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New Car/Review

Pontiac Montana

by Annabelle Frankl

SEE ALSO: Pontiac Buyer's Guide

"Are we nearly there yet?" Sound like a familiar lament from the back seat? I can still remember saying it to my parents (but have yet to hear it myself), that whiney, annoying 'as if this is going to help' sentence, guaranteed to drive all those in the front crazy! Well, help is at hand in the form of the Pontiac Montana - a VHS/TV on wheels (and more, of course). Simply pop in your sprogs' favorite tape and drive in peace while they listen happily on headsets. What will they think of next?!

Of course, the 3.4 liter SFI V6 will also ensure a speedy arrival at any destination. Great acceleration, even with a full load, and the kind of handling - thanks to the FE2 sport suspension, auto level control and traction control included in the sport performance package - that will ensure the young 'uns don't get van sick either.

A lot of thought has evidently gone into the design of the Montana. The preferred equipment group includes power sliding side door, which not only looks rather cool but is extremely useful for grocery/child-filled arms. The cabin holds 7, with leather seating arranged as 2/2/3: front reclining, power bucket seats with fold forward feature and 2 intermediate reclining captains chairs, which in turn offer easy access to a 3-passenger 50/50 rear split, stowable bench seat. The gap in the intermediate row makes the van appear more roomy and results in a less claustrophobic feeling for 3rd row passengers. 6 headphone outlets, reading lamps, plus the VHS and LCD colour monitor (with remote control, no less) and video game input, mean all parties will travel in comfort and with amusement.

Storage space is seemingly endless in the Montana too, with front door map pockets, lockable glove box, front passenger underseat, front seatback pockets, RH sliding door pocket, dual upper/lower rear quarter panels and rear mini-cargo nets every door, all bottles, headsets, toys, sunglasses and goodness knows what else can be safely stowed. Safety features include 4-wheel ABS with traction control, driver and front passenger frontal and side airbags, day running lights, and the Onstar communication system.

Fuel economy comes in at 19/26, city/highway, although I don't think that's with a full load. However, the 25.5 gallon fuel tank will at least ensure that fill-ups are not too frequent (just pricey when the tank's finally empty).

Behind the wheel, the driver is aided by instrumentation which includes: analog speedometer, odometer, trip odometer, tachometer, voltmeter, coolant temp, door ajar, low oil/coolant indicators, ultrasonic rear parking aid, and radio (and 6-CD in-dash) and cruise controls on the tilt steering wheel.

The Montana is very responsive, with light, power assisted steering, excellent brakes and, as mentioned, good firm handling. It's, obviously, ideally suited to families, not really a single-person's car - although that said, it's great for cruising around town with a van-full of friends, and your favorite music video cranked up! In effect, your own limo (without the open bar, of course!)

Facts & Figures

Engine            3.4 liter 3400 SFI V6
HP                185 @ 5200 
Torque            210 @ 4000
Transmission      4-speed electronically controlled automatic w/ OD
Brakes            Power front disc/rear drum w/ 4-wheel
                  anti-lock brake system (ABS)
Suspension        Independent MacPherson strut
                  w/ lower control (front)
                  Trailing twist axle w/ coil spring (rear)
Steering          Power Rack & Pinion

Standard Price                       $31,875
Price as Tested                      $34,220
Destination                          $   640

7 passenger, 2nd row                 $ 1,410
      captain, 3rd row stowable
      seats w/ convenience center
6-CD in dash changer                 $   295

Preferred equipment group (Montana 1SJ) includes: Onstar, power rear quarter windows, keyless remote entry, power sliding door, front & rear A/C, driver info system, universal garage opener, leather wrapped steering wheel w/ radio controls, rear audio controls.

Sport performance & handling package includes: FE2 sport suspension, auto level control, traction control, 15" aluminium wheels, rear parking aid, Montanavision video & LCD colour monitor, 6-headphone outlet, video game input.

For additional information about the Pontiac Montana: