July 16, 2002
by Jim Kerr
Remember the little Hot Wheels trucks we used to play with? Funky styling, bright colours, and bold wheels attracted lots of us to these pocket-sized dream machines. Now the 2002 Chevy Avalanche is on the road, and in many ways, it reminds me of those little toys. Neat styling, the right stance, and bright colours make the Avalanche stand out in a crowd, but this unique vehicle is much more than just a toy.
The Avalanche is part 6-passenger SUV and part 3-passenger pickup truck. It can be quickly converted from one to the other by removing the rear window, folding down the rear seats and the front part of the box. Its called Convert-a-cab. The versatile “midgate” increases the length of the box from 5′ 3′ (1602 mm) to a full 8′ 1′ (2478 mm) long. Slip on the three box cover panels and full size sheets of drywall can be carried home even in the pouring rain.
Meet the Avalanche 2500. The only visible clues identifying the Avalanche 2500 from the 1500 series are the discrete “2500” numbers embossed in the lower plastic door cladding, and the very small plastic flares along the top edge of the front wheel openings. It may look like the half-ton Avalanche models, but this 3/4 ton unit is one of the big boys. Check out what’s under the hood.
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Beneath the plastic intake sits an 8.1 litre Vortec V8 big block engine. Yup, that’s 8.1 litres – or 495 cubic inches of rock-grinding, stump-pulling power. Get aggressive with the gas pedal and all four tires can go up in smoke. But the Avalanche 2500 doesn’t come with the Vortec 8100 just so you can impress your friends. It is meant for pulling, with a peak torque of 455 ft. lbs. at only 3200 r.p.m.’s, but no 5th wheels please. The box sail panels and composite floor materials preclude the installation of a 5th wheel hitch, so it’s pull behind trailers only.
The only way to get more torque from the factory is to get a diesel. Unfortunately, the Avalanche 2500 can’t be ordered with one. I think it would make a great combination, but the 8100 is a great pulling engine. Fuel economy figures are not provided because the Avalanche 2500 is classed as a heavy-duty vehicle, but I was pleasantly surprised with it economy. I found it comparable to GM diesel equipped trucks, even though I was putting it through its paces. Never the less, if you like the Avalanche features but are looking for economy, stick with the 1500 series and its 5.3 litre engine.
Click image to enlarge
The Avalanche 2500 is available in both 2 wheel drive and 4 wheel drive. Four wheel drive units have an automatic transfer case that can be operated in 4wd -Auto mode for all road conditions, or it can be shifted with the push of a button into 4wd Hi or Low for more serious off-roading. A heavy-duty 4L80E four speed automatic transmission couples the engine to the transfer case.
Instead of the coil springs found on the Avalanche 1500, the 3/4 ton model gets a two-stage leaf spring system. The ride is definitely firmer but I never found it objectionable on any road surfaces. With a wheelbase 13 1/2 inches (343 mm) shorter than a GM extended cab short box pickup, the Avalanche is reasonably nimble around town. Unfortunately, the high back end makes it difficult to see vehicles behind it, so care is needed when parking.
With nearly 80% of the Avalanche components shared with Suburban models, there is lots of room inside for passengers. Six large adults fit comfortably. Order the upgrade bucket seats and leather trim and you have a luxury vehicle for five.
The box area is built for use. A thick rubber mat protects the floor, and the composite tailgate is strong enough to load an ATV’s. Three removable composite alloy/plastic panels cover the box to keep cargo secure. The panels weigh only 20 lbs, but are designed to support 250 lbs. each.
A crossover between the Chevy Suburban and a pickup truck, the Avalanche has features that put it in a class of it’s own. Lockable storage boxes at each rear corner of the box, corner steps in the bumper, and the removable rear window and midgate make the Avalanche a practical yet unique way to go.
The Avalanche is built in Silao, Mexico
Technical Data: 2002 Chevrolet Avalanche 2500
|Base price||2wd: $41,760; 4wd: $45,055|
|Price as tested||$49,110|
|Type||4-door, 6 passenger full size pickup/SUV|
|Layout||longitudinal front engine/four-wheel-drive|
|Engine||8.1 litre OHV V8|
|Horsepower||340 @ 4200 r.p.m.|
|Torque||455 ft-lbs @ 3,200 r.p.m.|
|Transfer case||Full-time, part-time, and Low gear 4WD modes|
|Towing capacity||max. 5443 kg (12,000 lb.)|
|GVWR||3901 kg. (8600 lb.)|
|Curb weight||3013 kg. (6642 lb.)|
|Wheelbase||3302 mm (130.0 in.)|
|Length||5628 mm (221.6 in.)|
|Width||2012 mm ( 79.2 in.)|
|Height||1894 mm ( 74.6 in.)|
|Warranty||3 yrs/60,000 km|
|Special Features/Options||running boards, bucket seats, leather interior trim, locking rear differential, trailering package|