Grab your Barney tapes and Pokemon videos: it's got Montanavision.
by Bob Storck
KALISPELL, Mont. - While the SUV crowd has sneered at most other minivans, Pontiac's Montana has carved out a niche that has kept them a bit apart. By having the stylists incorporate the traditional Pontiac split grille and side cladding that carry connotations of performance and ruggedness, and by getting the ad folks to base their TV spots on a lively Western theme, buyers get the impression that the vehicle is a rough, tough set of wheels. In fact, there are a lot of people who are surprised that it doesn't offer four-wheel drive.
Montana is a fully equipped family hauler that includes air conditioning, ABS, and a 185-horsepower 3.4-liter V-6 engine. Depending on the model other equipment includes keyless remote lock control, a theft-deterrent system, six-way power front seats, and overhead console, and the power sliding right-side door. Options include a longer wheelbase, leather upholstery, aluminum wheels, traction control, rear heating and cooling, steering-wheel radio controls, plus separate rear seat controls for the radio and HVAC system.
New features include oversize rearview mirrors that are now electrically heated for frosty mornings and the PASSKEY III theft deterrent system. This system offers an added level of security and instant activation once the key has been turned off.
Pontiac was GM's first division to get this sleeker, front-drive style of modern minivan. The original TranSport wasn't quite what the public had in mind, with a spooky long nose and futuristic styling that didn't warm the conservative van-buyers' hearts. With this generation of vans, GM brought themselves into the conventional mode.
Now, the TranSport moniker behind it, Pontiac has formally adopted the Montana name for all models, to imply the toughness its ads tout. That toughness only extends to the outside of the vehicle; inside, it offers all the sybaritic comforts minivan drivers demand.
Montanas provide three rows of seating to handle most family needs. Even though the GM minivans are slightly narrower to accommodate European roads for their Opel and Vauxhall versions, walk-through clearance is adequate.
Three seating variations are offered. The front-row buckets are comfortable captain's chairs. There's a three-passenger bucket seat combo to handle eight passenger positions. The 40-60 split bench option offers one or two built-in child safety seats. Those without kids might prefer comfortable captain's chairs for the middle row.
For 2001 Montana's "space on demand" capabilities will be further enhanced with an available new third-row stowable seat with convenience center. It also gets a redesigned front grille and fascia, a new rear fascia and a standard factory-installed luggage rack.
One of the most popular options remains the power door. Not only is it a favorite among kids, but also offers greater ease when loading packages, and is far safer than allowing youngsters to slam doors on fingers. Dual sliding side doors became standard in the last redesign and the power-operated right-side sliding door is also available.
Other interior improvements focus on the safety and comfort of occupants. Occupant protection starts with safety cage construction and continues with a long list of carefully engineered safety features, including Montana's sliding side doors with high-strength guard beams and child safety locks. Safety is also addressed by improvements to the standard side airbags, which now have added head and thorax protection on the driver's side. Second-row seats now have both upper and lower child-seat attachments, so the youngest passengers can be even more securely restrained.
A next-generation OnStar safety and security system is now standard on all Montana models. Montana drivers have the added benefit of a free one-year safety and security service package.
Undoubtedly, though, the big story inside - at least for the 12 and under set - is the debut of MontanaVision, available on the 120-inch-wheelbase extended-length model. It's a fully integrated, factory-installed rear-seat entertainment system. A full-function remote control with onscreen display is part of the system, as are wireless headsets.
A lot of GM designers must remember long childhood trips, and their recollection has resulted in the slickest entertainment package for youngsters yet devised. With a flip-down video screen located just behind the front seats, it is easily viewed by all rear seats, and can play either VCR movies or video games.
Even better, the rear passengers can use headsets to listen to their choice of video or audio programming, while the front folks can listen to the sounds of their choice. (I'm sure parents already know all the lines from the Little Mermaid by heart by now.) Other features include a hi-fi videocassette player with four-tape storage capacity; headphone jacks for six with dedicated volume controls for each set of headphones; a video game input for connecting a camcorder or Nintendo-type video game; and rear-seat audio controls.
One problem that MontanaVision might have created will be getting the kids out of the car at the end of the journey. Grandma might have to compete with Gameboy.
© 2000 The Car Connection