The Chevrolet Avalanche has always seemed to be another of those vehicles that no one really asked for but seemed to fill a niche for a certain set of customers. More than 93,000 in 2002, in fact, during Avalanche’s third year in production. But now for 2013, it’s the last hurrah for the Avalanche, the unique vehicle that for its last year of production carries the designation Black Diamond.
First, for anyone not familiar with the Chevrolet Avalanche, yes, it’s a pickup truck, but it doesn’t have a separated cab and bed per traditional pickup trucks. Rather it has a one-piece body that sits atop a regular pickup frame. It’s sort of like a Honda Ridgeline, except of course that the Honda has a unit body, and in the case of the Avalanche, it’s based on the GM full-siz platform powered by one of two General Motors 5.3-liter V-8’s.
What makes the Avalanche really different, however, is that it has panels that fold to extend the pickup bed into the cab, and the cab’s rear window that lifts out to allow large objects to be slid all the way to the back of the front seats. Chevrolet calls it a midgate.
How big is it? From the bed floor to the top of the midgate opening, it’s 47 inches. For the arithmetically challenged, that just shy of four feet. From the backs of the front seats to rearmost of the cargo bed—with the midgate open—it’s 98.2 inches. Again, we’ll do the arithmetic for you. That’s just over eight feet. That’s a big box.
The problem is, however, that little phrase, “midgate open.” With the midgate open, the interior is open to weather and mischief. Parking overnight in a bad part of town is not recommended, and driving in cold weather is like driving with a window open, and a big one at that.
On the other hand, the Chevrolet Avalanche has security conveniences that the conventional pickup lacks. Namely, it comes with a hard tonneau cover. Three panels clip in with heavy-duty latches and heavy-duty seals keep the weather out. With the panels and the rear window in place and the lower midgate open, the same 101 inches of cargo length is available, but cargo height is limited to 22 inches. That’s not very tall, not even—we’ll help again—two feet tall.
Still, for traditional pickup loads, the bed covers can be removed—the Avalanche even has a stowage system along the side of the bed to keep the covers in place. Or they can be left home, of course.
And stuff can be carried in deep bins in either pickup bed wall, each a with lockable lid. They’re good places to put things that don’t really fit anywhere else without rolling around and being in the way.
A rubber cargo bed mat is standard. It’s grippy, with V-chevrons molded in. The good news is that it keeps cargo from sliding around. The bad news is that it makes it hard to slide things in. It’s a good thing the cargo covers lift off so whatever it is that won’t slide can be lifted into place. But alas, the backside of the midgate, the part that becomes the cargo floor when folded, doesn’t have a grippy surface. Add your own or have it slide around. At least it folds flat.