- The Washington Times - Friday, May 18, 2001

Chevy's confidence that its 2002 Avalanche will lure and hook consumers is clear. Instead of timidly testing the waters, it's plunging into the market. Recently, it even introduced a bold interpretation of the 1500 Series model: the North Face Edition.

By building this designer truck (excuse me "ultimate utility vehicle"), as well as a 2500 version, Chevy appears to be making a strong push toward niche marketing. Chevy appropriately unveiled this high-end, outdoors-themed model in the rugged mountains outside of Palm Spring, Calif.

Like normally outfitted Avalanches, the North Face Edition flaunts the Convert-a-Cab system. This trademark system features a convertible midgate that can create a cab pass-through. For hauling needs exceeding the capacity of Avalanche's standard 5-foot-3-inch-long bed, the midgate folds into the cab (and 60/40-split rear seats fold down) to create an 8-foot-1-inch cargo floor. This conversion allows the measuring-stick 4-by-8-foot building materials to be carried. Guarding cargo from the elements is a lockable, three-piece, rigid cargo cover and lockable tailgate.

A removable, stowable rear glass can invite Mother Nature into the cabin but doesn't allow her to get too rowdy. Pairing with the midgate, the removed window allows taller objects, such as motorcycles, to be toted upright. Designers have even figured a clever way to stow smaller items. Lockable top-box storage is integrated into both sides of the cargo box.

The North Face Edition option, only available with four-wheel drive and the standard 5300 V-8 engine, is a natural for the built-for-adventure Avalanche. This upscale model is distinctive, offering a blend of high styling and ruggedness.

Ed Schoener, Avalanche brand manager, boasts Chevy's partnership with the North Face a manufacturer of premium exploration apparel and equipment as an ideal fit.

"Even though you might not be going to the top of Mount Everest, you know that it [the North Face gear] is rugged, dependable and long-lasting, just like our Chevy trucks," Mr. Schoener said. "We think that the imagery between the two companies is a perfect match."

Victoria Hernandez, brand director for the North Face, said her company's goals are in sync with those of the Avalanche team. Comparing Avalanche with North Face equipment, she said, "It gives you the tools and the freedom to get you where you want to go and do what you want to do."

Buyers of this special-edition Avalanche benefit from an appearance package, as well as added functionality appointed by those with an urge to brave the elements.

The North Face Edition Avalanche model chosen for the Palm Springs debut wore a cloak of vivid sage green that met at the body sides with tall, macho, gray cladding. This look meshed well with the jumbled boulders that stood as a backdrop for the display truck. Sage green is exclusive to the North Face Edition, Mr. Schoener said, noting orange, black, pewter and white also are available. Along with being painted in sage green, the display model's designer breeding was indicated with the North Face Edition badging.

It's on the inside where most of the North Face flash and function are evident. Leather seats are cedar green and black, and feature North Face design elements used in eye-grabbing fashion. Door trim panels also show off distinctive styling, and heavy-duty floor mats sport the North Face logo.

Adding pizzazz and sportiness to the dashboard is a cluster of round analog gauges with white faces. This instrument panel is exclusive to the North Face Edition.

Mr. Schoener said creation of the interior look wasn't based on quick-fix glitz packaging. Measures were taken to make certain the North Face signature was clearly etched into the design.

"We physically had designers from the North Face, as well as their athletes, come to our design center and talk with our designers," Mr. Schoener said. "We looked at a lot of clothing that they made so basically it was a the North Face-inspired interior."

For heftier gear or equipment, such as cameras, that needs protection from the elements, two waterproof duffel bags (the North Face Water Duffelo) are stored in the rear cargo area. Miss Hernandez said these tailored bags have waterproof zippers and, in place of seams, sections are welded with a special fusion process.

The North Face Edition Avalanche is slated to appear in dealerships by August. Base price for this well-bred hybrid is $37,495.


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