Chevrolet has found itself in a strange position: After designing the Avalanche, the truck that arguably inspired the Honda Ridgeline, it now has to create the second-generation model to respond to that vehicle, as well as a possible new rival from Dodge, in the form of the Rampage (see full story in this issue). Can Chevrolet keep the Ava-lanche competitive? So far, it looks like it's headed in the right direction.

To begin with, engine power increases for the new 1500 and there'll be a new engine option. The base engine, as it was before, is a 5.3-liter V-8; however, there are now two 325-cubic-inch options: The 320-horsepower, iron-block eight-cylinder is the base engine in 2WD models, and the 310-horsepower aluminum-block 5.3-liter V-8 is the base engine in 4WD Avalanches. The iron-block 5.3 is E85 capable, and both use Active Fuel Management cylinder shutoff technology. And both have noticeable increases from the 2006 truck's 295 horsepower. Later, several months after the Avalanche goes on sale, there'll be an all-aluminum 6.0-liter engine available, with variable valve timing, 355 horsepower, and 365 pound-feet of torque. Both 5.3s use the 4L60 Hydra-Matic four-speed, which has the identical gear ratios as the previous Avalanche's; the 6.0-liter will be backed with a stronger Hydra-Matic 4L70 four-speed.

Oddly, towing capacity is down to 8000 pounds for 2WD models (200 pounds less than previous model), and maximum payload for the 2007 is 1355 pounds. But what about the 2500 Avalanche? Will the 2500 return for 2007? The previous 3/4-ton Avalanche's 8.1-liter V-8 produced 325 horsepower (just five horsepower less than the new Vortec 5.3-liter V-8) and churned out 447 pound-feet of torque. The 2500 was the workhorse, the one that could tow 12,000 pounds, the hauler. Our guess is the Avalanche 2500 will follow the same course as GM's plan for the 2500 Suburban--the new generation interior and exterior, on the previous-gen 2500 platform. Expect those models to be available in late 2006.

At launch, 1500 trim levels are LS, LT, and LTZ, with the Z71 off-road package coming later. Front suspension is coil-over-shock IFS, rear is a live-axle five-link setup, also with coil springs. On topline LTZ models, Autoride real-time damping is standard, but available as an option on other models. All three trim levels are offered with the choice of rear- and four-wheel drive. Steering has changed from a power recirculating ball to power-assisted rack-and-pinion, and the brakes now use larger-diameter discs: an inch bigger in front, and half-an-inch bigger in the rear. Wheel and tire options increased in size as well: base wheels are an inch larger (17x7.5 versus 16x7.0), and tire options are 265/70R17, 265/65R18, and 275/55R20.

For those who've been following the news of Chevrolet and GMC's GMT900 vehicle launches, the look of the 2007 Avalanche should come as no surprise. It has the Tahoe/Suburban front end, Tahoe/Suburban lines along the sides (until your eyes reach the C-pillar, of course), and the flying-buttress design takes over behind the second set of doors. Inside, the instrument panel, HVAC, and seats are new, and the cabin takes on a more luxurious appearance. Front and rear headroom, rear legroom, and front hiproom have increased, while other interior dimensions stay basically the same.

But what we like most about the Avalanche is the cargo box and Midgate. The Midgate returns with relatively few changes, and the composite bed, which can hold up to a 4x8-foot sheet of plywood, continues to have storage compartments with drain holes. The bed has been extended two inches, and the tailgate is now spring-loaded, making it easier to open and close. Also, the tailgate no longer has a regular lock--it is now secured from a switch in the cabin or from the key fob.

Chevrolet has responded to the Ridgeline by building on its success with the Avalanche and improving on its shortcomings. The new platform is a welcome upgrade, and the interior is one of the best to come from Chevrolet in a long time. The truck has the right combination of attributes--power, space, towing capacity, and off-road ability--for people who sometimes want room for six people, but also have towing and cargo-carrying needs. At first look, the new Avalanche seems more capable than ever in this expanding category but we'll know more once we get one to test. More to follow.

2007 Chevrolet Avalanche 1500
General
Location of final assembly Silao, Mexico
Body style Four-door pickup
EPA size class Half-ton truck
Drivetrain layout Front engine, RWD/4WD
Airbags Dual front, side curtain (opt)
Powertrain
Engine type 90o V-8, iron block, alum heads
Bore x stroke, in 3.78 x 3.62
Displacement, ci/L 325/5.3
Compression ratio 9.9:1
Valve gear OHV, 2 valves/cyl, AFM
SAE horsepower, hp @ rpm 320 @ 5200
SAE torque, lb-ft @ rpm 340 @ 4200
Opt engine90° V-8, all alum (4WD)
Bore x stroke, in3.78 x 3.62
Displacement, ci/L325/5.3
Compression ratio9.9:1
Valve gear OHV, 2 valves/cyl, AFM
SAE horsepower, hp @ rpm 310 @ 5200
SAE torque, lb-ft @ rpm 335 @ 4000
Opt engine 90° V-8, all alum
Bore x stroke, in 4.00 x 3.62
Displacement, ci/L 364/6.0
Compression ratio 9.7:1
Valve gear OHV, 2 valves/cyl, AFM, VVT
SAE horsepower, hp @ rpm 355 @ 5400
SAE torque, lb-ft @ rpm 365 @ 4400
Transmission type 4L60 4-speed automatic
1st3.06:1
2nd1.63:1
3rd1.00:1
4th0.70:1
Reverse2.29:1
Opt transmission 4L70 4-speed automatic
1st3.06:1
2nd1.63:1
3rd1.00:1
4th0.70:1
Reverse2.29:1
Axle ratio3.73:1, 4.10:1
Final drive ratio 2.61:1, 2.87:1
Recommended fuel Unleaded regular
Dimensions/Capacities
Wheelbase, in 130.0
Length, in 221.3
Width, in 79.1
Height, in 76.6
Track, f/r, in 68.2/67.0
Headroom, f/r, in 41.1/40.0
Legroom, f/r, in 41.3/39.1
Shoulder room, f/r, in 65.3/65.2
Hiproom, f/r, in 64.4/61.8
Ground clearance, in 9.1
Bed size LxWxH, in 63.3x50.0x25.0
Fuel capacity, gal 31.5
Chassis
Suspension, front/rear Independent, coil springs/ independent five-link, coil springs
Steering type Power assisted rack and pinion
Ratio 17.8:1
Turns, lock-to-lock 3.0
Turning circle, ft 43.0
Brakes, f/r Disc/disc, 4WABS
Wheels 17x7.5-in, 18x8.0-in, 20x8.5-in
Tires Goodyear all-season, Bridgestone on- and off-road, Bridgestone all-season
Sizes P265/70R17, P265/65R18, P275/55R20
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy N/A
Price
Base price $35,000 (est)
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