Ford Explorer Sport Trac. "The small pickup-truck bed is handy for hauling home-improvement materials; the cabin carries five in comfort–seven if you get third-row seating for youngsters." Starts at $24,465.
Honda Element. "For the practical Washingtonian, this little box on wheels starts at just over $16,000. It has the most front headroom in any SUV and convenient center-opening side doors that are great for loading Potomac Mills bargains."
Lincoln LS. "Starting at $33,000-plus, this car turns up its nose at pricier wheels. The comfortable ride, good handling, and luxury looks will stand out in Potomac or McLean."
Mazda 6. "If you want a great-driving, comfortable compact and don't need to show off, this sedan offers performance and mileage and is easy to park in Georgetown or Old Town Alexandria." From $19,540.
Subaru Impreza WRX. "Starting at around $18,000, this sedan drives like a sports car and will keep up with the quickest Beltway traffic. Its all-wheel drive is great in the snow."
Washingtonian staff contributing to this section were Chuck Conconi, Sherri Dalphonse, Susan Davidson, Mary Clare Fleury, Cynthia Hacinli, Thomas Head, Stephanie Jones, Ann Limpert, Drew Lindsay, Chad Lorenz, Leslie Milk, William O'Sullivan, Cindy Rich, and Jeremy Stahl. Also contributing were writers Cathy Alter, Ann Cochran, and Jenny Sullivan.