It's been five years since we've revisited the Chevrolet Avalanche, our 2002 Motor Trend Truck of the Year. Since that time, Chevrolet has addressed the few problems we found with the winner and subsequent one-year test vehicle, including adding more power, ditching the unnecessary plastic body cladding, and upgrading its options. For 2009, the Avalanche adds a host of technological improvements to its already versatile package.
The biggest change to the 2009 Chevrolet Avalanche is the addition of a new Hyrda Matic 6L80 six-speed automatic transmission, which replaces the long-running 4L60 four-speed unit found in earlier Avalanches, improving highway mileage and reducing engine noise in the process. Under the hood, 2WD models come standard with an iron-block 5.3L OHV V-8 that produces 320 hp and 340 lb-ft of torque. 4WD models will first come standard with an aluminum-block, 5.3L OHV V-8 making 310 hp and 335 lb-ft, and then switch over to an iron-block 5.3L making 320 hp and 340 lb-ft featuring Active Fuel Management, which shuts off half the cylinders under light loads, and Flex Fuel capability, allowing it to run on E85 Ethanol. Both the 2WD and 4WD models can be equipped with an optional 6.0L OHV V-8 that features Active Fuel Management as well as Variable Valve Timing producing 366 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque.
Curiously, though, maximum towing capacity is down by 100 lb to 8100 for the 2WD and 7900 for the 4WD models. The 5.3L models pick up a new standard rear-axle ratio of 3.08:1 for better economy and an optional 3.42 ratio as part of a towing package. Avalanche 6.0L models come standard with a 3.42:1 ratio.
Most of the rest of the 2009 model year changes are on the inside. The last time we had an Avalanche, we thought it was a little light on features and conveniences, but Chevrolet has been remedying that concern over the past few years. The Avalanche has received a much-needed backup camera and rear parking assist, a navigation system, dual-zone climate control, remote starting, rain-sensing wipers, a driver-information center, and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system. For 2009, the Avalanche also gets the latest version of OnStar, Bluetooth connectivity with steering-wheel-mounted controls, a video screen for the backup camera mounted in the rearview mirror for non-navigation-equipped trucks, XM Satellite Radio with NavTraffic for real-time traffic updates, and route planning and an integrated Trailer Brake controller. The Avalanche rolls on standard 17-in. wheels for most 2009 models, with the LTZ trim level getting 20-in. wheels.