It was 2001, the height of the SUV boom. The Ford Explorer sold a staggering 445,157 units the previous year, and would finish 2001 only slightly lower at 415,921. The full-size Expedition moved 178,045 units and the Chevrolet Tahoe sold 292,319, not including 77,254 GMC Yukons. Gasoline averaged $1.61 a gallon nationwide. Everyone wanted in on the SUV game, and wanted to stand out from the crowd. Chevrolet, one of the leaders in the full-size truck and SUV market, introduced a vehicle unlike anything before it. The Avalanche combined the comfort and refinement of the Suburban SUV with the versatility and ruggedness of the Silverado pickup.
Key to the new vehicle's formula was GM's Convert-a-Cab concept, featuring the innovative Midgate. This foldable steel bulkhead allowed the bed and cargo area to expand into the passenger compartment, enabling owners to carry a 4x8-foot sheet of plywood fully enclosed, in a smaller, more maneuverable package than a traditional crew cab long-bed truck. Motor Trend's 2000 review stated, "The Avalanche looks likely to draw some blood in its assault on pickup and sport/utility orthodoxy. This is a new kind of vehicle, and it may change some thinking in the marketplace. If it does, it may also change some other truckmaker's product plans."
Looking at competitors' products, such as the Ford Sport Trac and the later Honda Ridgeline, the influence of the Avalanche is apparent, but GMC's midsize Envoy XUV was the only one that copied the Avalanche's Midgate configuration. To this day, the feature is a class exclusive, shared only with its platform-mate, the Cadillac Escalade EXT.
We've compiled a timeline of the Avalanche's history, from its announcement and debut to the announcement in April of this year of the model's discontinuation. The Avalanche may be gone after 2013, but GM's groundbreaking SUV concept will not be forgotten.
Chevrolet announces the 2002 Avalanche in February 2001. Initial production goes to California, Florida, and Texas in May 2001, with the nationwide rollout in July. The 2WD model's base price is $30,965 including destination, with the 4WD model starting at $33,965. The model launches with a 285-hp, 5.3-liter Vortec V-8 and four-speed automatic transmission. Chevrolet later introduces the 2500 series model with the 8.1-liter big-block V-8 producing 340 hp and 455 lb-ft of torque, mated to the 4L80E transmission, and a North Face edition for the 1500 model. Sage Green is a new unique color to the North Face model.
Avalanche wins Motor Trend's 2002 Truck of the Year award.
A cleaner, more conventional styling option in the "WBH" package (Without Body Hardware) gives the Avalanche a similar appearance to same-year Silverado pickups. Additional enhancements for the 2003 model year include dual-stage airbags, multi-zone climate control, steering wheel-mounted radio controls, adjustable pedals, and XM Satellite Radio as an option. In response to dealer and customer complaints, the lower body cladding is darkened on models so equipped. This year has the highest level of sales for the Avalanche, with 93,482 models sold.
Hydroboost brakes are made standard on 1500 models; the 2500 model is now offered exclusively in four-wheel drive; and Dark Blue Metallic, Sunburst Orange, Silver Birch, and Sport Red Metallic are added to the color palette.
OnStar is made standard on all models; a chrome exterior package is available on LS models; LS and LT models get revised interior trim; there's now a standard 3.42 rear axle ratio on all 1500 4WD models; Homelink programmable transmitter is offered as an option; and Sandstone and Bermuda Blue Metallic are added to paint colors.
This is the last year for 2500 model, which gets revised extendable outside rearview mirrors, and the OnStar and XM Satellite antennas are consolidated into a single unit.
Second-generation 2007 Avalanche based on GM's GMT900 truck platform debuts at the Chicago auto show in February 2006. Unpopular lower body cladding of first-generation model is eliminated in favor of cleaner styling similar to the new Tahoe and Suburban. The Avalanche is exclusively offered as half-ton model with choice of 320-hp, 5.3-liter or 366-hp, 6.0-liter V-8 engines.
Head curtain side-impact airbags become standard on all models, and Blue Granite and Deep Ruby Metallic are added as color options.
Six-speed automatic transmission replaces four-speed, with 2WD models getting an optional 3.08 fuel-saving rear axle ratio. LTZ models get a new 20-inch wheel style and heated and cooled 12-way power perforated leather seats. OnStar 8.0 is offered with stolen vehicle slow-down, turn-by-turn navigation, and destination download for models equipped with navigation. A rear backup camera is offered as an option. White Diamond Tricoat and Inferno Orange are new colors.
6.0-liter Vortec V-8 is dropped, leaving 5.3-liter as the sole engine option. Taupe Gray Metallic and Sheer Silver Metallic replace Dark Blue Metallic, Silver Birch Metallic, and Greystone Metallic.
Single-speed transfer case becomes standard on all models except the LTZ, which gets standard two-speed transfer case. A USB input is added in the center console for playing music through the sound system, as well as for charging portable electronic devices. Steel Green Metallic, Mocha Steel Metallic, and Inferno Orange Metallic replace Laser Blue Metallic and Black Granite Metallic in the color palette.
Hard-drive navigation is offered with AM/FM/XM stereo and CD player, USB port, Time Shift Recording capability, and available SiriusXM Weather Service. Leather-wrapped heated steering wheel is made standard on LTZ models, and heated seats are standard on LT models. GM announces in April that 2013 will be the last model year of the Avalanche. From its one-time high of almost 100,000 units sold per year, by 2011, sales dropped to just 20,088 units a year.
The Avalanche's final year is commemorated with the 2013 Avalanche Black Diamond edition.