For 2007, the Chevrolet Avalanche is all-new, with new engines, a new and stronger chassis, and redesigned exterior and interior. Updated features include a central-locking tailgate, remote starting system, cargo cover retaining straps, and a spring-loaded tailgate to reduce opening and closing effort. For 2007, all Avalanches are rated as one-ton trucks.

The 5.3-litre V8 makes 320 hp in 2WD versions and 310 hp in 4WD, and features Active Fuel Management, which seamlessly deactivates half the cylinders under light load for improved fuel economy. The 5.3-litre is also E85 flexible-fuel-capable (85 per cent ethanol/15 per cent gasoline) although that fuel is still difficult to find. There’s also an optional 6.0-litre V8 with Active Fuel Management. All transmissions mate to a four-speed Hydra-Matic automatic transmission.

The Avalanche is based on GM’s new full-size SUV platform, offering SUV-like seating with pickup truck capability, and with the model’s signature “Midgate”, which opens to extend the cargo bed from 1600 mm (63 in.) to 2500 mm (98 in.). With the Midgate closed, the Avalanche will carry six passengers. The cargo box also contains lockable storage compartments with drains, so they can be used as coolers; a three-piece rigid cargo cover is available.

There are three trim lines: the LS and LT are 2WD or 4WD, while the top-of-the-line LTZ is 4WD only.

Features on the LS include 17-inch aluminum wheels, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, tire pressure monitoring system, rear chrome bumper, cargo mat and cover, dual-zone manual climate control, heated mirrors, power windows, variable intermittent wipers, cruise control, auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather-wrapped wheel, remote starter preparation package, trailer package, 40/20/40 cloth front bench seat with six-way power driver’s adjuster, second-row 60/40 folding bench seat, OnStar and CD/MP3 player with six speakers.

The LT adds colour-keyed door handles, fog lights, front bucket seats with centre floor console, second-row audio controls and deluxe 17-inch aluminum wheels

The LTZ adds 20-inch aluminum wheels, curtain airbag with rollover sensor, colour-keyed rear bumper, power folding mirrors with driver’s side auto-dimming feature, roof rack, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone automatic climate control, power-adjustable pedals, garage door opener, remote starter, rear parking assist, leather interior with 12-way driver and passenger electric adjuster, premium six-CD/MP3 stereo, XM Satellite Radio and AutoRide automatic road-sensing suspension with rear air levelling system.

Available options include a touch-screen navigation system, rearview camera and rear-seat DVD entertainment system. There’s also a Z71 Off-Road package, with larger recovery hook openings, larger fog lamps and 18-inch wheels.

GM’s new platform includes a stiffer frame that has increased ride quality in these big vehicles, and the new interiors are exceptionally well done, with excellent fit-and-finish. This truck also appears over at Cadillac as the Escalade EXT, but it’s almost $18,000 over the Avalanche LTZ, in itself a very well-equipped vehicle. The new 5.3-litre’s fuel ratings are a welcome improvement over 2006’s engine, which didn’t have the Active Fuel Management feature. This is still more of an urban people-hauler, and is undoubtedly bigger than it needs to be, but there’s no denying its popularity. More SUV than truck, it should be comparison-shopped against vehicles like the Ford Explorer Sport Trac and the Honda Ridgeline.

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