Of fancy pickups, record attempts, and road trips

The automotive world is a copycat place.

So it was somewhat of a surprise earlier this year when Chevrolet announced it would discontinue the Avalanche after the 2013 model year, apparently leaving the high end of the pickup spectrum to Ford, which offers its F-150 in King Ranch, Harley-Davidson, Lariat, Raptor, and Limited editions or Ram and its Laramie Longhorn.

Not so fast.

The Avalanche may be going but GM dealers are expecting a luxury edition with the next generation of the Chevrolet Silverado and its sibling, the GMC Sierra.

Dealers, briefed on the plans, told Automotive News that the new model is to be called the High Country and would have both Western styling and unique leather appointments.


That certainly sounds like a marketing answer to Ford’s popular high-end King Ranch edition.

It could open the way for Chevrolet and GMC to distance themselves, with GMC and its Denali version taking a more upscale marketing position and moving into territory now occupied by Cadillac’s Escalade.

The High Country revives the Blazers with gold badging and a special black-to-gold paint scheme.

Blind Ambition

Next Thursday is World Sight Day, a global observance that brings attention to blindness and visual impairment.

It’s also the day on which Mike Newman, a 51-year-old former Barclays Bank manager from Manchester, England, is hoping to set Guinness world land and water speed records for a blind person.

His land speed attempt will come in a Noble M600, a 650-horsepower hand-built, carbon bodied, British supercar made by Noble Automotive in Leicestershire.

The goal is to surpass 182 mph over one of the country’s longest runways, Bruntingthorpe in Lutterworth. The record attempt requires a one-mile timed run in opposite directions with no one else in the vehicle.

Newman’s father, also Michael Newman, follows in a chase car, albeit one not nearly as fast, and radios steering corrections to his son.

“People think that if you hold the steering wheel straight you’d go straight,’’ says Mike senior. “That’s not so. You have to be making constant minute adjustments.’’


Indeed, a YouTube video of a prior run, when Mike averaged 167.32 mph in an unrestricted BMW M5, shows Mike Sr. giving instructions: “Good launch…left…straight… right….looking good…in the middle of the runway…Hold it…right…keep it going… left….Now Brake! Brake! Brake! Hard! Hard! Hard!’’

Later that same day, Mike will take the helm of Drew Langdon’s Silverline offshore Formula 1 power boat, powered by twin V-8 950-horsepower engines, hoping to top 91 mph, a speed he reached in practice last month.

He previously has been in the record books for accomplishments on a motorcycle, airplane, and high-speed automobiles and has a website, speedofsight.co.uk.

Back-seat Driving

Have you taken a road trip with your significant other lately? If you have, chances are it strengthened your relationship.

A survey of more than 1,000 couples by Ford and the relationships website YourTango.com showed 91 percent of couples have taken road trips together with 84 percent agreeing the experience strengthened their relationship.

The results showed that most couples have a back-seat driver half of the relationship, helping the actual driver. The most common “help’’consists of:

• 32 percent telling the driver they’re driving too fast,

• 27 percent telling them they’re going the wrong way,

• 22 percent telling them they’re not paying enough attention,

• 15 percent chiding them for driving too slowly.

The next most common back-seat driving response is physical such as pushing the invisible brake pedal or holding the dashboard.

A final response includes gasping or making other sounds of fright.


Besides the back-seat driving, 63 percent of the respondents said they are affectionate, holding hands, or sharing a kiss at a red light, and 57 percent said driving is a good time to discuss important topics.

Other in-car shared activities include blasting favorite music (60 percent) and enjoying some quiet time and taking in the sights (37 percent).


Want a bench seat?You’ll have to hurry because they will be gone from passenger cars after the 2013 Chevrolet Impala ends its production run. General Motors says only 1 in 10 buyers took the $195 bench seat option last year in the LS and LT models.“A lot of people prefer bucket seats because they’re sporty, even in models that aren’t sports cars,’’ says GM director of design Clay Dean.“Our customers also appreciate having the center console as a convenient place to store their phone and other personal items.’’

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