Pontiac calls its Aztek a sport recreation vehicle that blends the attributes of a sport utility vehicle with those of a minivan, sedan and wagon. Designed to provide all-purpose transportation, it was introduced for the 2001 model year and targeted younger buyers. Based on the platform used for GMs front-wheel-drive minivans, the Aztek was the corporations first SUV/minivan crossover vehicle. Buick uses similar construction for its Rendezvous SUV.
Amid considerable criticism from the media and industry observers, many of whom branded the vehicle ugly and unappealing, the Mexican-built Aztek failed to attract enough young buyers. Not everyone agreed with the conventional wisdom that the new model was an unforgivable error for Pontiac. Still, the negative reactions prompted a few appearance alterations.
A CD/MP3 player is available in 2004 models, which can be equipped with optional 17-inch tires. Late in 2003, a Rally Edition option group that features a lowered front suspension, aluminum 17-inch wheels and a body-colored grille joined the lineup. Rally Editions for 2004 are available in Black, Silver or Fusion Orange Metallic.
Pontiacs trademark twin-port grille is fairly familiar, but the rest of the body is a love-it-or-hate-it affair. The bumpers and lower bodysides are clad in gray plastic, and a large flip-up glass rear window gives the back end a steep slope. A tailgate below the rear glass folds down and contains built-in seats and cupholders.
Fitted with four conventional side doors, the Aztek stands 66.9 inches tall, rides a 108.3-inch wheelbase and measures 182.2 inches long overall. A rear spoiler is standard. Three-spoke, cast-aluminum, 16-inch wheels are standard, and 17-inch tires are available.
Pontiac promotes the five-passenger Azteks versatile interior, which features two front bucket seats and a three-place rear bench. Two captains chairs can replace the rear bench. Both seats fold down. With the rear seats removed, the Azteks cargo capacity expands to 95.1 cubic feet; it can accommodate a 4-by-8-foot plywood sheet.
Two cargo storage systems are available: a pull-out cargo tray that holds up to 400 pounds and cargo nets that hold 200 pounds and have floor-mounted anchors. A removable insulated cooler/console latches between the front seats.
An optional head-up display projects driving information into the windshield. Two lifestyle accessory packages are available: one for camping with a tent that fits over the back half of the vehicle and another for biking. XM Satellite Radio is optional.
Under the Hood
A 185-horsepower, 3.4-liter V-6 engine mates with a four-speed-automatic transmission. The Aztek may be equipped with front-wheel drive or Versatrak automatic all-wheel drive.
Side-impact airbags are standard. All-wheel-drive Azteks have all-disc antilock brakes.
Aesthetic opinions differ, but the Aztek is quite an attention-getter, especially when its painted a bright color. This SUV is surprisingly quiet, and its not a vehicle for the timid. The Aztek is solid on the road, steers with a light touch, maneuvers nicely around town and is stable on the highway.
The Azteks eager performance might not set any records, but its response is more than satisfying. Handling is about on par for a vehicle of this caliber, but the SUVs biggest bonus is its flexible interior space.