For 2006, the Chevrolet Avalanche undergoes only very minor changes. The catalytic converters have been relocated on the 1500 model; a revised extendable outside rearview mirror is available on the 2500; the OnStar and satellite radio antennas have been combined into a single unit; and all models receive a standard tire pressure monitoring system.

A combination of full-size SUV and pickup truck, the Avalanche features a six-passenger truck cab with a structurally integrated box. A “midgate” divides the two; when it and the rear seats are folded, the Avalanche’s box becomes large enough to accept the ubiquitous 4×8 sheet of plywood. The rear window can also be lowered for ventilation.

The Avalanche – which also appears, over at Cadillac, in more luxurious trim as the Escalade EXT – is available in 1500 (half-ton) or 2500 (three-quarter-ton) configuration, and in LS and LT trim levels. The 1500 can be ordered in two- or four-wheel-drive, the 2500 in 4WD only. The 1500 can also be ordered with an Off-Road package, including skid plate, off-road jounce bumpers, high-capacity air cleaner, rubberized vinyl floor mats and aggressive tires, although it’s hard to understand why it’s offered in a 2WD version, since the whole idea of an off-road vehicle is to go, well, off-road.

The 1500 uses a 5.3-litre V8 that it shares with the Silverado, while the 2500 uses a massive 8.1-litre, big-block V8. Each has its own version of a four-speed Hydra-Matic automatic transmission.

Features on the LS include a three-piece composite cargo box cover and rubber box mat, fog lights, power heated mirrors, dual-zone manual air conditioning, cruise, rear defogger, leather-wrapped wheel, power windows, 40/20/40 split-bench reclining front seat with six-way power driver adjuster, 60/40 folding rear seat, CD player with six speakers, 16-inch aluminum wheels, power locks and keyless entry.

The LT adds power foldaway mirrors with puddle lights and integrated turn signals, dual-zone automatic air conditioning, HomeLink garage door opener, auto-dimming rearview mirror, wheel-mounted stereo and climate controls, high-back front bucket seats with leather inserts, ten-way power adjusters and two-position driver seat memory, and six-CD changer.

Much improved in the looks department when its thick plastic cladding was removed, the Avalanche still isn’t drop-dead gorgeous, but its heavy-duty stance and good proportions make for a truck that looks like it means business. It’s arguably bigger than it needs to be, given that most end up strictly as people-haulers in urban areas, and it’s quite thirsty, but it also offers a ride that’s smoother and more comfortable than most trucks, and the midgate cargo system makes for a versatile vehicle that even includes drain holes in the lockable cargo containers located in the quarter panels, so you can fill them with ice and use them as coolers.

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