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Adaptable to Any Situation
Here Comes
the 2002 Chevy Avalanche

by Kim Cook

2002 Chevy Avalanche Life is simply demanding, as are today’s busy professionals and their families. We work hard, we play even harder, and we dare our vehicles to try and keep pace with our dynamic lifestyles. Basic transportation no longer fulfills the contemporary family’s needs. That’s why Chevrolet's latest, the four-door 2002 Avalanche, has hit the utility vehicle market with the force of its natural namesake. Part SUV, part full-size pickup, the Avalanche sports a revolutionary mid-gate configuration that blurs the line between SUV and pickup, to create what Chevrolet bills as the “Ultimate Utility Vehicle.”

The secret to Avalanche’s adaptability lies in the four-foot section at mid-ship, between the two rear passenger doors. It is here that the cargo/passenger mix can be renegotiated at a moment’s notice. When passengers are the priority, a generous cabin transports up to six in sedan comfort, while the covered 5’3” bed tags along as the most spacious watertight trunk imaginable. 

2002 Chevy Avalanche CargoWhen priorities shift to hauling — say, carrying items from the home improvement center — the Avalanche is ready to transform in under a minute without tools. Simply fold down the rear passenger seat and lower the mid-gate, and you're ready to haul home items as large as full-size 4'x8' sheets of plywood with the tailgate up! When left in place, the rigid three-piece cargo cover protects the load from the elements should inclement weather threaten, as well as providing security.

As functional and versatile as the Avalanche is, however, its handsome rugged styling commands attention too. Like its brethren the Suburban, Tahoe, and Silverado, the Avalanche has a lean, muscular appearance and tall stature that belie its docile luxury ride.

From the rear doors forward, it bears a resemblance to the 2002 Suburban. The grille is minimalist and sophisticated featuring a sleek bar engraved with Chevrolet’s logo at center. A substantial one-piece bumper cover gives a strong, determined appearance enhanced by narrow, tapered integrated headlights. Geometric fog lights round out the fluid, aerodynamic look. 

2002 Chevy AvalancheRegardless of body color (seven choices are offered), the Avalanche features light-charcoal-colored integrated body-side cladding that carries the sporty, go-anywhere look, not to mention helping to protect painted body panels from parking lot mishaps. The cargo cover, and structural C-pillars, called “sail panels” because of their triangular shape, are also the light-charcoal color and made of TPO (Thermal Plastic Olefin). Even in examining the Avalanche’s appearance, one cannot help but go back to its functionality as there are two locking storage compartments that open at the top of the bedrails on each side. While they’re perfect for storing bungee cords or other tie-down devices, the spacious compartments also feature a drain plug at the bottom and can double as built-in coolers. Just add ice. Now that’s versatility!

A look inside reveals a full-featured, driver-friendly environment with seating for up to six passengers. While one would expect plenty of legroom and comfort in the front seating area, the rear seat area is surprisingly roomy and accommodating too. We tested the Avalanche with rear seat passengers ranging in height from 3’6” to 6’2” and all had ample room. Some were particularly appreciative of their own set of air conditioning vents to the back. 

2002 Chevy AvalancheDriver controls, cup holders, and window and door lock switches are placed intuitively. Even the base model comes generously equipped with standard Convert-a-Cab System, driver message center, air-conditioning, cruise control, power windows and door locks, overhead console, auxiliary power outlets, Passlock II theft-deterrent system, AM/FM stereo with CD player, leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual and side-impact airbags, and more. Upgraded seating packages enhance the experience with heated leather bucket seats with fully adjustable power positioning and two memory settings. The convenience package, available on two- and four-wheel-drive versions, adds the benefit of a HomeLink universal transmitter to open garage doors, gates, and perhaps turn on lights inside the home upon arrival. OnStar, a safety and security communication system, provides peace of mind and is part of the convenience package.

2002 Chevy AvalancheFrom the driver’s perspective, the Avalanche is nearly effortless and benefits from Chevrolet’s experience in developing the superior full-size truck ride across other models like the Suburban and Tahoe. Step-in height is somewhat high, and would be especially difficult in a fitted skirt, so the optional dealer-installed assist steps are a popular addition. The ride is smooth and steady, and road imperfections are absorbed and quickly forgotten. Those not accustomed to a vehicle this size may find the first several miles intimidating, especially considering the rearview visibility is somewhat narrow from top to bottom and the rearview image shows much of the cargo cover where one would expect to see road and following cars. The Avalanche is quickly befriended, however, and readily slips into parking spaces.

All iterations of the Avalanche are powered by Chevrolet’s Vortec 5300 V-8 engine, rated at 285 horsepower. Considering the Avalanche’s 325 lb-ft of torque, acceleration is not as energetic for typical street driving as we might have expected; then again, a curb weight of 5,678 pounds (for the four-wheel-drive model) has to be factored. Fuel economy is dismal at 13mpg city and 17mpg highway. 

Cornering is firm with minimal body roll thanks to torsion bars and independent front suspension. Four-wheel vented disc brakes provide superior stopping power, with the added safety feature of ABS all around. The nicely appointed base model rides on 16-inch aluminum wheels, while the other two available configurations, the Z66 On-Road Package and the Z71 Off-Road Package, have 17-inch aluminum wheels. The Z66 Premium On-Road package includes an electronic traction assist for added safety. If towing capacity is a criterion, the Avalanche delivers with the ability to pull in excess of 8,000 pounds.

The Avalanche is clearly a form-follows-function design or is it the other way around? The marriage of handsome and handy characteristics is so complete it’s hard to tell where one begins and the other ends. Dealers report brisk sales and a tendency to hold firm to sticker prices. Where GM has provided the lead, we’re sure to see other manufacturers follow. Regardless, expect to see a lot more of Chevrolet’s ultimate utility vehicle on the roads. Lead, follow, or get out of the way… here comes Avalanche!
Avalanche -- An Overview
     2WD  4WD
Body Style  Six-passenger, 4-door full-size utility vehicle same
Color Choices   Onyx Black, Victory Red, Light Pewter Metallic, Indigo Blue Metallic, Sunset Orange Metallic,  Summit White, and Forest Green Metallic same
Type Rear-wheel drive  Four-wheel drive
Base Price
Z66 On Road
Z71 Off Road
All Combined


Engine  Vortec 5300 V-8 same
Horsepower   285hp at 5,200rpm same
Torque    325 lb-ft at 4,000rpm same
Transmission 4L60-E Hydra-Matic, 4-speed automatic w/OD same
4-Wheel Drive Type  n/a Autotrac active
Independent with torsion bars
5-link coil spring

Fuel Economy 14 city / 18 highway 13 city / 17 highway
Wheel Size
Z66 On-Road
Z71 Off-Road

16 x 7.0
17 x 7.5

17 x 7.5
Wheelbase 130 inches   same
Weight  5,437 pounds  5,678 pounds
Interior Cargo volume 
Mid-gate up
Mid-gate down

53.9 cubic feet
97.6 cubic feet 

sa me
Cargo Box dimensions
Mid-gate up
Mid-gate down

50” wide x 63” long x 22” deep 
50” wide x 97.6” long x 22” deep

Payload  1,363 pounds  1,322 pounds
Towing Capacity 8,300 pounds 8,100 pounds

[Get More Information on the Avalanche]