Downside: We have entered a world in which 200-horsepower vehicles have become the norm. Thus, the 185-horsepower Torrent is dismissed out of hand by throttle jockeys as being an underperforming wimp. I disagree with that assessment. I think there is enough horsepower in the Torrent to move reasonable people from one place to another at reasonable speeds and costs.

Ride, acceleration and handling: Pontiac calls the Torrent an SUV. But the proof is in the ride: It's a station wagon. There is nothing at all truck-like about the Torrent's ride and handling. It's a smooth runner, in much the manner of a wagon or large sedan. Acceleration is excellent, meaning that you can change highway lanes safely and quickly.

Head-turning quotient: Most spectators said it was a nice-looking wagon. No one called it an SUV.

Body style/layout: The Pontiac Torrent shares a platform with the Chevrolet Equinox. Both are front-engine, four-door wagon/SUVs with a rear hatch. Construction is welded, galvanized steel -- a unitized body. Both are available in front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive. Visually, the Torrent is more attractive than the Equinox inside and out.

Engine/transmission: The Pontiac Torrent is equipped with a 3.4-liter, V-6 engine that develops 185 horsepower at 5,200 revolutions per minute and 210 foot-pounds of torque at 3,800 rpm. The engine is linked to a five-speed automatic transmission.

Cargo and fuel capacities: The Torrent has seating for five people. Cargo capacity is 32.2 cubic feet with the rear seats sup and 68.6 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down. The fuel tank holds 16.6 gallons of regular unleaded gasoline. Payload, the weight of what can be carried onboard, is 1,290 pounds in the front-wheel-drive model and 1,157 pounds in the all-wheel-drive version. The Torrent can be equipped to tow 3,500 pounds.

Mileage: I averaged 24 miles per gallon in highway driving in the front-wheel-drive Torrent.

Safety: Standard anti-lock brakes. Head air bags are optional. Buy them.

Price: Base price on the front-wheel-drive 2006 Pontiac Torrent is $22,400. Dealer invoice price on base model is $20,877. Price as tested is $24,545, including $1,555 in options and a $590 destination charge. Dealer's price with options and transportation fee is $22,758. Prices sourced from Pontiac and

Purse-strings note: Compare with Ford Escape/Mazda Tribute, Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Santa Fe, Jeep Liberty. The Torrent offers good value.