The Chevrolet Avalanche almost won Truck of the Year. Yes, it's based on the Tahoe, and while GM doesn't pigeonhole it into any particular category, we have a rule here that if it has a bed, it's a truck. The Sport Utility Truck concept was invented by Ford with the Explorer Sport Trac, and the Avalanche is an effective expression of that concept. The Avalanche takes the best of what the GMT900 platform has to offer and combines it with the versatility of a people-pleasing SUV and an open bed for hauling awkward cargoes, both connected by that handy midgate.

What we liked about the Avalanche is the fact that it still doesn't have that nasty plastic cladding anymore. We liked its bullet-like shape notched by the bed in the back. Yes, that behind slopes up and out-like J-Lo's after a weekend with Ben and Jerry-negatively impacting visibility, but luckily there was a rearview camera to help us back out of parking spots. The optional navigation system competed with Ford's as overall best among our testers, with DaimlerChrysler's system definitely third. The center console offered good storage, as did the side-bed storage that we used as a cooler during our track day. The new front suspension and five-link rear soaked up bumps pretty well. The brakes were strong. Dual-zone A/C and cushy seats felt great for long hauls.

What we didn't like was experiencing the 5.3L V-8 trying to push that 5,600-pound behemoth down the quarter-mile (it ranked last among the trucks) and on the road. And the Avalanche is somehow simultaneously easy to drive but wallows like a scow. We don't like its $46K price either-it's higher than the Sierra, which has a larger engine, larger bed, similar passenger space, navigation, etc. Perhaps the drawback of vehicles like this is that they try to be everything to everybody, resulting in a package that is certainly effective, but potentially bloated. Vehicles like this are certainly versatile and unconventional, and that latter point could be why they are still around.