New Car/Review

1999 PONTIAC MONTANA

By Matt/Bob Hagin

SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 26,825
Price As Tested                                    $ 28,410
Engine Type               OHV 12-valve 3.4 Liter V6 w/SPFI*
Engine Size                                 207 cid/3350 cc
Horsepower                                   185 @ 5200 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               210 @ 3200 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                    120"/72.7"/201.3"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     3405 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                    25 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                     P215/70R15
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS)
Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                      Eight-passenger/five-door
Domestic Content                                        N/A
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.34

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            18/25/21
0-60 MPH                                         11 seconds
Max. towing capacity                            3500 pounds
Max. cargo capacity                        155.9 cubic feet
     * Sequential port fuel injection

(Although the sport/utility vehicle is getting most of the auto media, Bob Hagin says that minivans like the Pontiac Montana are still grabbing lots of buyers. Matt Hagin says that the thing he likes best about the Montana is it's Western theme TV ads.)

MATT - The advertising company that put Pontiac's Trans Sport Montana television ads together for '98 really was inspired, Dad. Those action commercials that feature mounted cowboys at full gallop leaping off their horses onto a moving Pontiac Montana are dynamite. I'm not a television fan, but even I watched them.

BOB - That they were successful is an understatement, Matt. Pontiac sales of minivans increased by a third in '97 over the previous year. Pontiac has dropped the Trans Sport name altogether for '99 and now all the Pontiac minivans are called Montana. They come in two models now, the first being the regular wheelbase version that comes standard with a single sliding rear door on the right side or with optional sliding rear doors on both sides. In thumbing through the current issues of the various used car priced guides, I found that an extra back door adds around $1000 to the value of a minivan, so it must be a popular option.

MATT - That extra door back there sure makes getting in and out of the back seats lots easier, Dad. It's a standard feature on the extended wheelbase version like the Montana that we're reviewing this week. Mechanically, they're pretty much the same vehicle, although the long model has a 25 gallon fuel tank as opposed to the 20 gallons that the shorter Montana uses. This should give it an additional 100 miles of fuel range. Both of them are powered by the venerable G.M. 3.4 liter V6 engine that uses pushrods operating two valves per cylinder. Although the engine has been around so long that it has whiskers, it's sturdy enough that Pontiac engineers were able to squeeze a few more horsepower from it for '99. It drives the front wheels through the traditional G.M. four-speed automatic transmission, and while this powertrain combination isn't a ball of fire, it gives out good power - even going up our California foothills with a full compliment of passengers. The rest of the running gear is pretty much standard stuff on the G.M minivan theme with MacPherson struts up front and a solid twist-beam axle in back. The power brakes are discs in front but the back brakes are still drums.

BOB - Our Montana came with a load of goodies which resulted in a combination of special packages including stiffer suspension springs, anti-lock brakes, a tow-hitch set-up, a load-leveling system in back, ancillary cooling systems for both the automatic transmission fluid and the motor oil, all-weather 15-inch self-sealing tires on aluminum wheels, tilt steering and enough cubby holes throughout the interior to hide all the crown jewels of England. The three-row seating arrangement can be had in several different combinations. Besides the conventional seven-seater set-up, the center section can be equipped with three narrow bucket seats which gives a total of six behind the driver. There's enough room in the new extended wheelbase Montana for families as big as ours, Matt, as long as the kids are fairly small.

MATT - I'm sure that the Pontiac designers had large families in mind when they designed the interior of the Montana, Dad. The average age of new Montana buyers is 45 and they're primarily female, according to the press kit that we received. And to further point out the family orientation of the Montana, there's a separate sound system in back that plays compact discs as well as cassettes and they can be heard through earphones. And just to make sure that the soccer team that Mom's transporting is entertained, there's an optional video system with a drop-down screen that will play conventional VCR tapes to keep the kids occupied while they're being transported around town.

BOB - I'm not sure I approve of bringing TV that much further into our American culture, so I can only hope that its use is restricted to educational stuff rather than cartoons.

MATT - Dad, you've been out of parenting too long. Cartoons are now called "animated shorts," and many of them are really great.

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