wall in place
to get that open air feel. The glass conveniently stows behind the rear
seats in a protected cubby hole. With three removable Pro-Tec composite
panels covering the bed, it also acts like a giant trunk to store items
so they are protected from the elements
You can tell
that lots of thought went into the entire Convert-a-Cab system. A single
person can operate the Midgate in about a minute and two people can zip
through it in 30 seconds if you practice enough. It doesn't take much
is the Midgate and how well does this hybrid system work in real life?
We put it to the test by loading two dirt bikes, a Husqvarna TE400 and
Cannondale MX400 (see inclusion) side by side into the bed. That's a lot
of bike. We discovered that while you can get the Husky and Cannon loaded
with the Midgate down, it's best to keep it up and then drop the tailgate
combined with a bed extender.
We also loaded
one superbike into the Avalanche, an MV Agusta F4S (see inclusion). It
was so large we needed to strap it in with both the Midgate and tailgate
down but the truck still swallowed the motorcycle without complaint.
Chevrolet Avalanche - Superbikes not Included
up the Avalanche at Munroe Motors in San Francisco to test the bed
capacity and determine how to transport a few extra wheels was fun.
We had a chance to play with some of the more exotic forms of transportation
that you will find on this planet. The bikes you see in the Avalanche
are regular brands sold in the US, but not regular in their abilities
Agusta F4S (the racy looking one!)
than a mere motorcycle, the Italian (where else?) MV Agusta F4S
is rolling artwork. Designed by Massimo Tamburini, the original
designer of the current Ducati 748/996, it is regarded as the pinnacle
of his design career. Virtually every part was specially designed
from a clean sheet of paper to render exceptional performance and
style. The F4S is powered by a 749.4cc inline four cylinder engine
using 16 "radial format" valves, electronic fuel injection
and a 12:1 compression ratio to produce a healthy 126 hp at 12,500
rpm. That's 2.7 horses per cubic inch, so a comparable 350 Chevy
engine would have 945 hp, to put things in perspective. Six-piston
calipers on the dual "floating" disks on the front and
a rather more conventional caliper/disk on the rear provide the
stopping power. The gauges are particularly cool, especially the
part where the tach needle swings to 17,000 rpm every time the ignition
is switched on. It weighs in at 419 lbs dry and supposedly goes
171mph owing to its exceptional aerodynamics and 3.32 lbs/hp power
to weight ratio (at this ratio, that 350 engine above would only
be powering a 3150 lb truck!). All this finery costs $18,995 at
your local dealer, although a limited edition "Oro" version
was also available for $39,995. It featured sand-cast engine cases,
magnesium frame and swingarm castings, and full carbon fiber bodywork.
Yes, even the gas tank.
the road, The F4S feels as if it were machined from a single billet-probably
the most remarkable difference between it and the mass produced
bikes of similar specification. And it's prettier. The suspension
feels smooth and precise, if not overly stable-the bias being toward
quick turn-in and flickability. The brakes are linear and progressive.
It feels as if your right wrist is connected directly to the engine.
So, feel is what its all about. But all you can see in the mirrors
are your elbows, so be careful.
is another old-time name justifiably proud of its heritage. Their
most recent accomplishment is winning the ISDT on a TE400, the second
bike pictured here. Actually a cousin to the MV (Cagiva owns both),
the TE400 Husky exemplifies in its own way the pinnacle of heritage:
originally Swedish, now Italian. While not the visual standout the
MV is, the TE400 similarly benefits from years of engineering excellence
honed by the successful pursuit of championship competition titles
(59 since Husqvarna's 1903 inception)
Husky's forte is going fast in the dirt. Except that it doesn't
feel especially fast-which is the point as it helps you to ride
faster. The TE is very easy to ride. The suspension is progressive
and somewhat firm, so it doesn't bottom when going fast. Turn-in
is razor-sharp. Brakes are not overly sensitive, offering great
modulation when braking from speed on low-traction surfaces. The
advantage of the four-stroke engine is its linear powerband, offering
exceptional pull at all engine speeds, again with easy modulation
to help find available traction. In all, with its narrow profile
and slim, flat sides, it's a lot like riding an arrow through the
woods. Fast. Husqvarna's have a great reputation for reliability,
and have now started marketing supermotard versions of their famous
dirtbikes for those who want a Husky for the streets.
you ride a Cannondale. A bicycle that is. Well lookie here. Cannondale
is hot on the trail of making excellent motocross bikes and this
first effort is terrific. The MX400 pictured in the bed of the Avalanche
is a break from the normal. The first thing you notice is the reversed
cylinder head. With the pipe coming out the back of the head and
working its way back to the underside of the seat, the Cannondale
has an unusual look with no curled set of headers or a massive exhaust
pipe having to be routed around the engine and frame. Supplied with
Ohlins forks and shock as original equipment, the machine is capable
of being set up for the most finickly off-roader, but also capable
of being ridden in the dirt right out of the crate. The first models
have had their teething problems but most everyone who has tried
them is really impressed with the level of function given this first
effort. The new model year promises some impressive improvements
in the engine and transmission area, and some new models with a
very high level of OEM equipment. With Cannondale being a US company,
now you can own your Harley and your Cannondale and feel as patriotic
as the next guy, without supporting those foreign manufacturers.
(Yeah, we know all about Marysville!)
All the beating
on the Midgate to figure out the best positions for the bikes had no effect
on the tough composite surfaces.
the Avalanche is more Chevy Suburban than Silverado and this has a very
large and beneficial impact on ride and handling. It was hard to tell
you weren't in a Suburban while driving, the Avalanche was so solid and
quiet. Its integrated cargo box and cab also provides a much higher degree
of rigidity than you normally find in a pickup.
had the optional Z71 4x4 off road package which comes with P265/70R16
tires, 17-inch wheels, front and rear Bilstein shocks, and a locking rear
differential. We took it on some fire trails to test out its Autotrac
four wheel drive system. Road chatter and oscillations were minimal over
the gravel and dirt surface and it never got too slippery even on some
of the more finely powdered sections.
dissatisfying driving experience we had was when we picked up a piece
of gravel that somehow got past the dust shield and worked its way into
the brake rotor of one of the rear wheels, finally eroding away with obstinate
high-pitched squeals of protest.
Out in the
real world, in two wheel drive, the Avalanche handled very nicely on the
highway and surface streets. We drove a 10 mile stretch on the freeway
with the rear window glass stowed and it was very quiet inside the cabin.
It didn't require raising your voice to hold a conversation or turning
the radio up. In parking lots the Avalanche was as nimble as could be
expected, though for finer movements a rear parking assist option would
be very handy.