2011 Chevrolet Avalanche

I recently drove the 2011 Chevrolet Avalanche to a press event in Monticello, N.Y. along with my colleague, Rachel Smith, who covers small cars and compact SUVs. While we cover very different classes, we both found things to like about the Avalanche during the six-hour drive. Rachel got a kick out of towering over the small cars she covers, and I was surprised how capable and comfortable this pickup/SUV combination was.

The Chevrolet Avalanche is a sport-utility truck, which means it’s basically an SUV that’s had its covered cargo area replaced by a pickup bed. To me, some sport-utility trucks take this combination too far, sacrificing true pickup utility and tough looks for SUV-like comfort. When I test-drove the Honda Ridgeline, I thought its goofy looks and small bed negated any of the benefits of driving a truck instead of a more-spacious SUV. So when I got the Chevrolet Avalanche, I was surprised by the way it balanced driveability, utility and interior comfort.

The Avalanche is still a big truck, and it was just as difficult to negotiate in downtown Washington, D.C. as a Ford F-150. But on the New Jersey Turnpike, it was smooth over pockmarked pavement, and its V8 engine had plenty of passing power. Plus, the engine sounded great during hard acceleration, and its imposing presence kept it from looking like the Silverado’s wimpy younger brother.

If there were more than two of us who needed a ride, I would have been in trouble, since we would have had to put our luggage in the bed while it was raining. But this is the kind of problem that any truck owner would have. Overall, the two of us up front were comfortable and happy for the whole trip.