Remember the rough-and-tumble Ford Bronco of the late 1960s? The old International Scout, Jeep CJ5 and Toyota Land Cruiser? Down and dirty off-road machines with few frills beyond a transfer case and — in the case of the Bronco and CJ — open-air motoring, thanks to soft tops and pop-out windows?
There are only two vehicles of this type left among us, nearly 30 years later: the venerable Jeep Wrangler (descendant of the old CJs) and the Chevy Tracker.
The 2001 Tracker, now in the third year of its current body style, comes in both two-door and four-door versions, with true four-wheel drive (that is, an actual transfer case with 4x4 Low range) an available option. A soft-top version — Chevy calls this a "convertible" — is the standard issue, with a hardtop available. Basically, there is a fabric flap above you that snaps into place. You can unsnap it and toss it back, although it takes some wrestling. A second, larger fabric covering covers the back seat/cargo area and requires a bit more effort to take on and off. The soft-top feature is available on only one other current model — the Jeep Wrangler. It's fun, but the elements are close by and let you know it with abundant wind noise when the soft top is up.
Tracker prices range from $15,235 for a 2WD convertible to $20,550 for a 4x4 four-door hardtop with the newly available 2.5-liter V-6 rated at 155 hp.
Base models get an upgrade in output, too. Last year's standard (and weak) 1.6-liter, 90-hp four-cylinder engine has been retired and a new 2.0-liter engine with 127 hp becomes the standard Tracker engine. This is a major improvement — as is the addition, at no cost, of air conditioning and a credible AM/FM stereo system with cassette player to the equipment list of all Tracker models.