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.
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