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Nuts & Bolts: 2012 Chevrolet Avalanche

Bottom line: The Chevrolet Avalanche is a smart truck gifted with utility and versatility. Just keep it out of the city, especially during rush hour.

Ride, acceleration and handling: It gets good marks in all three. Just remember that it is a truck, especially when negotiating sharp turns on less-than-improved mountain roads. The laws of physics remain unchanged, particularly as they relate to the dynamics of high-speed weight transfers. Keep in mind that the Avalanche weighs nearly three tons.

Head-turning quotient: It depends on where it’s seen. The truck is hated in the city and loved in the country.

Body style/layout: The Chevrolet Avalanche is a front-engine, full-size truck with a GM-patented Midgate that allows it to be changed from a sport-utility vehicle to a fully capable, long-bed (8 feet, 2 inches) pickup truck. It is available with rear-wheel drive or on-demand four-wheel-drive. There are three trim levels — the base LS, mid-grade LT and top-of-the-line LTZ.

Engine/transmission: It comes with a standard 5.3-liter, overhead cam V-8 with variable valve lift and timing (320 horsepower, 335 foot-pounds of torque). The engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.

Capacities: In SUV mode, the Chevrolet Avalanche has seats for up to six people. Rear seats disappear in pickup truck mode, leaving seats for at least two people, possibly three depending on type of front sets chosen. The truck has a maximum payload, onboard weight ability of 1,326 pounds. It can be equipped to tow a trailer weighing 8,100 pounds. Gasoline fuel capacity is 31 gallons. Regular grade is recommended.

Mileage: It’s a big truck with a big engine. You get 15 miles per gallon in the city and 21 mpg on the highway. Here’s hoping that Chevrolet offers future Avalanche models with a diesel option, which is more expensive than gasoline technology, but 30 percent more fuel efficient than gasoline engines.

Safety: Standard equipment includes front and rear ventilated disc brakes; four-wheel antilock brake protection; electronic brake force distribution; electronic stability and traction control; side and head air bags; On Star emergency communications system.

Price: The base price on the 2011 Chevrolet Avalanche LTZ is $46,195. The dealer’s invoice price on that model is $42,961. Price as tested is $50,940, including $3,795 in options (rear seat audio/video entertainment system; onboard navigation with backup camera) and a $950 destination charge. The dealer’s price as tested is $47,251. Rebates of up to $4,000 are available on the Chevrolet Avalanche LTZ at this writing.

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