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Pontiac Aztek GT (2001)

SEE ALSO: Pontiac Buyer's Guide

By Tom Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 24,445
     Price As Tested                                    $ 25,435
     Engine Type               OHV 12-valve 3.4 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 204 cid/3350 cc
     Horsepower                                   185 @ 5200 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               210 @ 4000 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  108.3"/73.7"/182.1"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     3963 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  18.0 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                         P215/70SR16 all season
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/drum (ABS)
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/five-door
     Domestic Content                                        N/A
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            19/26/23
     0-60 MPH                                       11.0 seconds
     Maximum cargo volume                        93.5 cubic feet
     Maximum payload capacity                        3500 pounds
                 * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

The Aztek is Pontiac's interpretation of the car/SUV/minivan theme. Built to cater to the "active lifestyle" set, it's available in base and uplevel GT trim like our tester and in front or all-wheel drive.

OUTSIDE - There have been lengthy discussions at our office regarding Aztek styling. Pontiac calls it an SRV, or Sport Recreational Vehicle. It appears to be a cross between the company's current Montana minivan and the Korean-made Pontiac Le Mans compact hatchback of several years ago and generates strong "hate it" or "love it" comments. It evolved from a concept car that was shown at the 1999 Detroit Auto Show, the theme being a multi-purpose vehicle that targeted active "thirty- somethings" who may snowboard in winter, mountain bike during summer and ride a sailboard in between. The short hood drops dramatically to the familiar Pontiac grille that is integrated with the front bumper. Just above is a pair of Trans Am-like hood scoops that are flanked by the high-set turn indicators. Lots of plastic body cladding protects the sides from rocks and debris, while combining with fender flares to wrap the bottom half of the vehicle in a matte-black finish.

INSIDE - Aztek's interior is as versatile as a Swiss Army Knife. Its dashboard is a patchwork of shapes, colors and textures, but it suffers from marginal plastic trim. It has many optional modular items such as a sliding cargo tray that facilitates loading up to 400 pounds of cargo without having to bend over the tailgate. The two-piece rear hatch has molded-in seats and a pair of cupholders built into the tailgate, along with a redundant set of stereo controls. Campers will love the Aztek's optional Lifestyle Package that transforms the cargo area into a mobile campsite. A two-person air mattress with a built-in air pump is included, as is a custom-tailored tent with a zip-up bug-proof door. A separate option is a bike package that provides inside or outside stowage for a pair of bikes, rubber floor mats and washable seat covers. Standard GT items include tilt steering, cruise control, AM/FM/CD stereo, dual-zone air conditioning, an overhead console, power windows, outside mirrors and door locks. steering wheel radio controls and premium front bucket seats.

ON THE ROAD - The Aztek is powered by the same 3.4-liter overhead valve V6 that is in the Pontiac Montana minivan. Its 185 horsepower and 210 pound-feet of torque give it reasonable power, though any vehicle pushing around close to two tons could use an extra dose of pep. General Motors' versatile four-speed automatic transmission is used, and if equipped with an optional Trailer Towing package, Aztek can tow as much as 3500 pounds. This package includes self-leveling rear suspension and an air inflator and hose for pumping up air mattresses or bike tires, Front-wheel drive is the standard layout, with traction control standard on GT models. Versatrak all-wheel drive is now optionally available to transform the Aztek into a grippy all-weather machine.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Built atop the Montana chassis, Aztek's low, flat floor makes it not only easy to climb inside, but offers lots of cargo room as well. Its overall length is shorter than its minivan sibling, but its wheelbase remains the same. Even with the low platform, it has nearly seven inches of ground clearance, which is about the same as some of the most successful SUVs on the market today. But don't mistake even those Aztek models equipped with all-wheel drive for true off-roaders. It's really more of a foul-weather friend. The suspension consist of MacPherson struts up front, and a beam axle in back in the case of our front-wheel drive tester. It handles OK, considering its heft and height, though Pontiac's wide-track tradition gives it a sure-footed feel with less body lean than most minivans. Rack-and-pinion steering isn't overly precise, but it gets the job done. Braking is handled by discs up front and drums in back, with a standard anti-lock braking system (ABS). AWD models come equipped with discs all the way around.

SAFETY - Dual dashboard airbags, side-impact airbags, ABS, traction control and daytime running headlights are standard.

OPTIONS - Uplevel stereo, $425; cigar lighter element, $15.