EXPERT REVIEW

The Detroit News's view

Don’t discount the 2001 Chevrolet S-10 Crew Cab 4X4 pickup just because it’s late to the SUT party. The emerging market for sport-utility trucks, which combine the best features of pickups and traditional sport-utility vehicles, has mushroomed since the debut last year of the Nissan Frontier Crew Cab, the Ford Explorer Sport Trac and, in a slightly larger size, the Dodge Dakota Quad Cab. And don’t forget the impending arrival of such attention-grabbing truck/SUV hybrids as the Chevrolet Avalanche and the Lincoln Blackwood.

Unlike the Avalanche and the Sport Trac, the S-10 Crew Cab resembles a conventional pickup, which is both good and bad. The best news for consumers is the $25,908 sticker price on the nicely equipped LS version that we tested. If you’re in the market for one of these New Age haulers, the S-10 Crew Cab should be near the top of your shopping list.

She: I’m always a little leery about driving pickup trucks. The cowgirl/desperado image is kind of intriguing, but my concern is that I’m going to feel like the truck is too much to handle. Like it’s driving me instead of vice versa. I’m happy to say that after a couple of weeks in the S-10 Crew Cab, I was sold on the design. More than most SUVs or other trendy vehicles, this pickup combines the best of all worlds. Most days, the four-door version we tested felt like a sedan. But, like any good truck, it also gives you that command seating position looking out over traffic. And it’s got a fairly functional bed for transporting stuff like table saws or furniture.

He: Not much furniture. I know it’s bigger than the bed on the Sport Trac, but it’s only four and a half feet long – not much use for serious garage-sale junkies. But it was good enough for me and our 20-year-old to make a pilgrimage one weekend from Detroit to Chicago to hunt for vintage guitars. Thank goodness we had the four-wheel-drive model. About 7 p.m. on a Friday night, as we got outside Gary, Ind., the wet snow came pelting down with real blinding force. That pushbutton shift on the instrument panel proved to be remarkably convenient, and we confidently made our way into the Snowy City with no problem. And we had plenty of room in the rear cabin for duffel bags, coats, CDs, maps and other junk, plus we could lock a guitar and amp back there if we needed.

She: I was actually mad that you took the Chevrolet that weekend and left me to drive a $70,000 Mercedes with rear-wheel drive that was awful in the snow. To me, the S-10 is so practical. But let’s talk about the down side. The S-10’s conservative looks can work for or against it. I’ll bet a lot of guys will prefer a more traditional pickup like the S-10, while the MTV crowd will probably prefer a sexier vehicle like the Sport Trac or the Frontier. Both of those make more of a fashion statement.

He: I have no serious problems with the S-10 Crew Cab. I noticed that it has an exceptionally large turning circle, which ma kes it a little difficult to tuck into narrow parking spaces or make a tight U-turn. And the brakes require so much pedal pressure, they don’t inspire a lot of confidence. Also, you can’t get an optional V-8 like you can in the Dakota, although the S-10’s standard 4.3-liter V-6 is pretty sturdy. On the 4×4 model, it makes 190 horsepower and 250 pounds-feet of torque. That’s more than enough to haul a bed full of amplifiers and other band stuff. Oh, sorry, honey, I meant lots of plants and antiques.

She: You mean mulch and marigolds. This is just your thinly veiled way of letting people know you’re still playing in a rock band. What’s it called again? The Exhaust Fumes?

He: Exhaust NOTES, you disrespectful woman. Some groupie you are.

She: I’m not very good at fawning. But I feel like I’m really sold on this Chevy, and I have no second thoughts giving the S-10 a superior rating. I know Chevrolet believes about 80 percent of the buyers are going to be men. B I think this is really a terrific unisex vehicle that even women will feel quite comfortable in.

Anita’s rating: World class

Paul’s rating: World class

Likes: Roomy rear seat, with easy entry and exit. Love the pushbutton shift from two- to four-wheel drive mode. Comfortable, nicely furnished cabin with easy-to-use controls. Better build quality than the competition. Longer bed length than on Explorer Sport Trac.

Dislikes: Turning circle is huge, making parking a chore. Not as sexy-looking as Explorer Sport Trac. No V-8 engine available. Brakes don’t grip as well as they should.

Type: Front-engine, four-wheel drive, five-passenger, four-door pickup.

Price: Base, $24,809; as tested, $25,908 (inc. $560 destination charge).

Engine: 4.3-liter V-6; 190-hp; 250 lb-ft torque.

EPA fuel economy: 17 mpg city/22 mpg highway.

12-month insurance cost, according to AAA Michigan*: $1,319 (Estimate. Ratesmay be higher or lower, depending on coverage and driving record.)

Where built: Linden, N.J.

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