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September 2012 Drivelines Off-Road News

Posted in Features on September 1, 2012
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Bye-Bye Avalanche
After a dozen years in production, the Avalanche will disappear from Chevy’s truck lineup after the ’13 model year. Chevy is marking the end of the truck/SUV hybrid’s lifespan with a Black Diamond edition, which will have special badges on the sail panels, body-color bed surrounds, and, on the LS and LT models, higher levels of equipment. Prices will also be reduced across the Avalanche model line.

The ’13 Chevy Avalanche Black Diamond Edition.

When it was introduced in 2001 as a ’02 model, the Avalanche pushed the extended-cab truck envelope with its innovative Midgate. The foldable bulkhead behind the back seats converted the truck from a five-seat SUV with an abbreviated bed to a two-seater with an 8-foot cargo box. It also had cargo storage built into the bed walls, beating Dodge’s RamBoxes by quite a few years.

After a peak of 93,000 ’03 models sold, sales have dwindled, down to 20,000 or so for the ’11 Avalanche. Sources at Chevrolet say the growing popularity of light-duty crew-cab trucks and crossovers has taken away potential Avalanche customers.

The ’02 Chevy Avalanche.

“We know there are many Avalanche enthusiasts among Chevy customers,” said Mark Clawson, Avalanche marketing manager. “The Black Diamond Avalanche is our way of saying ‘Thank you’ and making it just a little more attractive to own one more Avalanche.”

Taco TRD T/X Baja Pricing
The TRD T/X Baja Series Package that Toyota is offering on its Tacoma pickup will cost $5,015. Sort of. It includes Bilstein race shocks, LT265/70R16 BFG T/A KO tires on 16-inch TRD alloy wheels, a TRD cat-back exhaust, a 2-inch front ride-height lift, and special graphics, and must be ordered along with the TRD Off-Road Package. That option group—with an electric rear diff and an assortment of electronic traction and stability aids—adds $3,455-$3,670 to the sticker depending on which truck it goes on. To make things even more complicated, Toyota deducts a “Baja Series Factory Credit” of $650 from the Baja Series trucks because of the package combination, though we’re not sure why.

Bottom line: A $25,055 Tacoma Access Cab 4x4 with a manual trans costs $32,990 with the Baja Series Package. At the high end, a $27,335 Tacoma Double Cab with an automatic transmission goes out the door for $35,255 with the Baja Package on it. Those prices don’t include Toyota’s $810 delivery fee, by the way.

This Just In
SCORE has announced a partnership with Aura360 to release digital versions of its Baja television broadcasts, which previously were available only on DVD. You can now stream events like the Baja 1000, Baja 500, and Baja Unlimited Series. Find out more at The Moto Network (

Toyota has issued a voluntary recall of ’05-’09 Tacoma pickups to fix an issue with a cable in the steering assembly. Friction between the spiral cable and its retainer can cause a loss of connectivity to the driver-side airbag, which would disable the bag.

Toyo driver Kurt LeDuc is main- taining his winning streak in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, driving his Pro 4 Ford F-150 to victory at the Lake Elsinore race in Southern California.

Rob MacCachren also had a good weekend at the LOORRS race in Lake Elsinore, but it didn’t start that way. He and his team weren’t able to dial in his new Rockstar/Makita–sponsored Pro 2 truck on Saturday, and when the dust settled after Saturday’s race he had to settle for Sixth Place. After wrenching most of Saturday night, though, tweaks to the suspension and a new gear ratio helped Rob win the main event Sunday, and he set the fastest lap for the weekend.

Wrangler Altitude
Apparently the Altitude equipment package is infectious. After bringing the upscale trim package to the Grand Cherokee, Compass, and Patriot, Jeep has announced it will build a limited number of Wrangler Unlimiteds as Altitude models.

Based on the Sahara trim level, the Wrangler Unlimited Altitude will offer a monochromatic paintjob (in red, black, or white), unique five-spoke wheels with painted spokes, leather upholstery, and piano-black interior trim. Just 4,500 Wrangler Altitude models will be built, offered at an MSRP of $33,740.

Spendy Euro SUV, Part 1
At the Beijing Auto Show, Lamborghini unveiled the Urus, the “SUV Super Athlete” as the maker of Italian exotica is calling it. The AWD four-seater is powered by a 600hp, 5.0L V-10 engine and sits on 305/35R24 rolling stock. Extensive use of carbon fiber in the body and interior keeps the Urus lightweight, which aids not just performance but also fuel economy and carbon dioxide emissions.

Lamborghini Urus concept.

Named for a wild ancestor of domestic cattle, the Urus just a concept at this point, but it could be on the market in less than four years, with a retail price of around $200,000, reports Automotive News.

This isn’t Lamborghini’s first venture into SUV territory, of course. It built the ’86-’92 LM 002, a brawny off-roader powered by a 444hp Countach engine that appealed to Middle Eastern royalty and the ultrawealthy. Time magazine recently called the LM 002 one of the “50 worst cars of all time” because of its “appalling clientele.”

Lamborghini LM 002.

Spendy Euro SUV, Part 2
Mercedes-Benz’s boxy G-Class (also known as the Geländewagen to us old-timers) has built a reputation as a go-anywhere SUV for the privileged classes who usually don’t take it anywhere more challenging than the hills of Beverly. There are those, though, for whom the $107,000 G-Class just isn’t powerful or exclusive enough. For them, Mercedes has its in-house tuning arm, AMG, build a hot-rodded version.

The latest result of that union is the G63 AMG, which is powered by a twin-turbocharged, 5.5L V-8 making 544 hp and 560 lb-ft of torque. All that motive force is routed through a seven-speed automatic transmission and the G’s AWD system to 20-inch wheels and tires. Top speed: 130 mph. Price: Not set as of this writing, but the less powerful ’11 G55 sold for $124,000.

VW Unveils Alltrack
It doesn’t have the off-roading chops that the Touareg used to, but VW’s Alltrack concept vehicle sounds like it could be fun on the right trails. Revealed at the New York Auto Show, the Alltrack gets off on the right foot with its 2.0L TDI powerplant, which makes 140 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. The engine is mated to a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and VW’s 4Motion AWD system, which in the Alltrack is modified with an electronically controlled “off-road driving program.” At the push of a button the program changes the throttle map to give the gas pedal a longer, more precise feel; the ABS to allow for longer brake intervals on loose surfaces; the diff locks so they’ll react more quickly; and the shift points to hold gears longer before upshifting. Or, if the DSG is set to manual, the trans won’t upshift automatically at all.

This sounds like it could be a lot of fun on graded roads, packed sand, or anywhere you’d like a diesel’s grunt but don’t need low range and a lot of wheel travel.

Earth Watch
Three trails have earned the Outstanding Trail designation for 2012, which is awarded by BFGoodrich in collaboration with Tread Lightly! and United Four Wheel Drive Associations. The Blanca Peak Trail in Blanca, Colorado; Mirror Lake Trail in the Sierra National Forest, California; and Bents and Dents Trail in Mount Olive, Alabama, were recognized for their uniqueness, terrain type, and enthusiast following. As part of the award, local clubs—the Creeper Jeepers Gang for Blanca Peak, the Lock and Low 4-Wheel Drive Club for Mirror Lake, and the Central Alabama Offroad Society for Bents and Dents—received a $4,000 grant from BFG to help preserve and maintain the trails.

Tread Lightly!, the land-use organization, has a new blog with news and information. Check it out at treadlightly

U.S. Wins Eco Driving Challenge
The Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles du Muroc is unique in motorsport: an eight-day rally raid that traverses the Moroccan desert and is open to female competitors only. Teams cannot use GPS; instead, they must rely on old-fashioned navigation techniques to get through the rally stages.

There is an environmental component to the rally too. In the Logica Challenge teams are judged by the emissions their vehicles produce. Organizers developed a tool, hooked to the vehicle’s OBD-II port, to measure carbon dioxide emissions in real time.

In the 2012 rally, Americans Amy Lerner and Tricia Reina drove their AEV-modified Jeep Wrangler efficiently enough to win the Logica Challenge. “If I can perform strongly during the dunes and this intense competition, that means a driver can practice eco-driving on the road as well,” said Lerner. She and her sister finished Fourth in the Logica Challenge last year and came back in 2012 “hypersensitive” to her driving techniques shooting for the win.

July 28–Aug. 4: All-4-Fun Week by the Mile-Hi Jeep Club, Empire, CO. Info:

Aug. 2-4: Coal Mountain Jeep Jamboree, Shamokin, PA. Info:

Aug. 2-4: 4x4 Blast by the Two Rivers Jeep Club, Pittsfield, IL. Info: 866.483.3982,

Aug. 4: Getting Started Off-Road Driving Clinic by Badlands Off-Road Adventures, Hungry Valley SVRA, Gorman, CA. Info: 310.374.8047,

Aug. 4-5: 4Wheel Parts Truck & Jeep Fest, Atlanta Cobb Galleria, Atlanta, GA. Info:

Aug. 4-5: W.E. Rock Western Pro Series Round 4, Goldendale, WA. Info:

Aug. 5: Advanced Beginner Off-Road Driving Clinic by Badlands Off-Road Adventures, El Paso Mountains, Mojave, CA. Info: 310.374.8047,

Aug. 9-12: Rubicon Trail Jeep Jamboree, Sierra Nevada Mountains, Northern California. Info:

Aug. 9-12: Sierra Trek by the California Association of Four Wheel Drive Clubs, Meadow Lake near Truckee, CA. Info:

Aug. 10-11: Dirt Riot Pacific 2, Straddline Offroad Park, Olympia WA. Info:

Aug. 10-12: Bantam Jeep Heritage Festival, Butler, PA. Info:

Aug. 11-12: 4Wheel Parts Truck & Jeep Fest, Orlando Orange County Center, Orlando, FL. Info:

Aug. 12: All Breeds Jeep Show by Adirondack Jeeps, Saratoga Springs, NY. Info: 888.310.2939,

Aug. 13: Rubicon Trail by Badlands Off-Road Adventures, Sierra Nevada Mountains, Northern California. Info: 310.374.8047,

Aug. 16-18: General Tire Vegas to Reno desert race by Best in the Desert, Las Vegas, NV. Info:

Aug. 17-18: Great Northern Trail Ride by the Wisconsin Off-Highway Vehicle Association, Mole Lake, WI. Info: email

Aug. 23-25: Big Horn Mountains Jeep Jamboree, Dayton, WY. Info:

Aug. 23-25: Tall Corn Cruiser Classic by the Toyota Land Cruiser Association, Hamilton, IA. Info:

Aug. 25-26: Applegate-Lassen trail ride by Off Road Experience, near Reno, NV. Info: 925.606.8301,

Aug. 25-26: Iron Range Off-Road Driving School, Iron Range OHV Park near Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN. Info:

Aug. 29–Sept. 2: Gravelrama, Cleves, OH. Info:

Aug. 31: HDRA Point-to-Point desert race, Pahrump, NV. Info:

Aug. 31–Sept. 3: Superlift Fall 4xAdventure, Superlift ORV Park, Hot Springs, AR. Info: 501.625.3600,

Note: If you have a 4WD event you want us to publicize, please send the date, location, a description of the event, and contact info—phone numbers and/or email/website address—to Calendar, 4-Wheel & Off-Road magazine, 831 S. Douglas St., El Segundo, CA 90245; fax 310.531.9368; email Please submit your info at least four months in advance of the event due to our press lead times.

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