Chevrolet's 5.3-liter OHV V-8 is a good choice for the Avalanche's size and weight, providing a spirited 0-to-60 sprint of 8.2 seconds. The engine works well with the 4L60-E four-speed automatic, delivering smooth upshifts and logical downshifts. Not a single person who drove the truck came away wanting more power. Chevy also offers its big-block 8.1-liter V-8 for those with super-sized towing needs or cubic-inch desires.
The Avalanche's around-town ride is much more supple than what Chevy would've achieved had it used its standard half-ton truck platform. Detroit Bureau Chief Jack Keebler notes, "The rear-suspension's coil springs make for a surprisingly comfortable, sure-footed ride in this big truck." Indeed, the majority of our staff was surprised by the confidence and quietness the truck exhibited over most roads.
During our extended time with the Avalanche, we noted certain design flaws surrounding its unique bed system. Heavy rains or a trip through the car wash resulted in water leaking into the bed where the removable rear window and removable cargo cover meet. If the truck got wet with the cargo cover removed, water occasionally seeped under the bed's rubber floormat, creating a potential rust trap. The mat can be removed for drying, but it's cumbersome to do so and requires a helper. The tailgate demands a firm hand when closing, or else it's prone to flopping open once the vehicle is underway. Last, when the Midgate is down, the cabin isn't securable, but, all said and done, the Avalanche is an innovative exercise in flexible people/cargo space management.
Our truck performed effortlessly during its time with us, requiring no more than two regularly scheduled maintenance trips to the dealer. Most of our staff never warmed to the truck's bold (or garish) look and all-too-prevalent use of plastic cladding, but everyone lauded its spacious interior, solid powertrain, towing ability, and industry-first Midgate system, all of which reassured us that our 2002 Truck of the Year winner was well deserving of its title.