By KBB.com Editors
When it was first introduced, the Avalanche was unique, combining a full-size SUV body with a pickup truck's cargo bed. Nine years later, the 2011 model continues with the same proportions, but with much better packaging. The Chevrolet Avalanche is built on GM's full-size SUV platform, which is also used for the Chevrolet Suburban and GMC Yukon XL, and it offers gasoline as well as Flex-Fuel (E85) capability. A refined small-block 5.3-liter V8 engine is standard and includes Active Fuel Management cylinder deactivation for optimal fuel economy. Three trim levels are offered: LS, LT, and LTZ with rear-wheel or four-wheel drive.You'll Like This Car If...
If you regularly pull a boat or trailer and also need the cargo capabilities of a pickup truck, along with abundant passenger space and comfort, remember that a properly-equipped Avalanche can tow up to 8,100 pounds (7,900 with 4WD.) With its versatile Midgate configuration, the 2011 Avalanche can be set up to carry long loads (including four-by-eight-foot plywood sheets) or, with rear seatbacks raised, to hold a full complement of passengers.You May Not Like This Car If...
If gas mileage is a major concern, you might be better off with a different sort of vehicle, because the Avalanche is not frugal, even with the Active Fuel Management System. Piloting an Avalanche through crowded urban streets is no picnic because of the vehicle's bulk, though maneuverability is better than some might expect.What's New for 2011
Changes for 2011 are marked by some new paint colors, the addition of body-colored side mirrors on the LS trim and a new two-speed transfer case on the LTZ 4WD, replacing last year's single speed unit.Driving It Driving Impressions
Compared to the original Avalanche (and even some of its modern competitors), the 2011 model has an impressive level of refinement. On good roads the suspension absorbs most imperfections, delivering an almost cushiony ride but not at the expense of control or security, and the Avalanche takes curves with a high level of stability. Acceleration is more rapid than it may feel, because power flow is so smooth. The automatic transmission shifts in an easy and positive manner, with a brief delay for acceleration to pass or merge. Steering is on the light side, but not effortless, and the vehicle has an impressively tight turning circle.Favorite Features
Active Fuel Management System
Chevrolet is by no means alone in offering cylinder deactivation, but it's a welcome addition to these heavyweight vehicles, which are known for consuming substantial quantities of gasoline.
True pickup-truck fans might shun the Avalanche's relatively short cargo bed and SUV foundation, but the Midgate gives it a degree of versatility that's absent from traditional pickups.
With its Midgate closed, the 2011 Chevrolet Avalanche can seat up to six passengers. Folding down the rear seat yields the greatest cargo-hauling capacity. Compared to the first-generation Avalanche, the 2011 model provides better passenger space via a lower instrument panel and deeper windshield. On LT and LTZ trims, a monster console separates front-seat occupants, who have a remarkably generous amount of space. The rear seat folds flat, rear-seat occupants enjoy generous shoulder space and three fit easily, though the center position is a bit snug. Seatbacks are somewhat firm, but deliver above-average comfort. Gauges are easy to read at a glance.Exterior
As with the original, the 2011 Chevrolet Avalanche's Midgate opens to extend cargo-bed length from 5.3 feet to 8.2 feet. With improved aerodynamics and a strengthened chassis, the monochromatic exterior features wraparound fascias that eliminate bumper-to-body gaps. Storage compartments alongside the cargo box include drains and provide lockable space and a three-piece rigid cargo cover with interlocking panels is available. A sleek windshield angle extends into a smooth roofline, the front air dam is low and wide and prominent fenders with integrated wheel flares complement the bulging power-dome hood. A wide front and rear track enhance stability.Notable Standard Equipment
In base LS trim, the Avalanche includes remote keyless entry, heated power mirrors, a cloth-upholstered 40/20/40 split-bench front seat with power on both the driver's and passenger's sides, side steps, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, rear privacy glass, the StabiliTrak stability-enhancement system, head curtain side-impact airbags and 17-inch tires on five-spoke aluminum wheels. GM's Autoride suspension, with real-time damping for reduced body motion, is standard on the LTZ, as is a limited-slip differential and 20-inch wheels and tires. The LTZ and various levels of the LT group also include remote engine starting, rear obstacle detection, leather upholstery and power-adjustable pedals. All versions of the Avalanche include GM's OnStar.Notable Optional Equipment
The Z71 Off-Road Package includes 18-inch wheels, the Z71 suspension, tubular assist steps, locking rear differential and a skid-plate package. Available articulated running boards automatically move downward and outward as the doors are opened. Individual options, depending upon trim level, include Ultrasonic Rear Parking Assist, a rearview camera system, navigation system, DVD backseat entertainment system with an eight-inch screen, XM Satellite Radio with real time traffic assist for navigation equipped models and 20-inch wheels.Under the Hood
The standard engine is a Vortec 5.3-liter V8, matched to a six-speed 6L80 Hydra-Matic transmission. The engine can operate on E85 or gasoline, although fuel economy is greatly reduced when using E85 while horsepower is increased slightly. Under certain conditions, Active Fuel Management Technology lets the engine run on four cylinders to save fuel.
5.3-liter V8 Flex Fuel (iron block)
320 horsepower @ 5400 rpm
335 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 15/21 (2WD, gas), 11/16 (2WD, E85)
5.3-liter V8 Flex-Fuel (aluminum block)
320 horsepower @ 5400 rpm
335 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 15/21 (2WD, gas), 11/16 (2WD, E85), 15/21 (4WD, gas), 11/16 (4WD, E85)
In LS trim with rear-wheel drive the 2011 Chevrolet Avalanche has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting around $37,000. A mid-level Avalanche LT stickers for a few thousand more, while a fully-loaded LTZ with four-wheel drive can pass the $55,000 mark. Be sure to click on Fair Purchase Prices to check what the Avalanche is currently selling for in your area. In terms of resale value, we predict that over time the 2011 Avalanche will hold similar values to the 1500 Silverado Extended Cab, Honda Ridgeline and Ford F-150 Super Cab, and outperform the Dodge Ram 1500 Quad Cab and Nissan Titan.