SEE ALSO: Pontiac Buyer's Guide
Getting lost on a cross-country journey and spending a night in the wilderness is no longer something to be feared, if your vehicle of choice is the Aztek. Complete with its very own tent, 'No Vacancy' signs are to be scoffed at and remote camping sights to be welcomed. I do have to admit to only having camped once in my life, but what a novel idea! The Aztek is, in fact, replete with excellent ideas and carefully designed details, maximizing space, comfort and efficiency.
Whilst not being conventional in its looks, the Aztek is certainly an eye-catching original. With its boxy rear design being for utilitarian purposes, it may not be the prettiest thing on the road, or off it for that matter, but it's got enough under the hood to keep most motoring enthusiasts happy, and enough gadgetry to keep most 3-year-olds-in-an-adult's-body pushing, pulling, twiddling and adjusting until the bedtime (or should that be tent time...)
Powered by a 3.4 liter 3400 SFI V6 producing 185 horsepower at 5200 revs, and 210 lb-ft of torque at 4000 revs, the Aztek will outrun any Grizzly which comes too close, with bags of acceleration left at the top-end should it be needed. The Versatrak AWD uses an innovative torque system that adapts to road conditions, only sending power to the rear wheels when roads are slippery or wet, and thus ensuring better gas mileage (24 hwy/18 city). This, along with a smooth 4-speed automatic transmission and independent rear SLA suspension, teamed with 4-wheel disc brakes, make for an impressively firm, and safe, ride.
Whilst the exterior design may not be to everyone's taste, the Aztek's interior has seemingly been put together with a fine-toothed comb, with no detail too small to be overlooked. The storage container between the front seats is actually a removable cooler; there is a reflective display on the bottom of the windshield which gives speed, radio details, indicator signals, necessary information which is easily located, no need to move one's eyes from the road, but which can be dimmed and moved so as not to invade one's line of vision; radio and cruise controls on the steering wheel, radio controls in the trunk for when you're ready to sleep, sliding rear cargo tray; endless storage; power liftgate release; driver information center.
The Aztek is extremely comfortable with spaciousness for 5 people plus backpacks/tents/cooking stoves etc. I have to admit to not actually assembling the tent, but I did have a look at the instructions and, even to me, they didn't look like a degree in engineering was a pre-requisite! Safety-conscious as ever, there are driver and front passenger, front and side airbags, DRL with automatic lamp control, pass-key III system and battery rundown protection.
Further features include A/C with dual zone controls and rear vents, with pollen/odor filter, power mirrors, doors and locks, On-star communications system w/ one-year safety and security package, deep-tinted glass with rear defog, and AM/FM/CD with equalizer & 6-speakers.
Pontiac is marketing the Aztek as the perfect, affordable, off-road SUV type vehicle - take it off road and see how it performs. Unfortunately, the majority of these vehicles are not driven by adventurous mountain bikers who like to camp out in the middle of nowhere, but rather by mums on the school run/urban A to B types, and they are apparently still more attracted to the conventional-looking SUVs, shying away from this 'ugly-yet-versatile' newcomer. Personally I see the Aztek, not as an ugly duckling, but rather as a not-willing-to-be-a-sheep in the SUV herd. It may take some time for popularity to grow, but if you close your eyes and just get in, you're sure to be converted.
Facts & Figures Base Price $24,995 Model as Tested $29,580 Engine 3.4 liter, 3400 SFI V6 Transmission 4-speed automatic w/ overdrive HP 185 @ 5200 Torque 210 @ 4000 Brakes 4-wheel Disc ABS Suspension Twist-Axle w/ coil springs Independent rear SLA 1SC Package $2,265 includes: AM/FM stereo w/ dual playback cassette & CD with equalizer, power drivers seat, reconfigurable head up display, sliding rear cargo tray, security alarm, Onstar system, leather seating surfaces.
For additional information about the Pontiac Aztek GT: www.pontiac.com