The half-pickup/half-SUV never really caught on as a genre, and now that the Ford Explorer Sport Trac is dead, the Avalanche — except for its corporate twin, the Cadillac Escalade EXT — is in a class of one. In essence, the Avalanche is the front of a full-size Chevy Tahoe and the back of a Silverado welded together. The Avalanche’s coolest feature is its Midgate, which allows it to alternate between a six-passenger SUV and a full-size pickup. With the rear seats folded, the rear cabin wall tips forward into the cab, extending the bed length by more than three feet. In this position, the Avalanche can swallow objects as large as four-by-eight feet with the tailgate closed. The sole engine is an E85-capable, 320-hp, 5.3-liter V-8 that uses cylinder deactivation to conserve fuel — four of the eight cylinders can shut down when the engine is under light loads. If you often take the route less traveled, the optional Z71 package can turn the Avalanche into a capable off-roader. Add-ons such as high-pressure gas-charged monotube shocks, off-road-ready eighteen-inch tires, an automatic-locking differential, and a skid plate add capability, while larger wheel flares and a more aggressive front fascia make the Avalanche look the part. Much like the Tahoe on which it is based, the Avalanche is a big, thirsty, truck-based sport-ute that emphasizes utility rather than on-road refinement. And with crew-cab pickups — which in essence have the same basic body style and functionality — becoming increasingly popular, the Avalanche may soon be squeezed out.

Drive: Rear-wheel, 4-wheel
Trim Levels: LS, LT, LTZ
Body style: Pickup, 5- or 6-passenger
Engine: 5.3L V-8, 320 hp, 340 lb-ft (E85 capable)
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Capacities: Towing 7900-8100 lb; payload 1320-1350 lb; cargo (second row folded/Midgate open, second row folded) 54.3/101.0 cu ft

The Avalanche enters 2012 with few changes. StabiliTrak, Chevy’s standard stability and traction control system, now includes electronic trailer-sway control and hill-start assist to aid towing. Avalanches equipped with navigation receive an updated radio with a built-in 80-gigabyte hard drive, the ability to pause and rewind live broadcasts, and the option to upgrade to SiriusXM weather services.

Front, side, and side curtain air bags, ABS, traction and stability control, and a tire-pressure monitoring system are standard. A backup camera and parking sensors are optional. OnStar is standard and includes Automatic Crash Response free for six months.

All: 15 mpg city/21 mpg highway

  • One of a kind
  • Unique storage solutions
  • Midgate is still a cool feature
  • Fuel economy
  • Better SUVs to choose from
  • Better pickups to choose from

Cadillac sharpens its creased crossover with a more refined powertrain and increased horsepower.

  • Ford F-150 SuperCrew
  • Honda Ridgeline
  • Ram 1500 Quad Cab

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