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More emphasis was placed on interior styling, fabric choices and noise suppression. A new instrument panel, more comfortable seats that don’t have integrated seat belts, increased shoulder room and additional storage options are noticeable improvements. Not as obvious is the complete acoustic package that includes spray-on damping and sound mats in strategic locations.

The familiar Midgate/folding rear seat system returns. The seat back folds to make a flat load floor. Then the Midgate and rear window can be removed together or separately. With the Midgate out, the 5.3-foot cargo bed in effect extends into the passenger compartment for a total length of 8.3 feet. Some fans of the Avalanche have asked for a power Midgate, but such a move would negate the option of removing the Midgate and leaving the rear window in place for a quieter ride.

The side storage bins return as does the optional tonneau. 3-piece rigid cargo cover. New for ’07 is a central-locking tailgate that is spring loaded to reduce the effort needed to open or close it. The traditional keyed lock is removed. Now locking and unlocking is handled with interior switches or with the keyfob. Chevy has also implemented a more secure method of storing the cargo cover when not in use.

Under the cab is a new fully boxed frame that officials say offers 49 percent increased torsional stiffness compared to the previous generation and has additional crush space. The frame also supports wider front and rear tracks for improved stability. The front suspension has been changed to a coil-over-shock design. Previous 4x4 models were torsion bar. Rack-and-pinion steering is standard. In the rear, the 5-link/coil spring arrangement returns. The Avalanche gets larger 4-wheel disc brakes with dual-piston calipers and new ABS controls from Bosch. Standard on the LTZ trim is the Autoride suspension, a bi-state, real-time damping system that uses wheel motion sensors to responds to changes in road conditions.

Safety upgrades were important to the entire GMT900 platform, so the Avalanche now offers StabiliTrak as standard equipment. This electronic stability control system includes rollover mitigation technology. Other safety improvements include side curtain air bags and safety belt pretensioners with rear impact deployment capability. An ultrasonic rear parking assist and/or rearview camera system are available so the driver can be aware of objects or persons behind the truck. And there’s also the next generation OnStar that makes crash data available to emergency services to help facilitate the proper response.

For off-road fans, Avalanche will over a new Z71 package later in the year. Officials promise more than just a wheel/tire/shock/decal package. Some features that have been announced include larger tow hooks, more prominent fog lamps and a new grille texture. Avalanche will be offered in nine exterior colors.

When the Avalanche was introduced in 2001 as a 2002 model, it was a maverick in the truck community. It had breakout styling with the military-chic cladding, batwing headlights and sails flying off the C-pillars. Eventually, other Chevy vehicles picked up on the Avalanche’s front-end styling cues and all the trucks started to look the same. Even though the Avalanche shared 85 percent of its parts with the Suburban, it was distinctive and rebellious in the beginning.

Chevy officials now say the Avalanche shares upwards of 90 percent of the Suburban parts lists, including the front-end sheetmetal. There is much less distinction and hardly any rebellion.

Avalanche sales were down 22 percent in 2005 from the previous year. The truck had its best sales year in 2003 with more than 93,000 units. Last year it was about 63,000 units. Chevy officials blame the gas prices and industry shift away from fullsize SUVs last year. They also say GM gave more marketing support to the Silverado and Sierra than the Avalanche, so pickup shoppers gravitated toward those models.

GM stresses that the new Avalanche has been well received by the dealers and anticipate that the market will react “equally favorably.”

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