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Road Test: 2002 Chevrolet Avalanche
By: Michael LevinePosted: 03-25-02 22:00 Updated: 03-25-02 23:00

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With the introduction of the 2002 Chevrolet Avalanche there hasn't been as much critical polarity surrounding a truck since the introduction of the 1994 Dodge Ram, which started today's golden age in full size trucks. And like that Ram, the Avalanche breaks new ground in form, function, innovation and versatility.

It's ironic then that the Avalanche debuts the same year as a completely redesigned Ram yet walks away with the more accolades and awards from the automotive press. It's even more ironic when you consider the Avalanche is based on a three year old platform versus the Ram's new underpinnings. This isn't to say that the new Ram is an underachiever, it's a nice improvement over the previous truck, but it's proof that the Avalanche's innovative features trump the Ram's relatively conservative overhaul.

Breaking so much new ground so quickly, however, doesn't come without at least some controversy.

The Avalanche's most controversial aspect has been its angular, plastic clad looks. People seem to either instantly like it or loathe it, but whatever the opinion the Avalanche's aggressive, trapezoidal features are unique and attention getting.

The high amount of plastic cladding surrounding the lower portions and front bumper on the Avalanche is quite functional, helping prevent dings and off-road damage, but it looks cheap on a truck this large and expensive. I would have favored a styling treatment similar to Cadillac's EXT, the uber-luxury version of the Avalanche. The EXT presents an attractive alternative that eliminates the gray plastic cladding in favor of a monotone color treatment. It's the same approach we took to the PickupTruck.com / Eaton Torque Controls Project Avalanche at SEMA last year. GM is well aware of this and we have received word from sources that future Avalanche's will do away with the cladding.

NOTE: Well, so much for our 'scoop' above. Automotive News is reporting that Bob Lutz, GM's Vice Chairman of Product Development, has ordered the cladding off the Avalanche for the 2003 model year. It will also save $750/truck. - Mike

A benefit of the Avalanche's distinctive look is that it's recognized just about everywhere you go and it actually helps to reinforce what the truck can do.

During our road test people instantly recognized the truck on the streets (how could you miss it?) even though when we originally road tested the Avalanche it had been for sale for only a very short period. Many actually seemed to care more about, and want to see demonstrated, the Avalanche's coolest feature, its innovative Midgate. The exterior became secondary, serving to remind them that this was the truck with that new feature.

The Avalanche's Midgate, part of what Chevrolet calls its Convert-a-Cab System, is the missing link for today's personal use crew cab owners.

Functioning like a tailgate in the middle of the truck the Midgate quickly folds down, along with the rear passenger seats, to instantly provide more bed space and storage capacity. It's up to you to decide how much of the Midgate you want to use or need. If it's nice outside you can simply remove the rear glass while keeping the rest of the cabin

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