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Buick Terraza CXL FWD Review

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SEE ALSO: New Car Buyer's Guide for Buick


MODEL:  Buick Terraza CXL FWD
ENGINE:  3.5-liter V6
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE:  200 hp @ 5,200 rpm/220 lb.-ft. @ 4,400 rpm 
TRANSMISSION:  4-speed automatic
WHEELBASE:  121.1 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT:  205.0 x 72.0 x 72.0 in.
TIRES:  P225/60R17
CARGO:  136.5 cu. ft. (max.)
ECONOMY:  18 mpg city/24 mpg highway/13.8 mpg test
PRICE:  $33,035 (includes $715 destination charge)
Buick calls the Terraza a sport utility in its advertisements. It's even called a "special purpose" vehicle on the Monronie (price) sticker. But in reality, it's a minivan. It shares its platform with the Chevrolet Uplander, Pontiac Montana SV6 and Saturn Relay, with dimensions that are almost identical to those three vehicles.

Still, Terraza looks like a sport utility. It has a stubby nose like an SUV. But back of the B-pillar, it's all minivan, with powered sliding side doors and a lift-up (non-powered) tailgate. In Buick's lineup, it adds Oldsmobile's Silhouette mini to create Buick's first mini, so it's significant from that standpoint alone. It also drives like a mini, despite its aspersions.

Terraza is the most expensive of the four new GM "crossover sport vans." Our tester carried a $33,035 bottom line that included options such as chrome wheels ($650), XM Satellite Radio ($325) and a remote vehicle starter system ($175). We also drove the top-of-the-line CXL version.

Terraza is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine delivering 200 horsepower. As I've said before with this engine, 200 horsepower is low for this size engine. Other manufacturers deliver 225 to 250 hp with 3.5-liter V6 mills. That said, in the Terraza, the 3.5-liter V6 is powerful and moves the vehicle along at a brisk clip. Power reaches the front wheels through a 4-speed automatic transmission with a column-mounted shifter. All-wheel drive versions are also available. I thought the test fuel economy of 13.8 mpg was low. When we owned our full-size Van with a 6.0-liter V8, we averaged 12.7 mpg overall. The Terraza is smaller and lighter and offered essentially the same economy.

Our tester was equipped as a seven-seater, with bucket seats in the first two rows and a bench in the third. The bucket seats were comfortable, and all had fold-down armrests. The rear seat is a bench and folds flat to provide maximum storage capability. A neat feature was that the rear headrests bend back when the seats are folded, eliminating the need to remove them and find storage for them. A flat floor is created when the seat is folded. The tailgate doesn't have a remote release on the key fob, although remote starting was on the fob.

Other convenient storage areas included fold-down trays between the two rows of bucket seats, four cupholders for front passengers and two more for the second row passengers, a nice cubby in the lower center portion of the dash, a good glove box, and four storage compartments below the rear floor. There's also an overhead console system that has snap-on modules to configure it any way you choose.

Our tester came equipped with a DVD entertainment system. This included two RF headphones which were stored in pockets behind the rear seats, cutting down significantly on rear-seat legroom. In all probability, though, that's not critical, since rear seats in minis tend to be occupied by smaller children, who would also be the ones to benefit most from the DVD system. One advantage of the "SUV" hood is that it provides better engine access than the standard minivan. All the dip sticks and fillers are accessible. There was no gas strut to keep the hood up, though, just a brace.

The instrument panel was well-designed and clear. Audio controls were located on the steering wheel and didn't get in the way when making turns, so that I didn't clumsily change stations or media when I turned. The rear window wiper control is on the turn signal stalk, which forced moving the cruise control switches to a "Toyota-style" position on the right side of the steering column.

Overall, the Terraza is a nice minivan. I don't think it's in the same league as some of the more established vans, especially those from Japanese manufacturers like Toyota and Honda, or Chrysler's minis, which are still the benchmark. Still, it's a good first try, and a big step up from the Silhouette.

2005 The Auto Page Syndicate