2002 Chevrolet Avalanche 1500

    2002 Chevrolet Avalanche 1500 Expert Review:New Car Test Drive

    Innovative design with impressive details.


    Chevrolet's Avalanche is the most innovative truck sold today. Chevrolet has figured out a way to stuff an eight-foot pickup bed and seating for five people into one truck. It combines the comfort of a five-passenger Suburban with the hauling capability of a Chevy Silverado long-bed pickup. 

    It does this with an ingenious device called a midgate that allows the owner to convert the truck from a cargo hauler to a people hauler within a couple of minutes. With the midgate secured, the Avalanche can carry five people in comfort along with a load of cargo in its 5-foot 3-inch bed. Grab a load of dirt or gravel without any worries of messing up either the luxurious interior or the bullet-proof bed. Lower the midgate and carry a stack of 4x8-foot sheets of plywood; and that's with the tailgate up. Your plywood will stay dry inside the covered bed. Or you can always park an ATV back there. 

    The Avalanche is an impressive concept vehicle that made it to reality. It solves an age-old practical problem. Easily overlooked, however, is the attention to detail seen everywhere: flush-mounted cargo lights that illuminate the bed, foldaway tie-down hooks, footholds and handholds for climbing up onto the cargo cover. The list goes on and on. The Avalanche is big, slightly longer than a Suburban, yet it feels tight and surprisingly nimble on the road. 


    Chevrolet Avalanche comes in two weight ranges: 1500 and 2500. 2WD and 4WD models are available. There's only one trim level available for 2002. 

    Retail prices: 1500 2WD ($30,465); 1500 4WD ($33,465); 2500 2WD ($32,365); 2500 4WD ($35,365). 

    Avalanche 1500 models are powered by a 5.3-liter Vortec V8 rated at 285 horsepower and 325 pounds-feet of torque. It comes with the 4L60-E four-speed automatic and is rated to tow 8100 pounds. 

    Avalanche 2500 Series models use the new Vortec 8100, an 8.1-liter V8 rated at 340 horsepower. It comes mated with a 4L85 heavy-duty automatic transmission with overdrive and tow haul mode. 2500 Series models ride on rear leaf springs in place of the 1500's five-link coil springs with automatic load leveling. 2500s are rated to tow up to 12,000 pounds. 

    A special North Face Edition is available as a 4WD 1500 model that features Chevy's Z71 suspension, green and black seats, special door trim, floor mats with North Face logos, a white instrument cluster, badges on the C-pillars. Sage Green, an exterior color, will be unique to the North Face Edition, with Sunset Orange, Onyx, Black, Pewter and Summit White available as well. Also included are two Summit Pod backpacks, as well as Water Duffalo storage bags, which will initially be exclusive to Avalanche. 


    The Avalanche is essentially a modified Chevy Suburban. Fully 85 percent of its parts are the same. GM's engineers created the Avalanche by lopping off the rear roof structure and quarter windows of a Suburban, and redesigning the back end. When the rear seats are in place, there's a 5-foot 3-inch bed - long enough for most tasks. It's built on the same superb platform as the Chevy Silverado. 

    The Avalanche comes standard with a lockable hard bed cover rated to support 250 pounds. You can walk all over it. Fold the midgate down and you can fill the bed with drywall, close the tailgate, and drive home in a downpour without any fear of seeing your drywall turn into wetwall. PRO-TEC composite material is used for midgate, tailgate and portions of cargo box. The composite material is exceptionally durable, and resists dings, scratches and dents. Two Top-Box Storage compartments on either side of the cargo box provide a combined 3.5 cubic feet of lockable storage space; the compartments have drains, so they can be filled with ice and used as coolers. 

    The Avalanche is the first to feature Chevrolet's edgy styling for upcoming full-size pickups and SUVs, starting with the 2003 Silverado. Another styling element that distinguishes the 2002 Avalanche is its extensive use of body cladding. The cladding does serve a purpose: it is a composite material that's tough as iron and is impervious to flying gravel. 

    Standard wheels are 16-inch cast aluminum; 17-inch wheels are optional. Two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive models use the same suspensions and have the same ground clearance. 


    Inside, the Avalanche offers many of the interior benefits and features of a well-trimmed Suburban. That means a comfortable cabin for passengers and good ergonomic design for the driver. Interior lighting is implemented throughout the cabin with flush-mounted cargo lights in the bed. Climate control is optional. 

    The most interesting feature is, of course, the Midgate. It allows the Avalanche to switch from a Suburban-like vehicle with comfortable seating for up to six people with a 5-foot, 3-inch cargo box to a three-passenger pickup truck with an 8-foot, 1-inch box. The midgate works just like a folding rear seat in a sedan or SUV: Folding it up reveals a nice, comfortable bench seat. Folding it down provides flat cargo space and access to the back. Instead of carpet, the midgate is backed with a tough composite material impervious to gravel or anything else you can throw at it. 

    But there's more: the rear window of the crew cab can be quickly removed and stored out of harm's way under the midgate. Remove the bed cover, which is divided into three pieces, slide it into a nice fabric bag that's provided and store it along the bed; it attaches to the side to minimize the space it takes up. Now you have a fully functional pickup with an eight-foot bed. You can park an ATV in back, with the fenders where the rear seat was moments before. 

    This, of course, results in an open-air driving experience; there's nothing separating you and the open pickup bed. But wind noise is minimal, with no buffeting. Only a slight breeze reminds you that your ATV is sitting on the back seat. GM engineers achieved this through extensive tuning in the wind tunnel and a pair of flying buttresses that add structural rigidity to the truck and can be used as tie-downs. 

    Seats in the Avalanche are identical to the first two rows in the Suburban. Avalanche comes with a coffee warmer, available map lights, and the ultimate in sun visors. The rear seats can also be folded down for cargo space inside the cab; there's nearly 54 cubic feet of interior cargo volume with the midgate up and rear seat folded. 

    Driving Impression

    The Avalanche 1500 models ride as smoothly as a fully loaded Suburban, maybe even better. The Avalanche feels smooth and quiet. It feels tight with no squeaks or rattles. The suspension system soaks up large potholes and offers a good ride on rough terrain. 

    The Avalanche offers excellent handling for a big, heavy truck. It seems to handle a little better than a Suburban. 4WD and 2WD versions of the Avalanche use the same suspension and same ride height, with torsion bars in front and a five-link coil-spring suspension with a solid axle in the rear. 

    The brakes are excellent. GM has come a long way with brakes in the past few years. 

    The 5.3-liter V8 delivers plenty of punch. It's a responsive engine, rated at 285 horsepower and, more important, 325 pounds-feet of torque, which launches it quickly off the line. The broad, flat torque curve, with 90 percent of peak torque available from 1600 to 5000 rpm, is designed to provide outstanding trailer- and load-hauling capability. A properly equipped Avalanche is rated to tow up to 8300 pounds. 

    The four-speed automatic transmission (4L60-E) offers responsive shifting. Pressing the Tow/Haul mode results in quicker, harder shifts and less hunting between gears to reduce heat buildup. 

    Autotrac four-wheel drive lets the driver shift into different modes depending on conditions: 2HI offers the best efficiency; Auto 4WD transfers power from the rear wheels to the front wheels as needed to optimize traction in inconsistent conditions; 4HI provides the best traction in rugged terrain; 4LO is available when it gets really ugly; and neutral allows the Avalanche to be flat-towed. 

    2WD models come with electronic traction control for more controlled acceleration on slippery surfaces. 

    Avalanche 2500 models come with a 8.1-liter V8 that generates 455 pounds-feet of torque at just 3200 rpm. It's rated to tow up to 12,000 pounds in either 2WD or 4WD versions. Payload is rated at 2247 pounds for 2WD 2500s, 1958 pounds for 4WD versions; 1500 models offer a 1363-pound payload for 2WD, 1322 pounds for 4WD. 


    Chevrolet Avalanche offers an innovative solution for people who need a full-size pickup with an eight-foot bed, but at other times want comfortable five- or six-passenger seating. Its cargo bed is indestructible and can take a load of gravel. The interior is as luxurious as a Suburban. 

    There's plenty of power from the 1500 model's V8 engines and the handling and ride quality strike a good balance. The 2500 models offer big towing capability. Attention to detail from the standpoints of design and engineering and customer comfort and convenience is impressive. Overall, this is one of the most interesting trucks available today. 

    Model Lineup

    1500 2WD ($30,465); 1500 4WD ($33,465); 2500 2WD ($32,365); 2500 4WD ($35,365). 

    Assembled In

    Silao, Mexico. 

    Options As Tested

    six-way power bucket seats with sport leather/cloth trim ($1,115); Premium On-Road Suspension ($835) includes 17-inch wheels, specially tuned springs, load-leveling shocks, traction assist, locking rear differential, special floor mats; Convenience Package ($653) includes driver's-side self-dimming mirror, electronic climate control, Homelink, OnStar telematics; assist steps ($395). 

    Model Tested

    1500 2WD ($30,245). 

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    Read 2002 Chevrolet Avalanche 1500 Base 4x2 reviews from auto industry experts to gain insight on the Chevrolet Avalanche 1500's drivability, comfort, power and performance.
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