Think of the two-door Jimmy as the sports coupe of off-roaders.

Young folks without kids, or even older folks whose kids have left home will find the two-door appealing because it looks cooler than the four-door.

Even though its 100.5-inch wheelbase is the same as the four-door, it is 6.5 inches shorter overall. The lack of a second set of doors relegates the back seat to occasional use for passengers. In fact, many of the active-lifestyle people who buy the two-door may well leave the back seat folded flat the majority of the time in order to make it easier to haul around their gear, whether it be camping equipment, skis, bikes or wood from the lumber yard.

The triangular side glass and boldly angled slash of metal looks sportier than the four-door. Its tough and rugged persona are amplified by the 15-inch aluminum wheels shod with fat tires.

Even though the current Jimmy has been around for a while, continuous improvements to its appearance keep it looking fresh. A vehicular face lift in the form of a new grille, fascia, bumper and headlights takes years from its age without making it look like an aging actor betrayed by a too-young face.

For 1998, most of the improvements lavished on the Jimmy make it more comfortable. A new instrument panel and gauge cluster are noticed immediately. The redesign was done to accommodate dual airbags, but it also addresses some ergonomic issues by moving secondary controls closer to the driver. The second-generation airbags are the kind that open with less force.

New gauges are arrayed inside a large binnacle behind the steering wheel, and they have a classier look. Climate controls, radio and air vents are situated next to the steering wheel in a section of the dash that has been angled toward the driver. A large grab handle has been integrated into the top of the dash above the passenger-side airbag.

On vehicles equipped with automatic transmission, the shift lever is now mounted on the steering column to free up floor space for a newly designed console that has variable-sized cupholders, a coin holder and dual-bin storage under the armrest.

In addition to the cigarette lighter, the dash has two additional power outlets so busy people can plug in their cell phones, laptop computers or what-have-you.

Both air-conditioning and audio systems have been upgraded this year, as well.

The seats have gotten their share of attention for 1998 as well. The seatbelts move with the seats for greater comfort. Heated seats are an option.

On those rare times when passengers actually ride in back, they will find that getting in is a challenge unless they are under about 12 years of age. Due to the shorter vehicle length, the back seat is 11 inches narrower, and total load-floor length is 7.2 inches less than the four-door.

With all of the improvements to the Jimmy, one thing that remains the same is the large hump in the floor in front of the passenger seat. While not eve ryone will object to its presence, some people will find it enough of an irritant to keep them from buying.

On the road, the Jimmy is energetic, thanks to the 190 horsepower of its 4.3-liter, Vortec V6. While this engine is not the smoothest around, it does pump out a generous helping of power. It can tow 5,000 pounds.

The test truck had an automatic transmission, but a five-speed manual is optional on the two-door. Anti-lock, four-wheel disc brakes are standard.

The test vehicle had been put through some rugged testing as a part of a truck comparison conducted by Texas journalists, so it is hard to tell if it was typical of all Jimmys. The ride was fairly stiff, even on smooth pavement, and there seemed to be some generalized shakiness, which was an aberration since I have never noticed this on Jimmys before.

The externally mounted spare tire seriously hindered vision out the back window.

For folks who want to ride in the lap of luxury, leather seats, heated seats nd heated mirrors are available options.

Price
The base price of our test truck was $23,774. Its options included six-way power driver's seat, heated outside mirrors, overhead console, external spare tire mount, high-back bucket seats and a 3.42 axle ratio.

The sticker price was $27,069.

Warranty
The basic warranty is for three years or 36,000 miles.

Point: The two-door Jimmy is geared toward active folks who will haul gear in back instead of passengers. It gets a new dash, dual airbags, anti-lock brakes and a face lift.

Counterpoint: The test truck had a choppy ride, the hump in front of the passenger seat impinged on foot space, and the spare tire blocked the rear window.

SPECIFICATIONS:
ENGINE: 4.3-liter, V6
TRANSMISSION: automatic
WHEELBASE: 100.5 inches
GVWR: 4,850 lbs.
BASE PRICE: $23,774
PRICE AS DRIVEN: $27,069
MPG RATING: 18 city, 25 hwy.