Spring Auto Guide, 1999

Our picks of the best vehicles this season

you can have a power sliding door on both sides. Starting at $22,995, prices can approach $30,000 when all the options are added.

Nissan Pathfinder
Soon, Nissan will be offering an array of new SUVs. Although the new models are based on the Frontier pickup truck, the Pathfinder will continue as the flagship of the truck line (with additional luxury, it’s also sold as the Infiniti QX4). As a mid-year model change-Nissan calls this a 99.5 model-the Pathfinder receives a number of updates. These include new sheet metal up front, a new grille and a mild boost in horsepower.
Net result is the Pathfinder is still a unibody vehicle rather than being built on a truck frame. This helps improve the ride on the road. The 3.3-liter V-6 engine produces a mild 170 horsepower, although low-rpm torque is strong enough for reasonable acceleration in town. Available in either rear- or part-time 4WD, this is among a shrinking number of SUVs unavailable with a full-time 4WD system.
Prices begin at a rather lofty $24,669 and can reach into the mid-$30,000 arena. Ride and handling are above average for this category and the interior is a quiet and pleasant place for travel.

Oldsmobile Silhouette
If you’re looking for a way to take the family out to a show, yet you have a long way to go, Oldsmobile offers you a way to do both at the same time. The Premier Edition of the Silhouette gives you a fully loaded minivan with one extra feature: a built-in entertainment system. A small color LCD video screen flips down from the roof just aft of the front seats. There’s a VCR in the center console. The audio system can either play through the speaker system or only through the headphone jacks in back. Headphones are included and front seat occupants can even listen to a different audio program simultaneously.
The only thing missing is a popcorn popper. Long distance travel with the kids will never be the same. For now, the entertainment system is available only in the top model. That means while a base Silhouette is reasonably well equipped for $24,990, the Premier Edition lists at $31,580, plus options. But then, how many movie theaters have leather- trimmed bucket seats, a load-leveling suspension, aluminum wheels, traction control and a 180-horsepower V-6 engine?

Plymouth Neon
When the Neon arrived for 1994, it was among few small cars, at the time, that really showed some style. The large engine, for a car this small, also meant it was peppy and fun to drive. Unfortunately, reliability problems have long plagued the Neon, keeping it off many consumer “best-buy” lists. Now the company is trying again. They’re keeping the cute and rounded styling, but with a bit more edge. The car itself has grown larger for more interior room and a bigger trunk. The huge trunk even expands with the split-folding rear seats, although you can’t lock them, leaving security no better than in a hatchback.
Gone is the 2-door coupe version. Also gone is the more

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