An extended-wheelbase Special Value model joined the lineup of Pontiac’s Montana minivan in 2003. For 2004, Versatrak all-wheel drive is available on all models. XM Satellite Radio and a CD/MP3 radio are newly optional. Antilock brakes and side-impact airbags are now optional on value-priced models (option group 1SA) but are standard on other trims.
The Montana has a sportier appearance than the Chevrolet Venture and Oldsmobile Silhouette, though all three General Motors minivans are built from the same design. Brand-new GM minivans are coming as 2005 models.
Pontiac’s minivan used to be front-wheel drive only, but all-wheel drive first became available in 2002. The Montana may be equipped with a DVD-based entertainment system. Buyers can dress up the extended-wheelbase minivan with a ChromeSport Package that includes a rear spoiler, 16-inch chrome wheels and a sport suspension.
Regular-length Montanas have a 112-inch wheelbase, measure 187.3 inches long overall and stand 67.4 inches tall. Extended-length models stretch to nearly 201 inches long overall and have a 121-inch wheelbase.
All Montanas have a luggage rack and dual sliding side doors. A power-operated passenger-side door is optional, while one for the driver’s side is available on extended models. An optional Sport Performance and Handling Package includes a sport-tuned suspension with a rear load-leveling feature.
Standard Montanas can seat up to seven occupants, but they can be set up to hold as many as eight. Bucket seats are installed up front, and the second row can be fitted with three bucket seats or a pair of captain’s chairs. A folding three-passenger bench goes in the third row. Regular and extended value-priced versions feature a 60/40-split, folding second-row bench seat with an integrated child-safety seat. Extended models can have a stowable third-row seat with a floor-mounted convenience center. Cargo capacity is 141 cubic feet for the extended version.
Ultrasonic rear parking assist, which is optional on extended-length models, warns if you get too close to an obstacle while backing up. GM’s OnStar communication system is available, and the optional MontanaVision DVD-based entertainment system features a fold-down 7-inch screen.
Under the Hood
Like its cousins from Chevrolet and Oldsmobile, the Montana uses a 185-horsepower, 3.4-liter V-6 engine and a four-speed-automatic transmission. Versatrak all-wheel drive is offered only on extended-length Montanas.
Side-impact airbags for the front seats provide head and chest protection and come on models with the 1SE or 1SX option groups. Antilock brakes are standard on higher-end models. Traction control is available in the Sport Performance and Handling Package.
Because their powertrains are identical, the Montana driving experience isn’t markedly different from that of the Venture or Silhouette. Even though the presence of Versatrak all-wheel drive isn’t evident in ordinary driving, it gives a feeling of added confidence. An all-wheel-drive Montana rides comfortably, handles capably and is at least on par with most rivals.
Performance is a strong point, as GM’s solid powertrain functions with impressive competence. Each GM minivan is energetic when starting from a standstill, and this one can pass and merge effectively. None of GM’s minivans stand ahead of the competition, but because differences tend to be slight, they’re worth a test drive.