New Car Review

1996 CHEVROLET ASTR0 VAN LT ALL-WHEEL DRIVE

CHEVROLET ASTRO

by: CAREY and BILL RUSS

SEE ALSO:Chevrolet Buyer's Guide

Chevrolet's Astrovan is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. It was an early-on mini-van that was introduced as a 1985 model. Its lineage is based on a durable Chevy truck with a ladder chassis and it offers a deluxe and roomy interior with good passenger and cargo space. For the 1995 model year the exterior was restyled with slightly more rounded lines, new front end sheet metal. that updates the hood, fenders, grille and fascia. The Astro now looks more like the rest of the Chevy Truck family. Also, the now standard extended body adds 10 inches of extra interior room. The formerly optional 4.3 Liter 190 hp CPI V6 adds 25 horsepower over the previous standard V6.

The interior of the 1996 model has been freshened with new seats, instrument panel and door trim panels. Also additional foot room has been added for those in the front seats. Under seat air ducts distribute temperature-controlled air throughout the spacious cabin. On the LT model an overhead console provide storage for a garage door opener and dark glasses, and displays outside temperature readings and compass heading. Other refinements include an innovative rear Dutch door option, as well as the second generation On Board Diagnostics (OBD) system.

As the Astrovan enters its second decade of production and service it is larger, more powerful and more comfortable. The improvements and innovations made during the 1995 and 1996 model years have transformed the Astro into a very useful and roomy mid-size all-purpose van.

APPEARANCE: The Astro exemplifies the old saying "form follows function". It has a somewhat boxy body with a very short and slanted hood, wide opening front doors, a large passenger-side sliding door, and a rear combination Dutch Door and glass lift-up hatch. The front displays a large shiny grille and four distinctive headlights, while large side mirrors and lower body side cladding provide excellent protection for it's entire length. Its highly styled alloy wheels are shod with all- season Michelin P215/75R 15 all-season tires.

COMFORT: Space is the name of the game in the newest Astro; depending upon the interior configuration from two to eight persons can comfortably ride in the roomy cabin. Plus there is ample room for luggage both in the rear, and on the roof. Step panels in the door portals and inside grab- handles makes it easy for passengers to enter and exit.. The driver's seat is six-way powered, while the front passenger's seat conceals a large pull-out storage box. All instruments and controls are in the proper place, items like power door locks, windows, mirrors and cruise control are part of the LT package. Also included are remote keyless entry, Cruise control, tilt steering wheel, an overhead console that displays the outside temperature and compass heading, a top luggage carrier, both a front and rear heating and air conditioning system and much more. The AM/FM/CD sound system pulls in distant stations with clarity and fidelity, and it is easy to set and tune.

SAFETY: For 1996 dual front air bags are now standard. The chassis is of strong safety-cage construction that provides a strong platform, as well as front and rear crush zones, and side door guard beams for occupant protection. Four-wheel anti-lock brakes and variable ratio power steering emphasize safety in maneuvering and stopping quickly.

ROADABILITY: Our Astro LT was fitted with full-time all-wheel drive which ensures controlled driving in almost any kind of weather. and road surface. A few laps around a training off-road course provided us with an experience designed to give confidence to the driver. Mud, crud, gravel, tree branches and up and down hill rutted roads were all handled with ease and in comfort. With AWD the Astro can tow 5,000 pounds, with the two-wheel drive model haul 5500 pounds. Its suspension system is designed to assist in delivering a smooth as possible ride in comfort and quiet.

PERFORMANCE: General Motors Vortec 4300 V6 engine drives the 1996 Astro. Power is automatically transmitted to the appropriate wheels as determined by driving conditions, so that the threat of sliding or skidding is minimized. The second generation On Board Diagnostics equipment assures that potential problems are determined before they become big problems. The 4L60-E four speed automatic transmission transmits power to all wheels very smoothly and quietly.

CONCLUSION: The Astro and its cousin, the GMC Safari, are starting their second decade with a fresh start: a revised exterior body, as well as an improved engine and transmission during 1995, and many new or updated interior features for 1996.

SPECIFICATIONS:
1996 CHEVROLET ASTR0 VAN LT ALL-WHEEL DRIVE

       Base Price             $ 21,936   
       Price As Tested        $ 28,970  
       Engine Type            V-6, ohv - 12v, cpi**
       Engine Size            4.3 liter/262 cid   
       Horsepower             190 @ 4400
       Torque (lb/ft)         250 @ 2800
       Wheelbase/Length       111"/190"
       Transmission           four speed electronic automatic w/od
       Curb Weight            4310 lbs.
       Pounds per Horsepower  22.7
       Fuel Capacity          27.0 gal.
       Fuel Requirement       Unleaded regular (87 oct)
       Tires                  Michelin XW4 P215/75R 15 m+s
       Brakes                 disc/drum, ABS standard
       Drive Train            front engine/full time all-wheel drive
       Trailer Capacity (lbs) 5000
       
       ** cpi - central point fuel injection
       
                    PERFORMANCE
       
       EPA Economy - miles per gallon
         city/highway/observed     15/19/16.1     
       0 to 60 mph                 10.3 sec.
       1/4 mi (E.T.)               17.9 sec.
       Coefficient of Drag  (Cd)   0.40

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