2003 Montana New Car Test Drive
Families are buying sport-utility vehicles in droves, but not everyone needs or wants an SUV. For many, a minivan still is the best option. The Pontiac Montana answers this call.
Montana offers all-wheel drive for improved traction in wintry conditions, and a DVD entertainment system is available for improved relations with backseat occupants. A Thunder Sport appearance package adds some SUV-style macho.
For 2003, Montana is more versatile than ever. The low-priced Special Value model now comes with a 60/40 split second-row seat, and is available with the standard or extended wheelbase. More stand-alone options are available that should help buyers tailor their Montana to their individual tastes.
All Montana models are powered by a 3.4-liter V6 engine and come with a four-speed automatic transmission. All have sliding doors on both sides of the body.
Pontiac Montana comes in two different lengths. Regular-wheelbase models ride on a platform with 112 inches between the front and rear wheels. Extended-wheelbase models have 120 inches between the axles for more interior room. The extended version is 13.6 inches longer overall, and comes with a larger fuel tank (25 gallons vs. 20). All regular-length Montanas have front-wheel drive (FWD), but extended-length models can be ordered with front-wheel drive or GM's compact Versatrak all-wheel drive (AWD).
Pontiac builds the Montana in several trim levels, but doesn't bother with different badges like 'GL' or 'SE' to distinguish one from another. So we'll use the factory order codes to keep them straight.
Pontiac does call the lowest-priced Montana the Special Value model (code 1SV), and for 2003 offers it with either the regular ($24,165) or extended wheelbase ($25,965). Either way, the Montana Special Value seats seven, with bucket seats up front, a 60/40 split bench behind that, and a 50/50 split bench in the way-back. Standard equipment includes air conditioning, cruise control, tilt steering, power windows and door locks, power heated mirrors, remote keyless entry, a luggage rack, and P215/70R15 self-sealing tires. Regular-length Montana SVs ride on steel wheels, while alloy rims dress up the long version. Anti-lock brakes (ABS) and side-impact airbags are offered as a package for $950. The Montana Special Value has front-wheel drive, a twist-beam rear axle, and front disc/rear drum brakes.
Upgrade to the base model (code 1SA) in regular ($25,815) or long-wheelbase ($27,415) mode, and captain's chairs replace the second-row bench. You also get ABS and side-impact airbags, along with a rear-window defogger and deep-tinted rear and side glass. The long-wheelbase version can be ordered with Versatrak all-wheel drive ($30,365), a combination Pontiac calls 1SX.
A more deluxe version of the extended-wheelbase Montana is available that adds a six-way power driver's seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel with radio controls, a cargo net, rear air conditioning, a rear-seat DVD entertainment center, and other features. With front-wheel drive it's code 1SE ($29,565), with Versatrak it's 1SY ($33,615).
Models with Versatrak also feature an independent rear suspension, four-wheel disc brakes, trailer-towing equipment and 16-inch wheels instead of the standard 15-inch units.
Montana offers an enormous list of stand-alone options and option packages. OnStar is available as part of a Safety & Security package ($500), along with a theft-deterrent system and universal transmitter. The list also includes leather seats ($1175), a sport-tuned suspension with self-leveling ($750 with the regular wheelbase, $425 on long vans), and traction control ($195). Extended-wheelbase models can be ordered with a driver's-side power sliding door ($350), three modular bucket seats instead of a split bench in the second row ($235), and trailer-towing package ($165-395, depending on other equipment).
The Thunder Sport package ($2800 with FWD, $2570 with AWD) includes all-independent touring suspension, special interior trim, 16-inch chromed wheels with 255/60 tires, a rear spoiler and special badging. Thunder Sport is also available only on extended wheelbase models.