The FORD Escape and its MAZDA Tribute partner have both front wheel and all wheel drive versions, and are powered by Ford's transverse 3.0-liter V6, and Mazda's 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines for good power and economy. They have a full variety of comfort and lifestyle options, and are priced well below the usual truck based SUVs.
GENERAL MOTORS has created the expressive PONTIAC Aztek to appeal to young, active beach type lifestyles, and uses the same components to create the slightly longer BUICK Rendezvous that can carry four full size folks and four golf bags. With either two or four wheel drive, they will be flexible in their capabilities and price ranges. Expect versions soon from Chevy, Olds and even Saturn.
The CHRYSLER Cruiser is stylish, spacious and versatile, and it looks like it will get a Mercedes AWD system within a year or so. Before long, HYUNDAI will have their multipurpose vehicle, the value priced but tough looking Santa Fe.
LEXUS gave us the RX300 and it has proved that utility can be comfortable and luxurious. The drive train is based on that from the European All-Trac Celica Turbo rally car. Look for the satellite navigation system and accident notification to be available soon.
BMW has entered the market with their sports car like X5 that has European handling, and it will soon be joined by similar multipurpose vehicles from AUDI and PORSCHE. They are not set up to be driven off road, but their versatile all-wheel-drive systems will provide safety in slippery conditions.