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Memory lane built with these test drives

Here's a list that's sure to rev your opinions.

The poor folks who make up the auto team at USA Today didn't hide just how difficult it was to agree on the "25 Cars and Trucks With Impact" over the past 25 years top25.usatoday.com. After they "wrangled mightily, " they say a "rough consensus emerged." Uh-huh. Until America weighs in.

By Scott Long, Drive Editor
Published July 2, 2007


Here's a list that's sure to rev your opinions.

The poor folks who make up the auto team at USA Today didn't hide just how difficult it was to agree on the "25 Cars and Trucks With Impact" over the past 25 years top25.usatoday.com. After they "wrangled mightily, " they say a "rough consensus emerged." Uh-huh. Until America weighs in.

The history buff in me thinks the list fuels a fascinating ride through a quarter-century of automotive spurts and stutters:

SIMPLY THE BEST: How can you quibble with No. 1 - the '92 Toyota Camry? The sedan that became the best-selling car in America in 2002 quashed the Ford Taurus (No. 6) and had the towing capacity to pull Toyota past General Motors in auto sales this year.

LONG LINES OF LUXURY: Japan Inc.'s impact was felt far beyond pedestrian daily drivers. The '90 Lexus LS 400 (No. 7) and '86 Acura Legend (No. 9) melted Europe's monopoly on status-symbol luxury, which was complicated by the '02 BMW 7 Series (No. 25) and fell under assault from the '03 Cadillac CTS (No. 20).

HOME DEPOT HAULERS: It all started with '84 Chrysler minivans (No. 4). But Americans like their wheels to have function and form, so the minivan gave way to the saucier sport utility vehicle ('91 Ford Explorer, No. 2; '03 Hummer H2, No. 14; '98 Lincoln Navigator, No. 16; and '86 Suzuki Samurai, No. 21), which gave way to the compromise "crossover" ('96 Toyota RAV4, No. 10.).

SAVE THE EARTH: The '01 Toyota Prius (No. 3) has Hollywood hybrid cachet, but the electric-powered GM Impact (No. 22) didn't get a Hollywood ending.

FUN TO DRIVE, FUN TO BUY: The '90 Mazda Miata let us put our hair down, and the '91 Saturn SL (No. 12) let us put calculators down with no-haggle pricing.

What the heck is that? I still wonder how many takes Mark Burnett needed to shoot that poor Survivor contestant, whose first response to his DOA '01 Pontiac Aztek (No. 19) prize had to be "This is what I won? Seriously?" But the '05 Scion xB (No. 24) garnered a cliquey allure.

You can afford it: You might have to go eastern Europe to find anyone who was ever comfortable in an '86 Yugo (No. 17), but at $3, 990, it could fit comfortably on a credit card. But the '86 Hyundai Excel (No. 5) launched the South Korean automaker with this $4, 995 entry model.

GO RETRO: Baby boomers love to relive their youth. Carmakers were happy to oblige with the '02 Mini Cooper (No. 15), '01 Chrysler PT Cruiser (No. 18), '98 Volkswagen New Beetle (No. 23) and a revitalized '94 Ford Mustang (No. 11). But fads fade. Even when you revive them.

Scott Long can be reached at long@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8556.