The Chevrolet Avalanche is the perfect cross between the truck and the SUV that was discontinued after 12 years. We review their two generations to choose the best years of all.
In the early 2000s, at the height of the SUV boom, with vehicles like the Ford Explorer selling nearly half a million units, it was time for Chevrolet to come out with something to get a piece of the action.
Although Chevrolet already had the full-size Suburban SUV, as well as the legendary Silverado pickup, they were missing something in between. That something was the Chevrolet Avalanche.
The Avalanche combined the rugged utility of the Silverado with the luxurious comfort of the Suburban. A major key to Avalanche’s goal is GM’s Convert-a-Cab concept, with a revolutionary Midgate.
Chevy then sold one of the most ambitious crossovers for twelve years, from 2001 to 2013. Abruptly discontinued, many wondered why their beloved Avalanche wouldn’t return, but there’s still plenty to choose from on the used market. In this article, we’ll break down each generation, along with the years we think are the best.
Chevrolet Avalanche 1st generation (2002-2006)
Chevrolet launched the Avalanche in 2001 for the 2002 model year as a middle ground between the Silverado and the Suburban. Still classified as a full-size pickup truck, it wasn’t exactly an SUV that would appeal to soccer moms. However, it appealed to people who needed a work truck but wanted to be able to transport their family in comfort.
The first-year Avalanches received light gray plastic body cladding to differentiate themselves from the Suburban and GMC Yukon XL.
Later in 2003, Chevy introduced the No Body Hardware (WBH) package, which gave the Avalanche similar styling to the Silverado. The WBH package also solved a common problem of discoloration and whitening of the body lining.
In the back of the truck, there was apparently a 63-inch short bed. Using GM’s Midgate design, the rear seats were folded with the bed bulkhead to expand capacity to 98 inches. The extra length allowed owners to carry a standard 4×8-foot sheet of plywood, a common requirement for most truck owners.
The Avalanche was built on the Chevrolet GMT800 split chassis, which made it easy to replace parts when it came to the drivetrain and suspension. Transmission options for the Avalanche consisted of a Vortec 5.3L V8 that produced 285 horsepower and 325 lb-ft. of torque available for the 1500 model.
Later in 2001, Chevy released the 2500 model which housed an 8.1-liter V8 that produced 340 horsepower and 455 pound-feet. of torque The 1500 and 2500 models were available in two- or four-wheel drive configurations.
Moving on to the truck’s interior, the base model Avalanche followed a more utilitarian approach with cloth seats, a power-adjustable front bench seat for the driver, power windows, power locks, keyless entry, and air conditioning.
Those who opted for the Z71 Off-Road Package or the Z66 Off-Road Package received 17-inch alloy wheels, leather seating surfaces with waterproof accents, dual-power front bucket seats, cloth door, GM’s OnStar system, rubber floor mats for all-weather, bowtie-shaped Chevrolet emblems integrated into the seat backs (for 2002 models), dual-zone automatic climate controls with air vents, rear HVAC vents and remote controls, and more. The main differences between the Z71 and Z66 packages were the suspension and off-road tires or the suspension and sport tires.
Along with updating the drivetrain parts and exterior styling in 2003, the interior was also standardized. Now sharing interior parts with the Silverado and Suburban, the Avalanche received even more luxury features.
The changes worked well for the truck, as the 2003 model year saw its highest sales of all with just over 90,000 units sold. Although the previous year (2002) won Motor Trend’s Truck of the Year Award, the 2003 model year is the best candidate for a first-generation Avalanche.
safety and price
Being based on the GMT800 platform gave the Avalanche unfortunate results when it came to crash test ratings. With three out of five stars for driver-side impact, four out of five stars for passenger-side impact, and a three-star rollover rating from NCAP, the Avalanche was rated “poor.”
While it’s not the worst vehicle on the road, it’s not the safest. Improvements have been made to the side airbag design and drivers have had peace of mind with each OnStar update, but they haven’t made up for the lower ratings.
Pricing for the Chevrolet Avalanche started at $30,965 at launch, but most early generations can now be found for around $8,000 depending on mileage. If you’re looking for a rarer 2500 model, they’re closer to $11,000.
Chevrolet Avalanche 2nd generation (2007-2013)
Unveiled at the 2006 Chicago Auto Show, the second-generation Chevrolet Avalanche received a much-needed makeover. Using the current GMT900 platform, Avalanche shared design cues from its sister vehicles like the Tahoe and Suburban.
Like the previous generation, it retained the midgate platform design but improved its rough appearance by removing the body cladding entirely.
The new Chevrolet Avalanche would be offered strictly as a half-ton model to simplify options. The Z71 and Z66 packages were carried over but received updated features such as aluminum underbody panels.
After Chevrolet discontinued the previous generation Vortec 8.1L V8, they decided to offer a new 6.0L engine for the new Chevrolet Avalanche. The 6.0 L produced 366 horsepower and 376 lb-ft. of torque
Available as standard is the previous generation 5.3L, although Chevy allowed it to run on ethanol which increased power from 310 horsepower to 326 horsepower. Eventually, in 2010, the 6.0 L engine was removed from the Avalanche, leaving only the 5.3 L engine for its final three years of production.
Interestingly, the second-generation Chevrolet Avalanche received three levels of standard equipment. Serving as the base model, the LS version featured 17-inch alloy wheels and tires, cloth seating surfaces, a power bucket seat, OnStar, an AM/FM stereo with a single-disc CD/MP3 player, a stereo input jack, six-speaker audio, keyless entry, black door handles, aluminum interior trim, traction control, Caza Stabili Traky side airbags.
The mid-level LT trim added dual power front bucket seats, remote start, XM Satellite Radio, Bluetooth, and color-keyed door handles, rear door handle, and outside mirrors.
Top-of-the-range LTZ models received leather seating surfaces, a security alarm, an eight-speaker Bose CenterPoint premium amplified surround sound system, front driver’s seat memory, polished alloy wheels, rear-seat audio system. 20 inches and the exclusive LTZ system. Auto Ride suspension leveling.
safety and price
Compared to the previous generation, the new GMT900-based Chevrolet Avalanche fortunately performed better in crash tests. NHTSA has rated the 2010 Avalanche five stars overall thanks to its front, side and curtain airbags, as well as improved ABS, blind-spot monitoring, and rear parking sensors.
Given the 2013 discontinuation and declining sales, prices for the second-generation Chevrolet Avalanche are holding up better than those of the first generation.
Low-mileage LTZ models hover around the $25,000 mark. While that’s still a lot of money for a truck that’s about 10 years old, it’s a rock-solid combination of powertrain, luxury interior, and Silverado-style utility.
What are the best and worst years for avalanches?
Starting with the worst, it’s no surprise that the truck’s early years were the most undesirable. Due to body cladding issues, weak transmissions, and being around 20 years old, the 2001-2002 Chevrolet Avalanches are the worst years for the truck.
If you died in a first-generation Avalanche and you like the body cladding, we recommend going with a 2003-2005 model. Those years will guarantee you a reliable powertrain and much-needed interior upgrades while staying within the $8,000 price range.
The best years for the Chevrolet Avalanche are also not surprising, as the 2013 model year proved to be the best version of the truck. For the 2013 model year, Chevrolet decided to make each model a “Black Diamond Edition,” which gave the truck a special badge and customer brochures.
A handful of 2013 “Black Diamond Edition” LTZ trucks can be found within 100,000 miles, but they will carry a hefty $30,000 price tag as production numbers are limited.