What's New for 1999
The redesigned-for-1999 Tracker, available in either two-door convertible or four-door hardtop versions and in two- or four-wheel drive, features sporty new looks, more power, improved ride and handling and a roomier, more comfortable interior.
The all-new Tracker has finally arrived, with a fresh look and revamped interior that are sure to make it more attractive to folks cross-shopping the Kia Sportage, Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V mini-utes. Only the name and a handful of components carry over from the previous-generation Tracker, and the many improvements are evident throughout.With its lower roofline, sloping hood and sculpted flanks, Tracker's design is far more stylish than its predecessor, whether you choose the two-door softtop model or four-door hardtop. Better still, Tracker's all-new interiors are more comfortable and feature better ergonomics, including a reworked instrument panel that houses full instrumentation.
Unlike many of today's unibody mini-SUVs built off car platforms, Tracker boasts full ladder-type frame construction. Track width has been increased for '99 by nearly 2.5 inches for a wider stance, with MacPherson-strut front suspension and an all-new five-link rear setup locating its rigid axle. Even the steering has been improved, dropping the old recirculating-ball system in favor of a modern rack-and-pinion unit.
The result is improved ride and handling, with better stability and more substantial road feel. Sure, when driven hard the Tracker still exhibits plenty of understeer, but it is more predictable and less twitchy than last year's version. Power front disc brakes with rear drums bring things to a halt, while four-wheel ABS is optional. A new, "shift-on-the-fly" four-wheel-drive system with automatic locking front hubs is now standard on all 4WD models.
Four-door Trackers can be equipped with power windows, door locks and mirrors, while child security rear door locks are standard. Rear seating is surprisingly comfortable for two adults. Improving the way the rear seat is stowed not only provides a nearly flat load floor, but about two-and-a-half more square feet of cargo room as well. There are a wide variety of optional features to equip your four-door Tracker nearly as well as some popular compacts.
The two-door convertibles are more than six inches longer than last year, providing an additional 1.3 square feet of cargo floor area with the rear seat stowed. All have an improved, two-piece "easy opening'' top that opens up the front section, rear section or both to the sun. Dealer-installed "Exterior Accessory Packages" can also be added to custom-tailor your Tracker for more serious on- or off-road duty, if you so desire.
New this year is a 2.0-liter, 16-valve DOHC four-cylinder engine that is standard on the four-door and optional on convertibles. It puts out 127 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 134 foot-pounds of torque at 3,000 revs through a five-speed manual or optional four-speed automatic transmission. The base motor on the two-door is a 1.6-liter inline four available only with the stick shift, but the little motor's 97 tortured ponies and mere 100 foot-pounds of torque demand that you opt for the bigger engine mated to the five-speed.
Sorry, but the V6 that is available in the Chevy's Suzuki twin, the Vitara, cannot be had in the '99 Tracker at any price. That's too bad, because even with its more powerful engine, the Tracker is woefully wheezy while under hard acceleration -- buzzing and complaining well before redline.
Power-hungry drivers aside, there's no denying that fun-in-the-sun motoring takes on fresh meaning behind the wheel of a little Tracker convertible -- even more so with the go-anywhere attitude afforded by four-wheel drive. And more practical-minded folks will no doubt appreciate the blend of good utility and fuel economy afforded by a Tracker four-door. Indeed, if you're looking for a mini-SUV for city driving chores and short weekend excursions, the new-and-improved Tracker's blend of features and value deserves a look.