All agree the Chevrolet Silverado is a pickup truck. But when you take the Silverado, cut out the rear bulkhead, weld on a roof over the bed, and bolt in two more rows of seats, then the Suburban, is a sport/utility vehicle.

But what if you then lop off part of the Suburban's roof, remove the third-row seats, install an openable rear bulkhead, and fashion something that's a cross between car trunk and pickup bed? Is it a pickup? An SUV? An entirely new species? By early next year, you'll have to decide. That's when the 2002 Chevy Avalanche reaches showrooms.

Chevrolet wants you to call the Avalanche an Ultimate Utility Vehicle. When forced to choose between SUV and pickup, it chooses the latter, despite the fact that the Avalanche will be about 90 percent Suburban and the Suburban is less than 60 percent Silverado.

Chevy allowed us to inspect and drive-albeit slowly-this Avalanche concept. For a show vehicle, it's extremely close to the final production version. Tow hooks, fuel filler, suede seats, and "not for highway use" 18-inch Goodyears won't make the cut. The roof rack will be available as a dealer-installed option.

The Avalanche will be a couple inches longer than a Suburban, but half a foot shorter than a Silverado extended cab. It'll be offered in both two- and four-wheel drive. Engine will be the same 5.3-liter/285-horsepower OHV Vortec 5300 V-8 as in the Suburban and Silverado.