Chevrolet Avalanche

The 2013 Chevrolet Avalanche is offered in LS, LT and LTZ models, each with a choice of rear-wheel drive or 4-wheel drive. A 320-horsepower 5.3L V8 is standard on all models hooked up to a responsive 6-speed automatic transmission.

The engine has Active Fuel Management, which switches to 4-cylinder operation when possible to help save fuel. Fuel economy ratings of 15 mpg city, 21 mpg highway are quite respectable for a vehicle of this size and capability.

The Avalanche's unusual styling aside, the centerpoint of this truck's unique setup is its folding mid-gate, which allows items from the truck bed to utilize passenger cabin space when needed. As such, the Avalanche can function as both a 6-passenger SUV and as a truck with an 8-foot bed. With the mid-gate open and the back seat folded fully down, the Avalanche can fit a 4-by-8-foot piece of plywood. The bed also has built-in storage compartments with drains, ideal for being filled with ice and used as coolers.

The Avalanche includes some of the same rugged character and ability as GM's full-size pickup models, including a very respectable tow rating of 8,100 pounds. Those who do plan to take their Avalanche far off the pavement will want to get the Z71 Off-Road package, which brings color-keyed wheel flares, tubular assist steps, a chrome grille insert and leather bucket seats. Z71 also includes a host of tough hardware, including high-pressure gas-charged shocks, on/off-road tires, recovery hooks, skid plates and an automatic-locking differential. The heavy-duty Trailering Package includes a 2-speed transfer case, which also comes standard on LTZ 4x4 models.

The 2013 Avalanche drives like most of GM's other full-size trucks--which is to say it's surprisingly nimble, with surprisingly good ride comfort and great interior appointments, including generously sized front seats.

In base LS trim, the Avalanche comes with a simple set of features that should be just fine for work-minded buyers. On the standard features list are front bucket seats, air conditioning, a rear backup camera, cruise control, steering-wheel audio controls and a MP3/CD sound system with USB port and SIRIUS/XM satellite radio. The LT is more comfort-minded and brings a soft-ride suspension plus remote start, remote keyless entry, dual-zone climate control and Bose audio. The LTZ trim gets lots of appearance extras like a garage-door opener, heated-and-cooled front seats, perforated leather upholstery, a DVD entertainment and a navigation system with XM NavTraffic info.

Safety features across the Avalanche range include traction control, front and rear airbags and electronic stability control.

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