Chevrolet Avalanche
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by Tony Whitney

Although Chevrolet’s remarkable Avalanche is a fairly new product, that hasn’t stopped the GM division from making a wide range of very significant changes for the 2003 model year.

Many of these changes are cosmetic in nature, but lots of others relate to engineering and more practical design aspects. For starters, the vehicle now has electronic throttle control, putting it up there with many high-tech and upscale sedans. Dual stage front air bags are now standard, along with an automatic airbag suppression system. Four channel Stabilitrak is available on 2WD versions and this system really does improve traction and stability for the Avalanche.

Chevrolet Avalanche

Chevrolet Avalanche
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Options now on the roster for Avalanche include adjustable brake and accelerator pedals, DVD rear entertainment system, in-dash CD changer, nine-button steering wheel controls, power-folding rearview mirrors with turn signals, camper mirrors and several other useful items.

Inside the Avalanche is a re-designed instrument cluster and new interior trim fabric. The centre floor console has also been re-styled. There’s a new dark charcoal body cladding colour and a new exterior colour – dark grey. All in all, your 2003 Avalanche can be quite a bit different from the 2002 version, desirable though that truck was.

We have to give Chevrolet full marks for the Avalanche when it comes to versatility and innovation. Surely this product, if anything, will subdue all that talk about GM not being adventurous enough with its vehicles. This is a good example of an automaker actually exceeding the market’s expectations. Nobody could possibly have expected anything quite as unusual as this to turn up from Chevrolet – it came right out of the blue, initially as a concept vehicle on the auto show circuit.

Certainly, the Avalanche has no rivals when it comes to sheer load and people-carrying adaptability. Being able to configure the rig in so many different ways makes it the ultimate “crossover” vehicle between a pickup truck and a regular SUV.

Generally speaking, the various configurations are easy enough to set up, but some of the removable bits involve a little grappling to take off and re-fit. I suppose that most owners will leave their Avalanche ready-to-go in the configuration they use most. Ringing the changes quickly is probably something that ownership familiarity will take care of.

Chevrolet Avalanche
Click image to enlarge

There are two engines available – a 285 horsepower, 5.3 litre V8 and a 340 horsepower, 8.1 litre V8. Both are exceptionally capable units. Buyers can choose various combinations of 2WD, 4WD and AWD. As yet, you can’t get the excellent GM DuraMax diesel for this rig, but
it’d be nice to see one as an option.

Apart from this great-looking truck’s amazing convertibility, there are countless details which impressed me. For example, there is very effective lighting in the storage areas so that loading and unloading at night isn’t a problem. There’s a decent-sized rear bumper step and easy-to-reach grab handles to ease the chore of climbing in and out of the load area. A big rubber mat in the cargo area helps prevent loads sliding around. These, and other clever touches, add to the Avalanche’s practicality.

One thing I asked the GM engineering and marketing team attending Avalanche’s media launch was “why did it have to be so big?” It seems to me that if this vehicle was based on a V6 powered compact pickup or SUV and not a huge Suburban, it would have more youth market appeal. GM is convinced that the Suburban platform was the right one for this vehicle, but doesn’t rule out the possibility of future “mini-Avalanches” if the concept proves popular.

So who’s going to buy the Avalanche anyway, apart from successful rodeo cowboys and the more prosperous loggers and oil patch workers? Certainly, there are lots of people out there who own both a pickup truck and an SUV and would like to cut their expenses and combine the two. For them this rig could be the perfect choice – as it could be for suburbanites who want more than a mere Suburban.

Already, the Avalanche has proven very popular indeed. Even Chevrolet’s well-illustrated brochures and press kits don’t do it justice – you just have to get your hands on one and take it for a test drive. The 2003 Avalanche ranges in price from $38,135 for the 2WD 1/2 ton model to $44,310 for the 4WD 3/4 ton truck.

Technical Data: 2003 Chevrolet Avalanche

Base price $38,135
Type 4-door, 5 passenger full-size SUV/pickup
Layout longitudinal front engine/rear-wheel-drive (4WD)
Engine 5.3 litre V8, OHV
Horsepower 285 @ 5200 rpm
Torque 325 lb-ft. @ 4000 rpm
Transmission 4-speed automatic
Curb weight 2466 kg (5437 lb.)
Payload 618 kg (1363 lb.)
Towing capacity 3764 kg.(8300 lb.)
Wheelbase 3302 mm (130.0 in.)
Length 5631 mm (221.7 in.)
Width 2364 mm ( 93.0 in.)
Height 1867 mm ( 73.5 in.)
Ground clearance 208.8 mm (8.22″)
Tires P265/70R16 all-season
Cargo box 1161 litres (41 cu.ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 17.8 l/100 km (16 mpg)
  13.2 l/100 km (21 mpg)
Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km
Powertrain warranty 5 year/100,000 km

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