The Chevy Avalanche successfully combines the hauling capacity of a short-bed pickup with the comfort and capability of a five-passenger SUV. It switches between these roles using its ingenious Midgate, a removable rear bulkhead between the passenger compartment and the pickup bed. Along with a hard, tonneau-like bed cover, the Midgate allows the Avalanche to be configured as a Tahoe-sized sport utility with a five-foot pickup bed and comfortable, five-passenger seating. But fold down the rear seats and open the Midgate, and it's a pickup with an enclosed eight-foot bed, capable of securing valuable gear from thieves or shielding drywall from weather. Remove the rear glass and the tonneau panels and it's capable of hauling an ATV. Unlike a pickup, however, there is no full-height barrier between long loads like that and the front seatbacks. Versatility is what makes the Avalanche so desirable. It offers an 8,000-pound towing capacity, making it an excellent choice for pulling an enclosed car trailer or a fairly big boat. It's as long as a Chevy Suburban and can haul a lot of stuff, with payloads over 1,300 pounds and a bed designed for abuse. The 2009 Avalanche comes with a six-speed automatic transmission, replacing the four-speed automatic on the 2008 model. New for 2009 is an available integrated trailer brake controller (a great feature), more features for the LTZ model and more options for LT versions. First launched for the 2002 model year, the Avalanche was redesigned and re-engineered for 2007. Changes since have centered on refinement, tuning and packaging. We've been impressed with the Avalanche. As good as the first generation was, the revised version (2007 and later) is better, with vastly superior driving dynamics, including an improved ride and taut handling. The previous-generation Avalanche handled well for a Suburban-sized truck, but this latest generation model handles much better. The Avalanche is well-designed throughout, with impressive attention to detail. The cabin is nice, with a car-like look and feel, a well-designed dash and comfortable seats. Creature comforts and integrated driver-assist and entertainment features make traveling in the Avalanche enjoyable. The Midgate, removable rear window, tonneau covers and other features snap together nicely, and everything appears to be of high quality.