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.

The 2LT model gets swankier with a new luxury package that brings heated, 10-way-adjustable power seats with memory to the table, as well as a Bose Premium speaker system, and auto-dimming interior and exterior mirrors. The topline LTZ model gets even more goodies, including 12-way adjustable perforated leather heated seats with memory, Centerpoint Surround Sound Bose speaker system, brushed metal steering wheel trim, "Chevrolet" embossed sill-plates, chrome accents on the sides of the truck, a new rear fascia with more chrome accents and a trailer hitch cover, and new 20-in. chrome wheels.

On the outside, the LTZ model will get a new White Diamond Tricoat paint option, while the whole lineup will get Inferno Orange paint to replace the Sunburst Orange paint option on the previous model year. Dark Brahma Jewel paint will be available in limited quantities toward the end of the model year.

The Z71 off-road package -- with its beefier suspension, big tires, and auto-locking differential -- picks up body-color mirrors and door handles, and a chrome grille insert up front. Inside, Titanium and Cashmere are added to the list of interior colors.

Chevrolet has also gotten serious about safety in its trucks, and the Avalanche is no exception. It comes standard with driver and passenger front airbags, standard side-curtain airbags that stay inflated longer to protect in rollover accidents, a tire-pressure-monitoring system, and the StabiliTrack stability control system with dedicated rollover mitigation technology. The Avalanche also has sensors mounted all around the truck to detect an imminent collision and give the safety systems advanced notice. This system allows the seatbelts to lock before a rear-end collision and keep occupants in place. All models come with GM's OnStar service free for one year, while LT and LTZ models also get the Directions and Connections plan for one year free which features turn-by-turn directions.

Pricing for the 2009 Avalanche starts at $35,910 for the base LS model. The LT model starts at $36,780, while the top-level LTZ model starts at $44,100. The gasoline-only 5.3L V-8 gets an EPA-estimated 14 mpg city and 20 mpg highway, while the FlexFuel 5.3L V-8 gets 10 mpg city and 15 mpg highway. The 6.0L V-8 gets 14 mpg city and 19 mpg highway.


2009 Chevrolet Avalanche
Base Price $35,910-$44,100
Vehicle layout Front engine, FWD-AWD, 4-6-pass, 4-door truck
Engine 5.3L/310-hp/335-lb-ft OV 16-valve V-8; 6.0L/366-hp/376-lb-ft OV 16-valve V-8
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Curb weight (dist f/r) 5478-5645 lbs (mfr)
Wheelbase 130 in
Length x width x height 221.3 x 79.1 x 76.6 in
Headroom, f/r 41.1/40 in
Legroom, f/r 41.3/39.1 in
Shoulder room, f/r 65.3/65.2 in
Cargo volume 45.5 cu.ft
EPA City/Hwy Econ 14/19-20 mpg
CO2 Emissions 1.20-1.22 lb/mile

Below is the official press release from Chevrolet for the 2009 Chevrolet Avalanche.

2009 CHEVROLET AVALANCHE ADDS FUEL-SAVING SIX-SPEED AUTOMATIC TRANSMISSION AND BLUETOOTH WIRELESS PHONE CONNECTION

Chevy Avalanche is the industry's most flexible utility vehicle, combining the passenger-comfort attributes of an SUV with the cargo capability of a truck. It is based on GM's full-size SUV platform that features segment-leading fuel economy and flex-fuel capability; a sharp, precise driving feel, interior refinement and notable quietness - it also has a maximum towing capacity of 8,100 pounds (3,674 kg).

Avalanche's efficiency is enhanced in '09 with the new, fuel-saving six-speed automatic transmission that is standard on all models. The advanced, Hydra-Matic 6L80 transmission helps deliver improved highway fuel mileage by incorporating two overdrive gears (fifth and sixth gears) that allow the engine to operate at a lower speed on the highway. Less fuel is used when the engine rpm is lowered, enhancing fuel economy. The lower engine speed also contributes to a quieter passenger environment.

"There's no other vehicle that offers the spaciousness and versatility of the Avalanche," said Ed Peper, Chevrolet general manager. "With technologies such as Active Fuel Management and its high towing rating, the Avalanche delivers effortless capability with surprising efficiency."

New technologies that enhance safety are also added to the Avalanche for 2009, including Bluetooth wireless phone connectivity with specific steering wheel controls, and an available rear camera system that can be displayed in either the inside review mirror or the Navigation display depending on radio choice. These new features complement an already strong package of standard safety items, such as head curtain side-impact air bags and StabiliTrak electronic stability control system.

New features for 2009

In addition to the new six-speed automatic transmission, a host of new features and revisions across the lineup gives Avalanche customers more choices. The changes for '09 include the following:

* New 20-inch chrome-clad wheel - This new wheel design is available on LTZ models
* New exterior colors - White Diamond Tricoat is available on LTZ; Inferno Orange replaces Sunburst Orange and later in the model year, Dark Brahma Jewel will be available in limited quantity
* OnStar 8.0 - The latest-generation OnStar system offers advanced features, including Stolen Vehicle Slow Down, Turn-by-Turn Navigation, and new Destination Download that automatic downloads requested directions to the navigation system
* Bluetooth connectivity - This wireless technology enables safer, hands-free calling, with specific steering wheel controls through either OnStar or a Bluetooth-enabled phone
* XM Satellite Radio with NavTraffic - Available with the standard XM Satellite Radio service, the new NavTraffic feature delivers real-time traffic advisements and route suggestions into the optional navigation system
* LTZ Enhancements - Standard on LTZ models:
o Heated and cooled 12-way power memory seats
o Perforated leather-trimmed seating surfaces
o New body-side moldings with chrome accent strip
o New rear fascia with chrome accent strip and trailer hitch cover
o Centerpoint Surround Sound Bose speaker system
o New sill plates with embossed "Chevrolet" logo
* New outside mirror glass - A new "Razor" LED design for the turn signals is incorporated in the mirror glass for LTZ models and 2LT models with the luxury package
* Integrated brake controller - Integrated with the ABS system, this optional feature provides immediate and measured brake force signaling to electric-controlled trailer brake systems; there is no requirement for external and/or aftermarket brake control systems
* Heavy-duty trailering package - Provides enhanced cooling capacity to deliver maximum towing capability with the 3.42 axle ratio
* Fuel-saving 3.08 axle ratio - New base axle for 2WD models that delivers real-world highway fuel economy improvement

Additionally, several changes have been made to previous Avalanche packages and content. They include:

* Twenty-inch polished wheels are available on 1LT and 2LT
* Two rearview camera options: The rearview camera display is included in the inside rearview mirror on models without the navigation radio and on the navigation display for models with the navigation radio
* Navigation radio now offered on 1LT
* New fabric for cloth seat trim
* Z71 models now include body-color door handles and mirror caps, as well as a bright chrome grille insert
* Titanium and Cashmere interior options are now available on Z71 models
* New luxury package available on 2LT models consisting of:
o Bose premium speaker system
o Heated leather-trimmed seats with 10-way power seat adjusters
o Auto-dimming outside mirror with new "Razor-style" turn signal display
o Auto-dimming inside mirror

Avalanche lineup

The Avalanche is available in LS, LT and LTZ models, with 2WD and 4WD. The standard powertrain includes an efficient 5.3L V-8 with Active Fuel Management(tm) technology that seamlessly switches from eight-cylinder to four-cylinder operation to save fuel. A 6.0L V-8 engine with Active Fuel Management and variable valve timing (VVT) is also available, giving Avalanche customers more choices for selecting a vehicle that has the capability they demand. Several of Avalanche's engines are FlexFuel-capable, meaning they can run on E85 ethanol-based fuel.

Also available is the popular Z71 Off Road appearance package. This optional package includes the Z71 Off Road suspension with high-pressure, gas-charged monotube shocks, 18-inch on/off road tires, automatic-locking differential, front recovery hooks, a durable skid plate and high-capacity air cleaner. Large, color-keyed wheel flares, an aggressive front fascia and satin chrome tubular assist steps, and bright chrome front grille insert provide a one-of-a kind appearance. On the inside are leather-appointed bucket seats that are available in solid Ebony, Cashmere or Titanium.

Midgate flexibility

Avalanche's unparalleled flexibility enables it to function as an SUV, truck or both, thanks to the exclusive Midgate. Pioneered on the first-generation Avalanche, the Midgate opens to extend the cargo-carrying capability from the cargo bed's 5-foot-3-inch-long (1.6 m) length to 8 feet 2 inches (2.5 m). The rear seat must be folded to achieve maximum storage capability; with the rear seat up and the Midgate closed, Avalanche has room for up to six passengers.

When the Midgate is open and the rear seat is folded flat, Avalanche can carry 4-foot by 8-foot (1.2 m by 2.4 m) sheets of plywood with the tailgate closed. Storage compartments alongside the cargo box provide ample and lockable storage. The storage compartments also have drains, so they can be filled with ice and used as coolers. A three-piece rigid cargo cover with interlocking panels also is available.

Avalanche's flexible attributes also include a central-locking tailgate and cargo cover retaining straps. Also, the tailgate is spring-loaded to reduce the effort needed to open or close it.

Efficient performance

Avalanche is powered by the small-block V-8 family. Standard on 2WD models is an iron-block Vortec 5.3L V-8 with 320 horsepower (239 kW)* and 340 lb.-ft. of torque (461 Nm)*, which offers Active Fuel Management.

At the beginning of the 2009 model year, Avalanche comes with a 5.3L aluminum-block V-8 as standard on 4WD models, delivering 310 horsepower (231 kW)* and 335 lb.-ft. (454 Nm)* of torque. Shortly after start-up production, the standard engine will change to a 5.3L iron-block V-8 with 320 horsepower (239 kW) and 340 lb.-ft. of torque (461 Nm), with Active Fuel Management and FlexFuel capability.

Two versions of the Vortec 5.3L V-8 are compatible with E85, a renewable fuel made of 85 percent ethyl alcohol (ethanol) and 15 percent gasoline.

An all-aluminum 6.0L V-8 with variable valve timing (VVT), as well as Active Fuel Management, is available on 2WD and 4WD models. It is rated at 366 horsepower (273 kW).* Variable valve timing helps optimize camshaft timing to improve low-rpm torque and high-rpm horsepower. The system is enabled by a unique dual-equal cam phaser that adjusts the camshaft timing at the same rate for both the intake and exhaust valves.

All of Avalanche's engines are matched with a new, fuel-saving Hydra-Matic 6L80 six-speed automatic transmission.

Interior refinement and convenience

Avalanche's interior represents a high level of refinement, comfort, quality and convenience. It is roomy and airy, thanks to a low instrument panel and deep windshield that improve outward visibility.

Avalanche's front seats are designed to provide comfort and easy entry/egress. Door pillar-mounted first-row three-point safety belts facilitate a slim seat design, which helps enhances cargo space behind the seats. Comfort comes from firm seat foams, including aggressive bolsters. The rear seat is unique to the Avalanche and enables easy access to the Midgate system. The seat folds flat, allowing longer items to be carried between the cargo bed and into the rear passenger compartment.

Avalanche's spacious interior creates an environment that exudes quality and precision. Flush-mounted accessories and controls, such as the climate control/radio center stack, create a seamless, "single unit" appearance. Also, there are almost no exposed metal hardware or latches, as all models feature enclosing "close-outs" around the seat bottoms and door sill trim plates. Comfort features include an efficient HVAC system, and generous storage capability - with the segment's largest center console storage bin, a large glove box and numerous storage compartments. Avalanche also offers a host of available convenience features, including:

* Ultrasonic Rear Parking Assist
* Remote vehicle starting
* Driver information center
* Dual-zone automatic HVAC
* Rain Sense wiper system
* Rearview camera system
* Touch-screen navigation system
* DVD rear-seat entertainment system with eight-inch screen that can play videos stored on iPods

Avalanche also features an impressive audio/navigation lineup, which provides quality entertainment and information. GM's family of CD/MP3-compatible radios leads the audio lineup, with an available DVD entertainment system that includes an eight-inch screen (with in-dash loading). A touch-screen navigation radio is available and incorporates the monitor for the rearview camera system.

Distinctive design

Avalanche's monochromatic design is lean and agile, with a steeply raked windshield and smooth roofline that accentuates the exterior length. Avalanche wears the distinctive face of Chevrolet, with a large Chevy gold bowtie, centered on a twin-port horizontal grille. The body-color grille surround is inset with an argent texture mesh. Fog lamps and headlamps feature jewel-like optics.

Avalanche's front end styling reflects its capability. It includes the fast-rake windshield; a power dome hood; a prominent fender design with integrated wheel flares; bold grille and headlamps; and a full-wrap fascia. The wraparound fascia eliminates the conventional bumper-to-body gap and is one of the numerous attributes that gives the Avalanche its refined look. It also enhances aerodynamics.

Avalanche offers a range of 17-inch and 20-inch wheels. Seventeen-inch wheels and tires are standard, with 20-inch factory-installed wheels available (standard on LTZ; available on LT). The larger wheels fill Avalanche's wheelhouses, giving the vehicle a confident stance.

Avalanche also offers convenient power-articulating running boards on LTZ models, which blend smoothly with the vehicle's design. They automatically move downward and outward when the doors are opened, providing a lower step-in height.

Accessories

Numerous Chevy Accessories are available for Avalanche:

* Seven styles of 20-inch chrome wheels, including the new D20 wheels that were developed in concert with DUB magazine
* Three styles of 22-inch chrome wheels, including the new D22 that were developed in concert with DUB magazine
* Personal Audio Link that allows radio controls to be used for iPods and other MP3 players
* Six-inch chrome assist steps
* Chrome recovery hooks, door handles, mirror caps and fuel doors
* Power tonneau cover
* Custom grille with chrome bars
* Grille brush guard
* Bed extender
* Cat-back exhaust systems
* Taillamp guards
* Portable DVD players

Full-size SUV foundation

Avalanche is built on GM's full-size SUV platform, which incorporates features such as a fully boxed frame, coil-over-shock front suspension, rack-and-pinion steering and a premium interior system that bolster the vehicle's comfort, quality and capability. Wide front and rear tracks enhance handling and vehicle stability for a more confident road feel.

A stiff frame reduces vibrations transmitted to the passenger cabin, while the strength and accuracy of the fully boxed frame also enable precise mounting and tuning of chassis and suspension components. Even the tires on the large, 17-inch and 20-inch wheels were designed to reduce noise.

Noise-reducing components and materials are used throughout the body structure, including the headliner material, door seals and front-of-dash area. The engines also feature a quiet-tuned alternator and an acoustically tuned engine cover that reduce engine noise heard inside the vehicle. The door seals help reduce seal "pull-away" at highway speeds, which can cause wind noise.

Avalanche's quietness and smoothness are complemented by the Autoride suspension system, which is standard on LTZ. This segment-exclusive bi-state, real-time damping system provides an extremely refined ride with greatly reduced body motion. The system consists of a semi-active, two-position damping control system that responds in real time to road and driving conditions, based on body and wheel motion sensors.

Avalanche offers up to 8,100 pounds (3,676 kg) of towing capability, when properly equipped, enhancing its flexible, ready-for-anything capability.

Safety story

The Avalanche offers security in the form of a 360-degree safety system of occupant protection and crash-avoidance technologies. Features include standard head curtain side air bags with rollover protection for both rows and front-seat safety belt pretensioners that are linked to the vehicle's sensing system to provide segment-exclusive deployment in rear-end crashes.

The roof-mounted head curtain air bags include design features that provide increased rollover protection and occupant containment. These head curtain side air bags stay inflated longer than air bags developed only for side impacts, since rollover incidents can last longer. The deployment duration and other design features of the air bags combine to provide increased occupant protection and the ability to help keep occupants inside the vehicle.

Sensors located at the front of the vehicle, in the side doors, and within the occupant compartment provide increased and more immediate crash detection. The vehicle's sensing system provides industry-exclusive capability to deploy front seat safety belt pretensioners during certain rear-end collisions, enhancing the belt system's ability to hold the occupants firmly in place.

Crash avoidance is bolstered through strong design and driver control dynamics, such as wide front and rear tracks, as well as responsive suspensions - including a standard coil-over-shock front suspension design and rack-and-pinion steering. Avalanche's fully boxed frame contributes to enhanced crash energy management. The front frame section has been designed to optimize crush progression, resulting in energy absorption efficiency. The improved crush performance, enabled by hydroformed frame rails and efficient chassis component packaging, also comprehends design provisions that help improve vehicle-to-vehicle compatibility in the event of a frontal impact with a smaller vehicle.

Additional safety features include:

* Standard StabiliTrak stability control system with rollover mitigation technology
* Standard dual-stage driver front air bag
* Standard dual-stage outboard-front passenger air bag with passenger sensing system
* Standard tire pressure monitoring system
* Available rain-sensing wiper system
* Available Ultrasonic Rear Parking Assist that can detect certain stationary objects in the rearward path of the vehicle and send an audible warning sound and display via three LEDs near the rear window
* Available rearview camera system designed to provide the driver with a view of people or objects in the rearward path of the vehicle
* Standard pull-up/push-down power window switches

LS models come standard with OnStar and a one-year Safe & Sound service plan; LT and LTZ models come with a one-year Directions & Connections plan that features Turn-By-Turn Navigation. OnStar includes the General Motors Advanced Crash Response System, making crash data available to emergency services to potentially dispatch the appropriate life-saving personnel and equipment to crash scenes faster. If the vehicle is in a crash that activates an air bag, the OnStar system automatically notifies an OnStar advisor, who will check on the occupants or summon emergency help if necessary. OnStar also can assist authorities in locating a vehicle if it is reported stolen (ability to locate stolen vehicles varies with conditions).

*SAE certified.

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