Automotive revolutions

My wife, a builder's daughter, grew up thinking of pickup trucks as rough riders that came with spare table-saw blades on the right seat.

Yet when she stopped by the photo shoot that yielded the illustration at right, she began admiring the short-bed, four-door Nissan we had on hand. "Does it come with a cap?" she asked.

Now that's a consumer shift. Maybe it's twilight for that suburban icon, the minivan.

You won't hear me crying.

My wife and I resisted the things until Honda came out with the friendly-looking Odyssey.

It handles like a car and offers great visibility. It's been trouble-free, a Honda hallmark.

For a family of four (plus dog), it does the job. But load in the half-dozen people our model is built to accommodate, and carry-on luggage gets limited to a couple of lacrosse sticks and a duffel bag.

Honda's newer version solves the space problem. But it's too boxy for us. A sporty four-door truck? An intriguing alternative.

That's what manufacturers are banking on these days.

Cars represent a colossus on the consumer landscape. We sink big money into them. They suit particular needs - and, for some, project a lifestyle image.

Staff car-expert Eric Evarts sifts through the year-2000 offerings for this issue. It's an assignment he relishes, and it shows.

Knowing my affinity for agile ragtops - my other car is an old FIAT Spider - Eric called me from the test track to rev the engine of the new Honda roadster, the high-r.p.m. S2000, over his cell phone.

A seller of reliability producing a "screamer"? Minivan drivers turning truckers? Seems like a revolution per minute. Read on.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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