General Motors announced today that it is sending the Chevrolet Avalanche—our Top Pick among pickups three out of the last four years—out to pasture. The versatile truck will soldier on for one final year in 2012 with a new 2013 Black Diamond edition, which will feature body-colored sail panels and bed cover, some additional equipment, and lower price.
The Avalanche full-sized truck was designed specifically for non-commercial customers, emerging from the trend of trucks being used increasingly as personal transportation. Based more on the extra-large Suburban SUV than on their mutual pickup progenitor, the innovative Avalanche used an integrated body and bed, with a weather-tight fold down partition to extend the cargo space into the rear seat. It debuted as a concept vehicle in 2000, and it went into production for the 2002 model year.
The Avalanche used a coil-spring rear suspension from the Suburban to give it a better ride than leaf-sprung pickups. All these features, along with an impressive degree of refinement and quiet cabin made it our Top Pick among pickups again this year.
But as Chevrolet spokesman Michael Albano told us, "The world has changed in the automotive landscape." That is, the once-vibrant personal-pickup segment has collapsed. Now, a much higher percentage of those who are buying pickups are more likely to need them for work than a decade ago.
Chevrolet, it turns out, is redesigning its line of full-sized pickups and SUVs for a new fuel-economy era, and the Avalanche no longer fits in the product portfolio. "A lot of [Avalanche] customers were moving over into crew-cab trucks, which they see... as very close in capability," says Albano. "And it becomes a question of, 'do we need two vehicles in that space?' So they're taking that money [that would have gone into Avalanche development] and putting it into cars."
Many of the Avalanche's innovations have also been incorporated into other trucks, as well. Dodge has adopted the built-in storage boxes in the Ram bed rails, Honda has taken the integrated body and personal pickup even farther with the Ridgeline, and Subaru for a while used mid-gate to open the bed to the cab in its Outback-derived Baja.
All this, plus $4 a gallon gas, has left little room for the large Avalanche. We'll miss its versatility but not its appetite for gas.