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Latest from the Joyride Guru

Column May Continue In Print

Well, I got some good news this week from Mark Maynard, the automotive editor of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The newspaper is still considering whether to continue the Weekend Driver column in the Saturday Wheels section. As you all know, it’s tough times these days for newspapers, so if they’re still thinking about it, that’s great. And as I blogged recently, I’m willing to cut Mark and the paper as much slack as they need.

So a change in the road map of upcoming stories. If the rain lets up this weekend, I’ll be redriving a column that never ran from 2007 — Highland Valley Road — and updating it for posting as promised on Feb. 20. More on the saga of Highland Valley Road later. I’ll give the newspaper first dibs on the Grapevine Canyon off-road story.

So stay tuned.

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Going In Style But How Do You Work The Stereo?

Back in October when I got a chance to test a dozen cars in two days, one that I took on the scenic route around Fontana and the Auto Club Speedway was a 2009 Mercedes-Benz CL63 AMG High Performance Coupe.

Yes, if the sticker price is $155,670, you can have a name that long.

Boasting leather everything and a driver’s seat I’d like to have in my living room, captains of this ship are whisked along freeways, while bumpy roads are smoothed out. While it reminds me of a traditional American luxo boat’s jet-smooth ride, it has tight, precise handling in the German tradition. It’s the perfect symbol for someone who’s already arrived, even if their brokerage went bust in the great Collapse of 2008.

But during my half-hour cruise, little ol’ me, whose daily driver is a ’91 Miata with roll-up windows, couldn’t figure out the dial and buttons on the center console, so I couldn’t figure out how to turn on the audio system, GPS and other goodies. I probably should have just asked, because for $155,670, there must have been somebody hidden in the glove box to help me out.

I didn’t hear much from the 6.3 liter “naturally aspirated” V-8 but touch the gas and it goes. M-B says the speedo will hit 60 in just 4.5 seconds, with a top speed of 155 mph. That’s just a dollar per mph. And don’t forget the AMG Sport Exhaust System with Dual Twin Chrome Tailpipes. Can’t live without them.

Still, if money is no object, the CL63 might be for you. Check it out at http://www.mercedes-amg.com/C63/

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Old Highway 80 The well-preserved former U.S. 80 in eastern San Diego County has all the charms of driving on an old country highway. It's Chapter 1 in Joyrides Around San Diego.
Blair Valley Take an easy, off-pavement drive on the western edge of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. It's good for off-road novices with all-wheel-drive vehicles. Discover beautiful desert vistas, history and have fun all in a couple of hours from San Diego. Chapter 9 in Joyrides Around San Diego.