2009 Chevrolet Avalanche Performance
The Avalanche's performance is good for a truck, but car-buyers trading up for the first time might be disappointed. A stiffer frame and new suspension and steering systems, acquired during a 2007 redesign, help deliver a level of refinement for the truck, but reviewers still complain about an anemic base engine and lackluster handling. Towing and hauling capabilities are highpoints, however.
- "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." Kelley Blue Book
- "Aside from its power and competency as a truck, the Avalanche offers poor handling, a ponderous ride, and a genuine thirst for fuel." Autobytel
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 owerful 6.0-liter with Active Fuel Management and Variable Valve Timing. Most reviewers say the base engine is fine for in-town driving, but its performance on the highway leaves something to be desired. 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. All engines are paired with a Hydra-Matic four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission with overdrive that impresses reviewers.
- "Avalanche models with the 5.3-liter V8 and previous 4-speed automatic have good around-town power, but only adequate highway passing response." -- Consumer Guide
- "Thrust and fuel economy dip noticeably when the truck is being used to carry a load of passengers or cargo."-- Edmunds
- "The sprint to 60 mph still required a merely adequate 8.3 seconds." -- Car and Driver
- The transmission is "among the best in the business -- it offers buttery-smooth shifts that are often imperceptible." -- Cars.com
- The transmission "shifts in an easy and positive manner, with a brief delay for acceleration to pass or merge." -- Kelley Blue Book
Handling and Braking
The Avalanche's ride and handling is surprisingly car-like. While other trucks have a bouncy, harsh or floaty ride, the reviewers say the Avalanche handles the pavement smoothly. The steering gets mixed reviews with some complaining about a lack of road feel. However, the brakes are well-liked.
- "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." -- PickupTruck.com
- The steering "still lacks much in the way of feedback." -- Cars.com
- The steering "lacks road feel, and the floaty ride becomes even more pronounced as the body rolls in even slow-speed corners." -- Autobytel
- "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." -- The Boston Globe
- The brakes are "responsive, with short, firm pedal stroke," -- Consumer Guide
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. 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.
- The 4WD system "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." -- Cars.com
Reviewers love the Avalanche's hauling capabilities. While it's not the best choice if you own a construction company, the Avalanche can handle most of the loads weekend warriors throw at it, thanks to its innovative midgate design. 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. Hauling capacity for the 2WD Avalanche is 1,408 pounds and 1,487 pounds for the 4WD
- "A workhorse for routine hauling." -- Auto Mall USA.
- The midgate gives the Avalanche "a degree of versatility that's absent from traditional pickups." -- Kelley Blue Book
- 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." -- The Fort Worth Star-Telegram
- "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." -- The Kansas City Star
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. Reviewers are suitably impressed with the Avalanche's towing numbers.
- The Avalanche can tow "enough for a sizable boat or trailer," -- MSN.
- "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."-- Auto Mall USA