Some things are absolute certainties.

Death, taxes and the fact that some of those who haven't died yet simply can't live without a V-8 engine.

That's why in October a 5.3-liter V-8 will become an option in the 2003 GMC Envoy XL and Chevrolet TrailBlazer EXT midsize sport-utility vehicles.

The V-8 will be offered only in the extended-length XL/EXT versions with three rows of seats.

Craig Bierley, GMC midsize truck manager, said the V-8 is being added to serve those who think bigger is better and who have difficulty slipping behind the wheel of any vehicle not packing a V-8, and for those who need more towing capacity, the V-8's strong suit.

We tested an '03 GMC Envoy XL with the V-8. The standard 4.2-liter inline 6 has good muscle, but the V-8 is very spirited off the line and makes it feel as if the XL has the energy of a full-size GMC Yukon or Chevy Tahoe, in a smaller package.

For the ability to move quickly, the penalty is a 1 m.p.g. loss in mileage from the 15 m.p.g. city/20 m.p.g. highway rating on the XL with inline 6.

If you need to tow a lot, you probably will accept the penalty. If you simply like to jump away from the light faster than 6-cylinder sport-utes, you probably will accept the penalty as well but suffer the wrath of environmentalists.

The V-8 is rated at 290 horsepower and 330 foot-pounds of torque, compared with 275 h.p. (up from 270 for '02) and 275 foot-pounds of torque in the 4.2-liter 6. Though a modest horsepower gain, the increase in torque is what will attract those who tow (up to 1,300 pounds more than the 6-cylinder) and those who like to leap from the light.

The optional V-8 is expected to add about $1,500 to the $30,995 base price of a two-wheel-drive Envoy XL and $33,220 base price of a four-wheel-drive XL. Add $600 for freight.

All the benefits of the XL (Transportation, Aug. 18)--the room, comfort and cargo capacity missing from the compact Blazer--now with a V-8. Bierley expects up to 30 percent of Envoy XL's will go out the door with the V-8.

In addition to the Envoy XL and TrailBlazer EXT, the V-8 will be an option in the Envoy XUV (which, Bierley said, was proposed as separate GMC model and not a member of the Envoy line) that comes out late next year (Cars, July 11) as an '04. The V-8 will be standard in the Buick Rainier, the new sport-ute companion to the Buick Rendezvous that comes out for '04.

Bierley anticipates sales of 125,000 Envoys for calendar 2002, up from 74,000 Envoy/Jimmy for 2001. With the V-8 and XUV coming, he expects sales to top 150,000 in '03.

Aviator pricing

Lincoln's new Aviator SUV, the dolled-up version of the Ford Explorer, starts at $39,995 for the base two-wheel-drive "luxury" model, $42,945 for the base 2WD "premium" model, $42,915 for the all-wheel-drive "luxury" and $45,865 for the AWD "premium."

Add $1,515 for power moonroof, $1,295 for rear-seat DVD enterta inment system and $295 for a class III towing package rated for 7,300 pounds.

There's an $8,000 spread between Aviator and the base full-size Lincoln Navigator that starts at $48,035 in 4x2 version, but only about a $6,000 spread between the 4x4 Aviator and the Navigator 4x4 that starts at $51,485.

Lincoln says Aviator should attract 30,000 folks annually who never considered a Lincoln before. And who never priced out a Navigator?

Cold comfort

If you can't find a hard-to-get $18,000 Mini Cooper for your garage, BMW says dealers have a $175 chamois jacket for your closet with sleeves that zip off to form a vest, along with a canvas tote at $52 to store your chamois jacket.