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  • William Maley

    2013 Chevrolet Avalanche LTZ Black Diamond & Toyota Highlander V6 4WD

    By William Maley

    So this week in the Cheers & Gears Detroit garage, I have ended up with two vehicles. The first is the 2013 Chevrolet Avalanche LTZ Black Diamond edition. Yes, the Avalanche is still in production till the end of 2013. To mark the end of an era, Chevrolet has introduced the Black Diamond edition to all Avalanches which adds a badge signifying the lifetime of the Avalanche, rear vision camera system, body-color exterior components, Ultrasonic Rear Parking Assist, remote vehicle starter system, power-adjustable pedals and foglamps. Our Avalanche Black Diamond is the LTZ model and come with leather, navigation, a trailer package, heated and cooled seats, and much more. Power comes from a 5.3L V8 producing 320 horsepower and 335 pound-feet that goes through a six-speed automatic. Pricetag on this 2013 Avalanche is $51,295. Next is the 2013 Toyota Highlander. This is the base model (somewhat of a rarity in the press fleet) and comes with seating for seven, a touchscreen radio, cloth seats, trip computer, and a few other bits. Power is a 3.5L V6 (270 horsepower and 248 pound-feet) that goes down to a five-speed automatic. I had the chance to drive the Highlander a bit more since it was dropped yesterday and finding it to be a very competent crossover. The V6 is quite punchy and the five-speed is smooth. I'm seeing fuel economy hovering around the 19 MPG mark which is the EPA rating for the city. Pricetag on the 2013 Highlander is around $33,757. I'll be talking more about these two vehicles over the next week. If you have any questions on either one, leave a comment. I'll do my best to answer them.
    • 6 comments
    • 2,269 views
  • William Maley

    2013 Chevrolet Avalanche LTZ Black Diamond: Day 3

    By William Maley

    Welcome to day three of the 2013 Chevrolet Avalanche Black Diamond Interactive Review. When I had last updated, I gave some brief information on the Avalanche and the price. Since then, I've been putting on the mileage on the truck and can offer some brief impressions. I'm really impressed with the Avalanche's ride. It doesn't feel like a pickup where it seems to transmit most road imperfections and very bouncy. Instead the Avalanche rides like a luxury vehicle, driving over the bumps with you not really noticing it all. Disappointments are coming from the interior as the cheap wood trim and the old headunit. They are really aging the Avalanche really quick. Fuel economy has been hovering around 15.5 MPG so far in mostly suburban driving. I did take the Avalanche on a freeway trip and saw fuel economy rise to about 19.3 MPG. I will have another update or two on Avalanche during the week, including how it fared during a donation run to the Salivation Army. In the mean time, leave your questions in the comments.
    • 3 comments
    • 1,980 views

Our community blogs

  1. General Motors made news yesterday when it announced that it would recognize a legal, same-sex marriage for U.S. employees for benefits purposes no matter which state that employee resides in, making the benefit package identical to those of married opposite-sex couples.

    When I first saw the headlines of this coming across Twitter, I was confused. General Motors has offered healthcare benefits to same-sex domestic partners since August of 2000 and further expanded the benefit offering in January of 2003. General Motors participates in various Pride celebrations and even has produced LGBT focused advertising. In fact, General Motors received the Human Right Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index perfect score of 100 points each year since 2006. With GM’s already stellar leadership in supporting diversity both inside and outside of the corporation, why would such a change make headlines?

    Part of the reason rests with a change announced by the Internal Revenue Service regarding same-sex marriage recognition on August 29th of this year. After the Supreme Court ruled in June that parts of the Defense of Marriage Act were unconstitutional, the IRS announced that all same-sex couples legally married in one of the 14 states (soon to be 15 or 16) that allow same-sex marriage would be required to file their federal taxes as “married filing jointly” or “married filing separately” regardless of their state of residence.

    This means that my partner and I could travel to 4 of the 6 surrounding states (New York, New Jersey, Maryland, or Delaware) to get married and the Federal Government would recognize that marriage even though my home state of Pennsylvania does not.

    So why this is a big deal and why General Motors deserves praise is with regards to the speed they reacted to this rule change announced just 70 days ago. They are one of the earliest of all Fortune 500 companies to announce such a change and to the best of my knowledge the first of all of the vehicle manufacturers.

    What is the change for GM employees that are already registered for Domestic Partnership benefits but who are or will be legally married? I emailed Lynda Messina, Manager of Employee Engagement & Retiree Communications for the details.

    · Pension Plans – now able to elect surviving spouse benefits at retirement for a same-sex spouse.

    · Savings Plans – now able to name same-sex spouse as spousal beneficiary

    · Health Care Plans – now able to add same-sex spouse as a dependent with no imputed income for federal tax purposes

    She told me that the changes apply to all hourly and salary employees including those under collective bargaining agreements. Additionally, couples married in other countries, as long as it was lawful in the jurisdiction of celebration, will be eligible.

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    A recent advertisement from General Motors supporting LGBT Pride celebrations.

    Click picture to enlarge.

    I asked Lynda if domestic partnership benefits would still be available and were there any plans to discontinue domestic partnership benefits for non-married employees in thefuture. She replied “Marriage is an important decision and, as such, is up to each employee. Employees can continue to cover eligible same-sex domestic partners under applicable benefit plan terms and administrative procedures. However, this will not provide for the same benefits as a same-sex spouse.” Regarding the possibility of partnership benefits cancellation in the future, she said, “not to my knowledge”.

    It is speculation on my part, but I cannot see General Motors or indeed any other company that makes this change sticking with a dual plan setup for long as there are tax and benefit implications for both the employee and company.

    In a statement released today, GM’s Chief Diversity Officer Ken Barrett said, “This decision is in line with GM’s efforts to find, keep and grow the world’s best talent and to offer our employees policies and benefits that are competitive with many of the largest and best-managed industrial companies in the U.S.”

    In any industry, leadership is not just about building the best product. Leadership is also demonstrated in how the company treats the people who build that class-leading product. By moving so quickly to improve the benefit policies regarding same-sex spouses following the recent IRS rule change, General Motors is not just competitive, but has set a new bar for the industry to meet.

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    William Maley

    Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com

    November 21, 2013

    It was eleven months ago that I had the chance to see the new Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra in person. At the time I wrote that the new trucks were a major improvement, but I had concerns that General Motors didn't do enough when compared to what Ram and Ford had announced at the time. Well, I get to find out if my worries are justified or not because I have a 2014 GMC Sierra Crew Cab for a week.

    On the day it was dropped off, my house had no power thanks to high winds that roared through the night before. It turns out the Sierra was a blessing in disguise as it had seven USB ports, a 120 Volt outlet, and number of power outlets. Because of this, I was able to charge my computer, phone, iPod, and external battery till the power came back on. Thank you GMC.

    Aside from the charging station, the new Sierra has a lot going for it. I'm really liking the looks of it, especially in Stealth Grey paint color on my tester. It really brings out certain parts of the Sierra's design such as the flared fenders and large grille. The interior is also impressing me, with much nicer materials and being very comfortable. My only concern at the moment is GMC's IntelliLink which showed signs of sluggishness.

    As for what's under the hood, it happens to be the 5.3L EcoTec V8, what most Sierras and Silverados will come with. It produces 355 horsepower and 388 pound-feet of torque. Paired with a six-speed automatic and four-wheel drive, the 5.3 is more than adequate. Driving around briefly, the 5.3 was able to get the Sierra moving with no sweat.

    As for the ride, it does feel smoother than the 2012 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 I drove last year.

    I'll have my complete thoughts on the Sierra 1500 here in a few weeks. If you guys have any questions, leave a comment and I'll do my best to answer them.

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    William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.

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