General Motors has had two unsuccessful tries at building a minivan that the American public wants. Finally, GM may have found a workable formula with a selection of all-new long-nose family haulers: the Pontiac Montana SV6, the Chevrolet Uplander, the Saturn Relay and the Buick Terraza.
The long-nose design gets the engine completely forward for additional crash protection, and out of the way, and lets the interior open up so that real American families can use every cubic foot. GM also believes that the long-nose design makes the minivans look more like SUVs and thus makes them more acceptable to those buyers who attach some kind of less-than-macho stigma to minivan ownership. Montana competes against the Honda Odyssey, the Toyota Sienna, the Dodge Grand Caravan, the Ford Freestar, and the Nissan Quest.
We found the all-new Pontiac Montana SV6 to be pleasant and easy to manage, though not bristling with horsepower. It's roomy and competent, though it doesn't offer the latest in interior innovation. The Pontiac may be the best of the GM minivans with sporty, distinctive styling in a vehicle class not noted for those attributes. All-wheel drive is available, a key feature for owners who battle wintry weather. The Montana SV6 is priced well below the Odyssey and some of the other minivans, and cash incentives can sweeten the deal considerably.
The new Pontiac Montana SV6 has a straightforward and easy to understand model lineup. The first thing to understand is that all Montanas are called SV6, so don't look for a non-SV6. The lineup starts with a well-equipped front-wheel-drive model called the 1SA, starting at $24,520; the 1SA All-Wheel-Drive version starts at $27,700; the better-equipped 1SB front-drive model starts at $27,890; and the 1SB All-Wheel-Drive model starts at $30,210. Most of the pricing differences are made up by additional features and amenities. GM's optional remote-starter ($175) lets you fire it up from inside the house during cold or hot weather.
All use the same engine, transmission, tire and wheel package. The standard setup is one right-side power sliding door for the second- and rear-seat passengers in the 2-2-3 seating layout. The left-side power sliding door comes as part of the $815 premium convenience package that includes the left-side power sliding door, rear park assist, an alarm system, and a three-way universal transmitter for garage doors, lights and gates.
Safety equipment on all models includes ABS, childproof door locks and the federally mandated dual front air bags. Side air bags are optional at $350. We recommend getting them. Traction control is also optional for the front-wheel-drive models at $195. All models come with OnStar and a year's worth of basic services.