front, not unlike an all-wheel-drive system. Lest you think it's best to leave it there all the time (as I did for the better part of a week), be warned that there's a (slight) gas mileage penalty compared with the two-wheel-drive mode."
A special Z71 Off-Road package, optional on LT2 and LT3 models, includes Z71 suspension, 18-inch wheels, on-/off-road tires, automatic locking rear differential, high-pressure shocks and a Skid Plate Package that helps protect the undercarriage.
Auto Mall USA calls the Avalanche "a workhorse for routine hauling." Hauling capacity for the 2WD Avalanche is 1,408 pounds and 1,487 pounds for the 4WD. Hauling is a definite high point thanks to the Avalanche's flip-down midgate, a removable rear bulkhead between the cabin and cargo bed that Kelley Blue Book says gives the truck "a degree of versatility that's absent from traditional pickups." PickupTruck.com calls the midgate "the heart and soul" of the truck. The only other full size pickup to feature it is the Cadillac Escalade EXT, which rides on the same platform as the Avalanche, but has an upscale feel and premium features.
With the midgate in place, the Avalanche fits five or six passengers and features a short cargo box measuring 5.3 feet. With the midgate folded down or removed and the rear seat folded, the truck has room for two or three passengers in the front seat, but extends the cargo box to 8.2 feet. Reviewers love its versatility, with PickupTruck.com aptly commenting, "If a person were to complete a single configuration per day, there are enough variants to last for many years."
The Auto Mall USA explains how it "must be carefully snapped into a holder when removed. Don't let your buddies do this for you. All of this takes a few moments of unhurried activity to perform." The further describes the midgate's multi-functionality, commenting, "If you want to haul sheets of plywood and keep them protected from the weather, take out the midgate but leave the bed cover in place. If you want to haul five people, three will fit in the back, and getting in is easy because the back doors are full size."notes that with "the midgate opened and stowed, and the rear seat folded, the lockable cargo area expands to a maximum of 101 cubic feet. For taller cargo, the removable rear window stores securely against the midgate to increase storage space." But removing the rear glass panel does take some skill.
Reviewers love the many standard cargo accessories, which include a non-slip mat for the bed, lockable compartments in the rear fenders and a three-piece hard bed cover (a soft cover is optional for the LS trim only). Cars.com cautions that the cover is "difficult to remove and even harder to stow." Since the three panels weigh "20 pounds a piece and can be awkward to handle," Auto Mall USA advises that it's best to leave the cover at home when not in use. But MSN found the cover and accompanying locking tailgate useful because "nosy passersby didn't see and couldn't get at the tools and lawn equipment that I carried in the bed."
Several reviewers also mention the utility of the locking storage compartments, which features top-door access and interior lighting. But the short of limb may have a difficult time accessing them, says the MSN reviewer, who "at 5 feet 4, I couldn't reach all the way down into these compartments unless I stood up on the tailgate. I also couldn't see or reach items inside the pickup bed when standing next to the Avalanche. The sides of the pickup bed are too tall."
For extra cargo capacity, the LTZ trim comes standard with a luggage rack with roof-mounted side rails that is optional on the other trims.found it easy to use, with reviewers noting that they tied down "a kayak for highway-speed hauling with minimal fuss."
When properly equipped, the 2WD Avalanche's 5.3-liter engine can tow up to 7,200 pounds, or 7,000 pounds with the 4WD. The 6.0-liter 2WD and 4WD models can pull up to 8,200 pounds and 7,800 pounds, respectively -- "enough for a sizable boat or trailer," according to MSN.
The Auto Mall USA concludes, "We haven't towed anything with the Avalanche yet but it feels extremely stable and we're confident it'll make an excellent tow vehicle."calls towing capacity "awesome," but still notes that it's not as great as some competitors. However,
LS, LT1 and LT2 (2WD)
The two-wheel-drive LS, LT1 and LT2 models come with the base engine -- a Vortec 5.3-liter V8 with Active Fuel Management that generates 320 horsepower and 340 pound-feet of torque. Optional is the same engine with E85 Flex Fuel capability. Both engines are paired with a Hydra-Matic four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission with overdrive.
LS, LT1 and LT2 (4WD)
The four-wheel-drive LS, LT1 and LT2 models come standard with a Vortec 5.3-liter engine with E85 Flex Fuel capability that generates 310 horsepower and 335 pound-feet of torque. The Flex Fuel engine can run on either gasoline or E85 -- a cleaner-burning, renewable fuel source that generally costs less than regular fuel -- or a combination of both. The engine is paired with a Hydra-Matic four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission with overdrive.
The high-end LT model comes standard with the 5.3-liter engine, but is also optional with a 6.0-liter V8 with Active Fuel Management and Variable Valve Timing that generates 366 horsepower and 386 pound-feet of torque. The engines are paired with the Avalanche's universal Hydra-Matic four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission with overdrive.
The high-end LT model comes standard with the 5.3-liter engine, but is also optional with the 6.0-liter 366-horsepower V8 with Active Fuel Management and Variable Valve Timing. The engines are paired with the Avalanche's universal Hydra-Matic four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission with overdrive. The LTZ also gets an upgraded Autoride suspension package.