2007 Chevrolet Avalanche LT 4x4 - Best Utility
2007 Chevrolet Avalanche LT 4x4
The Chevrolet Avalanche almost won Truck of the Year. Yes, it's based on the Tahoe, and while GM doesn't pigeonhole it into any particular category, we have a rule here that if it has a bed, it's a truck. The Sport Utility Truck concept was invented by Ford with the Explorer Sport Trac, and the Avalanche is an effective expression of that concept. The Avalanche takes the best of what the GMT900 platform has to offer and combines it with the versatility of a people-pleasing SUV and an open bed for hauling awkward cargoes, both connected by that handy midgate.
What we liked about the Avalanche is the fact that it still doesn't have that nasty plastic cladding anymore. We liked its bullet-like shape notched by the bed in the back. Yes, that behind slopes up and out-like J-Lo's after a weekend with Ben and Jerry-negatively impacting visibility, but luckily there was a rearview camera to help us back out of parking spots. The optional navigation system competed with Ford's as overall best among our testers, with DaimlerChrysler's system definitely third. The center console offered good storage, as did the side-bed storage that we used as a cooler during our track day. The new front suspension and five-link rear soaked up bumps pretty well. The brakes were strong. Dual-zone A/C and cushy seats felt great for long hauls.
What we didn't like was experiencing the 5.3L V-8 trying to push that 5,600-pound behemoth down the quarter-mile (it ranked last among the trucks) and on the road. And the Avalanche is somehow simultaneously easy to drive but wallows like a scow. We don't like its $46K price either-it's higher than the Sierra, which has a larger engine, larger bed, similar passenger space, navigation, etc. Perhaps the drawback of vehicles like this is that they try to be everything to everybody, resulting in a package that is certainly effective, but potentially bloated. Vehicles like this are certainly versatile and unconventional, and that latter point could be why they are still around.
2007 Dodge Ram 1500 Sport 4x4We've had a lot of experience with Dodge trucks in the past year. The 1500 Mega Cab SLT won our Truck of the Year for 2006 and we've just written the last of our yearlong coverage of that vehicle. We also are currently driving a Cummins 2500 Mega Cab Laramie for a long-term evaluation. Therefore, in some ways, we felt right at home driving the 1500 Sport. One of the benefits, or curses, of driving this version was that we realized how spoiled, maybe even preoccupied, we had become with the Mega Cab's huge interior.
Sitting in the driver seat of the 1500 Sport, we couldn't tell much of a difference between it and its cousins. Here's why: That aggressive front-end design still screams "Ram;" we still appreciated the 5.7L Hemi-enabled ability to pull hard when the truck was full of people or towing; center console storage spaces were still huge; and it had the same no-nonsense overall interior design with cloth seats wrapped now in stain- and dirt-resistant material.
What distinguishes the 1500 Sport is its five-speed automatic transmission; body-color fascia and grille (in this case, painted a Brilliant Black glittered with metallic); 20-inch chrome-clad aluminum wheels; and fog lamps. Available options are the same as the SLT trim level.The Ram got 14.03 mpg, which tracks with what we got from the Mega Cab 1500. This fuel economy is close to the Sierra with its larger engine, and the F-150's smaller one.
The downsides include the two-wheel, rather than four-wheel, ABS; front IFS that's not as smooth as GM's; a rear that still likes to bounce on the freeway; and second-row seats that are not as roomy as you would expect from a crew cab configuration.
One thing about this truck that became clear to us: It's like a hot-rod work truck. It has power and performance; it did great off-road (as one staffer put it, "If you can't Dodge it, Ram it"); and carries people and cargo confidently. But, when it comes to creature comforts, Rams lag a bit behind GM brands and to some degree Ford brands. It's a well-rounded competitor that really only stands out as having an aggressive aura. As another staffer put it, "It knows it's a truck." If you use it as nothing more than a truck, you'll like it even more
2006 Ford F-150 Super Crew King Ranch 4x2If you ever wondered how competitive the truck market has become, take a look at the 2006 Ford F-150. We pointed out in our intro that normally we wouldn't have evaluated this truck because it hasn't been redesigned yet. But, we needed to beef up our story and thought it would be a great idea to include America's best-selling truck in the mix. Unfortunately, the somewhat refreshed '07 model was not available when we needed it, so we fell back on the '06. What a learning experience.
We touted the well-deserved merits of the newly redesigned F-150 just a few years ago, but, boy, how the market has changed. The F-150 may have set the standard, but almost every other truck we evaluated for this story had strong points that cast a harsh light on the now-tired F-150. We hope that the '07 F-150's changes-boost to a 10,500 lb max tow rating; cuts in price; and the addition of the FX2 and Harley-Davidson Super Crew models-will be enough to keep its numbers up until the redesign that might happen by 2008.
Our F-150 had a great interior and a nice ride, but was underpowered. It ranked just a step higher than the heavy and underpowered Avalanche on the quarter-mile. It's 5.4L got 14.08 mpg, which is slightly better than the Ram's 5.7L and a little worse then the Sierra's 6.0L. The King Ranch package is plush and distinctive in its styling, but we thought it worked better in the Super Duty we evaluated earlier in the year than in this model. Also, 2WD just doesn't jibe for the King Ranch's rugged-west motif, but we presume that Ford wouldn't offer it if nobody was buying it. Its brake performance stood in the middle of the pack; its cab was quietest; its interior was roomy but not the most; and its powertrain didn't stand out either. As it stands, our '06 F-150 King Ranch is more like an average truck, probably because everyone else has been gunning for it. Unfortunately, average is not quite good enough for today's tough fullsize market.
2007 GMC Sierra Crew Cab Slt 4x4The redesigned GMC Sierra also was one of the strongest contenders for Truck of the Year. As the step-up brand in the GM truck line up, GMC tends to get crowded by Chevrolet both in the market and among our readership. But that doesn't mean that it isn't a worthy truck. It shares the same guts as the Silverado and is certainly built for work, but it's the truck that the owner of a construction company drives, while the Silverado is driven bine displacements that range from 4.3L to 6.0L (most run on gasoline and E85 and offer cylinder deactivation). The Silverado's offerings also include: a choice of two four-speed trannies, 2WD and 4WD; tow capacity of up to 10,500 pounds; two distinct "pure pickup" and luxury interiors; touchscreen navigation; satellite radio; rear seat DVD; power sliding rear window; standard traction/stability control; close tolerances between interior and body components; quieter cabs; ultrasonic rear parking assist; EZ lift tailgate; and more.
Our extended cab 1500 LTZ starts with nice standard features, but it wasn't packaged with many options. Its 5.3L V-8 put out it in the middle of the pack on the quarter-mile, but achieved a whopping 15.07 mpg-the best of the trucks. It drove well on the road, more than adequately off-road, and handled amazingly well for a fullsize truck.
The redesigned exterior combines Chevy's signature split grille with an assertive edge that looks cleaner and more refined then the Sierra (the Denali, though, takes that to the next level in both style and money), and certainly more so than the other trucks on the market. Its interior borrows the best from the luxury SUV models.
At the moment, the Silverado offers the widest range of capabilities on the freshest platform that exhibits the best-looking design for reasonable prices. Granted, the GMC is pretty close, but in our opinion you get enough from the Silverado and still walk away with some cash in your pocket. Plus, the Silverado is likely to have the greater impact on trends in the pickup market then the Avalanche or the GMC will, among both the OEs and the aftermarket. The Chevrolet Silverado is the Truckin' 2007 Truck of the Year.
2007 Chevrolet Tahoe Lt 4x4The redesigned Chevrolet Tahoe almost won SUV of the Year. The Tahoe's styling looks more cohesive than before, with integrated bumpers and improved panel gaps that make it look like it could be an Escalade. Inside, its dash no longer looks like it belongs on a work truck. And, the Tahoe is extremely livable with features including: navigation (again, Ford and Chevy have good systems right now); satellite radio; auto-ride suspension; a rearview camera; rear-seat video entertainment; power liftgate; head curtain side airbags for all rows; and more.
The third row was actually comfortable for grownups, but only because the two captain's chairs in the second row of our tester made them easier to access and took up less space. Granted, the third row seats weren't as cush as the second row's, and legroom was more limited, so they are probably better suited for kids during road trips. The rear seats don't fold flat, although you can remove them to make room for cargo (not an ideay one of the carpenters. And boy, doesn't that business owner live large.
Our tester was equipped with the Vortec Max 6.0L V-8 and four-speed transmission. It ran even with the Ram on the quarter-mile and stayed barely ahead of the Ram and F-150 in fuel economy. Its exhaust note was noteworthy whether the engine was idling (more like loping) or under load. The Sierra came with navigation-again, it's a toss up over whether the GM or Ford system was the best. Refinement of the interior tracks with the Silverado and Avalanche as far as quality and design, but it certainly takes interiors to the next level. Its seats topped the leather seats in the Silverado, Avalanche, and F-150 as far as comfort and their ability to smooth the rough edges of its leaf-sprung rear end. The pricey Bose audio system doesn't sound as good, or at least as loud, as the Titan's Rockford Fosgate setup-a shame when you consider its diversity of media playback options (CD changer, iPod jack, DVD in the back) and the fact that it's a $2,500 option. The exterior is certainly improved, but it is not as distinctive as the Silverado's and gets blown away by the upgraded Denali version.
Honestly, though, if you want a Sierra, then go for Denali. It's the ultimate expression of the Sierra; offers an exclusive powertrain and unmistakable appearance; and starts at $40K and ramps up sharply from there. That's a lot of dough, and if that makes you nervous, then you might want to consider sticking with a Chevy
2007 Nissan Titan Crew Cab Se 4x4Always a bridesmaid but never a bride? The Nissan Titan is the reliable, plain-Jane friend to the pretty bride who has been asked to stand up front many times but has yet to garner her own engagement. A solid performer, the Titan was the fastest of our trucks in the quarter-mile and has the most useful interior room (especially in the back for cargo and passengers). The Titan comes with aggressive and sort-of-traditional body styling and possesses strong brakes and good maneuverability. We like the storage scheme in the center console; there is plenty of capacity there, including the "lip" that extends along the side of the console and abuts the front seats and catches dropped pens, coins, and French fries. The Titan and the Dodge were probably the best off-roaders in the group, thanks to their power and appropriate tires.
The domestic brands have defined what a fullsize truck is supposed to look like, so it's no surprise that it might take time for the Titan's body style-different, yet still aggressive-to grow on some of our staffers. But that's OK, it still has appeal...until you sit inside of it. The concept behind the spartan interior probably looked great on a designer's sketchpad, but its rendering in reality fell flat. The truck's interior is certainly functional but only passably interesting. The other trucks certainly pull ahead in this area. Now, the SE that we drove is the mid-tier trim level, so we weren't expecting a limo here. But, we have driven and seen Titans before and came away with the same impression. The wide A-pillar affects visibility a tad and creates extra wind noise, but the wide, blocky, side mirrors erase blind spots behind the driver. The Titan 5.6L got 10.79 mpg, abysmal when compared to the Ram's 14.03 mpg from its 5.7L.
The Titan offers no surprises, but then maybe we shouldn't expect much change since this is, for all practical purposes, the first generation of this truck. It is a well-intentioned, solid, meat-and-potatoes pickup. It certainly gets the job done. In a market where everyone can pretty much "get the job done," however, you need some sizzle to go along with that steak.
2007 Chevrolet Silverado Extended Cab LTZ 4x4We might be making a relative judgment here. But in our opinion, the Silverado stands at the top of the heap. Now, this isn't based entirely on the technical merits of the truck, although that's a huge part. There is also the value proposition that the line presents, and the position of the Chevy brand in the market. The Silverado prices range from mid $23K to close to $45K, with five engl solution). Really, a better configuration might be to go with the 60/40 bench in the second row, and ditch the third, allowing you to carry five instead six passengers, but at least the expanded cargo space can be used without manhandling third row seats.
Our tester's 5.3L didn't fair so well in the quarter-mile (it did practically the same as the Expedition); and the mpg on this vehicle wasn't so hot, either. The Tahoe's tow rating is about the same as the Chrysler Aspen's, but is trumped by the Expedition, according to specs. It's a shame that you can't get the 6.0L with the Tahoe, but that's been reserved for the Suburban, which, apparently, is intended to be more the beast of burden for the Chevy line.
Any way you look at it, the Tahoe deserves to rake in lots of lucre for GM. The improvements endowed upon the Tahoe from the new GMT900 platform blow away its previous-generation and make it a powerful player in a very competitive segment.