2001 Pontiac Montana Mini Van (347)

Overview:

This week I finally had the opportunity to test the 2001 Pontiac Montana Mini Van. Do you know the way to San Jose? How about Oregon? Well, that’s where I took this top of the line family van. It was really comfortable and as good as they get for a long trip. Up the central valley of California from Los Angeles to southern Oregon is about 700 miles, and not a sore tosch in the crowd.

The automatic doors made our many stops easier and the entertainment center was a lifesaver to occupy the two little ones. Which movie do you want? Mary Poppins was a hit. Timeless, isn’t it. Comfort also goes a long way to keep young passengers from saying, “are we there yet?” Simply put, I was impressed. Charlie, our Border Collie took the whole third row seats and didn’t make a whimper the whole trip. So although we could have seated 6 comfortably we toted five, including Charlie and the luggage fit in the remaining small cargo area.

In the central valley of California the temperatures can get downright uncomfortable but the air conditioning was fantastic. The rear air controls kept the kids and dog oblivious to the outside temps over 100 degrees.

If you’ve made the trip you already know you must cross two mountain ranges with climbs and decents that are long hard grades. The Grapevine, above LA, in California and the Siskious in southern Oregon. The climb from Redding, California begins with the breathtaking vistas of snow covered Mt. Shasta and Shasta Lake. What a beautiful country we live in.

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Handling & Performance:

The Montana I tested was equipped with the sport performance suspension and auto leveling plus traction control. It provides excellent handling with plenty of power from the V6, so I never felt the need for more. Passing those trucks was a breeze. Thanks Pontiac for a nice ride.

Styling:

I think they’ve been cloning these things since they stumbled onto the current body style that folks seem to like most. In a way, it is pretty plain but very functional like most of the competition. Before the mini van, “Really Plain” vans were made to function as a family transport vehicle. In the roaring ‘60’s the van got especially popular. The VW van became a symbol of Freedom, from free sex to ban the bomb free speech.

Fit and Finish:

Well done, Detroit. You’ve finally broken the Japanese code and continue to pump out near replicas of your Japanese counterparts that are often priced higher.

Conveniences:

Take a look at the equipment list and if it isn’t there, you don’t need it. Then take a trip with the kids or grandkids and you’ll dump that macho SUV and buy an ultra convenient mini van. And convenience is what really differentiates this class, from every other vehicle out there. It does it all and does it best.

Cost:

You’ll expect to pay as much as a 4X4 Sport Utility, but you’ll save on gas and for the most part accomplish the same thing as the utility vehicle.

Recommendation:

I wouldn’t suggest buying one without the auto doors on both sides. They are simply too convenient for the family who must move kids from place to place. You’re going to have to test ‘em all I’m afraid, unless you wouldn’t own anything but a Ford, then you’ll opt for the Windstar. If you like GM cars you’ll find this Pontiac equal to the challenge of Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Nissan, Honda and all the others. On the other hand, I really liked the Honda Odyssey.

The competition:

Chevrolet Venture $21,200-30,315, Chrysler Town & Country $24,430-37,510, Dodge Caravan $19,160-32,235, Ford Windstar $20,220-33,765, Honda Odyssey $23,900-26,400, Mazda MPV $20,675-26,280, Oldsmobile Silhouette $26,655-33,320, Toyota Sienna $23,905-28,436.

Good News:

Great family vehicle with lots of room, third row seats, good performance, entertainment center, comfortable, good alternative to the SUV.

Bad News:

Pricey since it’s at the upper end of the scale.

Standard Equipment:

3.4 liter 185 horsepower V6 engine, 4-speed automatic trans, 25 gallon gas tank, front and side air bags, 4-wheel anti lock brakes, daytime running lights, child security locks, rear wiper washer, theft deterrent system, battery run-down protection, luggage rack, dual sliding doors, tinted glass, power mirrors, power driver and passenger seats, power windows, 2nd row captains chairs, leather, tilt steering, cruise control, 6-disc in dash CD player, power rear quarter windows, keyless entry, OnStar communications system, front and rear air conditioning, leather wrapped steering wheel with radio controls, rear audio controls, traction and auto level control, rear parking sensors, entertainment center for audio and video and game input.

Gas Stats:

19 City and 26 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $34,220.

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