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2009 Chevrolet Avalanche ReviewThe Good
The addition of a six-speed automatic transmission for 2009 makes the Chevrolet Avalanche sport utility truck even easier to drive, with smoother and quicker acceleration, while minor upgrades to the cabin and options packages add to the truck's versatility and comfort level.The Bad
The '09 Avalanche's fuel economy remains a sore spot with many drivers, and its size becomes an issue in tight spaces.
The CarGurus View
Few vehicles on the road today offer the flexibility and functionality of the 2009 Chevrolet Avalanche, thanks to its innovative midgate and easily configurable cabin. For a big beast, the Avalanche handles surprisingly well, and it delivers a smooth, quiet ride. Even fuel economy numbers are reasonable for a full-size truck with a V8 engine, though a trip to the gas pump will require deep pockets due to the Avalanche's 31-gallon fuel tank.
At a Glance
The Chevrolet Avalanche sport utility truck receives a number of new features for 2009, including a new Hydra-Matic six-speed automatic transmission, which now comes standard in all trims. The new transmission, which replaces a four-speed automatic, comes equipped with overdrive and a tow/haul mode. Chevy also enhanced the Avalanche's OnStar system for 2009 and added Bluetooth wireless connectivity for compatible cell phones as a standard feature. Other new features include an optional rear-view camera, an optional heavy-duty Trailering package with transmission and engine oil coolers, and a new Luxury package for the LT2 trim, which includes heated front bucket seats, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, and a Bose audio system.
Introduced in 2002, the Avalanche last received a full redesign in 2007 and continues into 2009 with its exterior styling and overall functionality unchanged. Based on the full-size Silverado pickup, the Avalanche can seat up to six in its four-door cab and haul plenty of cargo its 5-foot, 3-inch bed. For more cargo room, drivers can lower the midgate in the cab's rear wall and fold down the second row of seats to extend the cargo bed to more than 8 feet. For ultimate functionality, drivers can also remove the midgate's window for pass-through cargo, or leave the window in place, lower the midgate, and use the three-piece rigid cargo cover to protect longer items in the bed, such as paneling, from the elements.
The 2009 Avalanche comes in LS, LT1, LT2, and LTZ trims, available with either rear-wheel drive or full-time four-wheel drive, and powered by one of three V8 engines. Exterior features include a sweptback windshield and distinctive back braces behind the cab that run along the top of the cargo bed, giving the Avalanche a unique appearance.
A base 5.3-liter Vortec V8 engine generating 310 hp and 335 lb-ft of torque provides standard power for all two-wheel-drive trims. The V8 produces high levels of torque at lower speeds, which aids when towing, and features Active Fuel Management, which deactivates up to four cylinders when they're not needed to improve fuel efficiency. While fuel economy numbers aren't spectacular at 14/20 mpg, they're better than numbers posted by the Toyota Tundra Double Cab or the Ford F-150 SuperCrew, according to Chevy. The base V8 runs on regular unleaded gas.
The 4x4 trims receive essentially the same V8 engine, though with FlexFuel capability, so it can run on E85 fuel, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. Drivers can add the FlexFuel V8 to two-wheel-drive trims as an option. For more power, drivers can upgrade to an optional 6.0-liter, 366-hp Vortec V8, available only on the higher-end LT2 and LTZ trims.
All trims come equipped with trailering equipment, including a trailer hitch platform, a seven-wire harness, and a 2-inch trailering receiver. Equipped with the 5.3-liter V8, the Avalanche can tow up to 8,200 pounds.
Ride & Handling
Whether in rear-wheel- or full-time four-wheel-drive configuration, the 2009 Avalanche rides smoothly, thanks to a suspension that features a coil-over-shock system with a stabilizer bar in the front and a multilink rear suspension with coil springs. In addition, the SUT's one-piece body design improves handling, adds stability, and reduces flex. Engine and road noise are kept to a minimum, making the Avalanche of the quietest SUTs in its class.
An AutoRide suspension, standard on the LTZ trim and optional on the LT2 trim, includes a variable shock dampening system, which monitors the SUT's speed and brakes as well as the road surface, and makes adjustments as needed to ensure optimal handling and interior comfort. The system also features rear air-assisted load leveling, which keeps the rear end from diving when towing a heavy load.
In addition, drivers can add an optional Z71 Off-Road suspension package, available only on the LT2 trim with the 6.0-liter V8 engine. The package includes specially tuned springs and shocks, a high-capacity air cleaner, a Skid Plate Package with an aluminum front underbody shield, an automatic locking rear differential, on-/off-road 18-inch tires, and a specially designed front fascia with a chrome grille insert.
Around town, the Avalanche's 5.3-liter V8 engine performs well, with good acceleration, but the SUT can feel underpowered when fully loaded or towing a heavy load. Drivers who will regularly use the Avalanche for towing should consider upgrading to the 6.0-liter V8. Most consider the new six-speed automatic transmission a worthy and necessary addition for 2009, resulting in smoother acceleration, even when towing.
Most owners and reviewers find the front seats comfortable for long trips, especially the supportive bucket seats added for the LT and LTZ trims. However, the bucket seats limit capacity to five passengers, which drops to only two passengers (or three with the LS's front bench seat) with the midgate lowered and rear seat folded down.
Cabin & Comfort
The Avalanche's quiet, spacious cabin offers plenty of legroom and headroom for passengers in both the front and rear seats. While not super-luxurious, the cabin comes well-equipped, with standard features such as a power-adjustable driver's seat, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, Bluetooth wireless connectivity, and an audio system with XM satellite radio and an MP3 input jack. In addition, updated OnStar 8.0 comes standard with all trims.
The LS and LT1 get upgraded cloth fabric, while the LT2 and LTZ come equipped with leather-appointed seats. In addition, the LT2 and LTZ include power-adjustable pedals, a remote vehicle starter system, and an upgraded audio system with a six-disc in-dash CD changer as standard equipment.
The high-end LTZ sees the most changes for 2009, with the addition of standard heated and cooled front seats, a 12-way power-adjustable driver's seat, brushed metal interior trim, a Bose Centerpoint surround-sound system, and optional 20-inch chrome-clad wheels.
The lockable cargo cover comes standard on all trims, as do lockable storage compartments located on the sides of the cargo box. A navigation system and rear-seat DVD entertainment system are optional for the LT and LTZ trims.
The 2009 Avalanche earns a top-rated five stars in front and side impact tests from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and a three-star rating in rollover tests for both rear-wheel- and four-wheel-drive trims. All trims come equipped with Chevy's StabiliTrak Electronic Stability Control system, which monitors steering inputs, adjusts engine torque, and makes small adjustments to individual brakes in emergency situations as needed to maintain vehicle stability. The system also includes Proactive Roll Avoidance, which helps reduce rollovers in extreme situations.
The Avalanche comes with a full range of airbags, including dual-stage front, head curtain, and full-length side-impact airbags with a rollover sensor. Four-wheel antilock brakes also come standard. Options for all trims include a rear-view camera, which is now offered apart from the navigation system, with its display moving from the navigation screen to the rear-view mirror.
What Owners Think
Owners find the 2009 Chevy Avalanche easy to drive, with a smooth ride, capable handling, and plenty of functionality. Thanks to the Avalanche's large bed, fold-down rear seats, and versatile midgate, owners can carry just about anything they want, from family pets to sports gear to home improvement supplies. Some note the Avalanche's large size, which on occasion can affect maneuverability, but for most owners that's a small trade-off for all the benefits the big SUT provides. In addition, most owners report good reliability from the Avalanche, and for the most part owners are satisfied with the SUT's fuel efficiency.
Aside from gas mileage, CarGurus owners give the Avalanche very high marks, comparing it favorably to competitors like the Honda Ridgeline. In fact, according to CarGurus owners, the Avalanche outshines the Ridgeline when it comes to fuel economy and towing capacity. Calling the Avalanche a "do-it-all" truck, owners find the Avalanche comfortable and easy to handle for a vehicle its size, with good acceleration. However, some consider the Avalanche expensive, especially when options are added.
Rob has been a contributor to CarGurus since 2007, and an automotive test-driver and writer since the early ’90s. He’s test-driven everything from BMWs and Jags to Bentleys and Saabs, with an occasional Range Rover, Ferrari, Porsche or Lamborghini thrown in. He also created the annual Car of the Year and Exotic Car of the Year awards for Robb Report magazine. He currently resides in Florida.
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