2005 Uplander New Car Test Drive
With its current counterparts from other General Motors divisions, the 2005 Chevrolet Uplander is easily the best minivan GM has ever built.
The Uplander is enough to make the world forget GM's original 'dustbuster' minivans. It beats the 2004 Chevy Venture, which it replaces, in virtually every respect. Chevy says Uplander's long-nose, truck-type styling conjures up images of an SUV more than a minivan. We say no one will mistake the Uplander for anything but what it is: a minivan with the flexibility features and family-friendly conveniences buyers expect.
Uplander comfortably seats seven, with a choice of individual captain's chairs or a two-place bench seat in the second row. Even the base model offers a high level of standard equipment, including a basic subscription to GM's in-demand OnStar tele-aid service. Uplander also offers the unique PhatNoize removable hard drive, which allows its onboard entertainment system to play or display everything from MP3 music files to family photos to video games to the latest movie releases. Our test vehicle's finish and build quality matched the best in class, and Uplander offers all-wheel drive to those who need it. With the optional towing package, it can pull up to 3,500 pounds.
If Uplander falls short of the best minivans, it's most obvious in the driving. This Chevy's cam-in-block engine makes less power than those in all of its primary competitors, and while Uplander is pleasant enough to drive, it feels less responsive and perhaps less satisfying than the minivans from Dodge, Honda, Nissan and Toyota. The Uplander's real strength lies in its value. Comparably equipped, it sells for thousands less than class standards such as the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna. And that's before the attractive dealer incentives GM frequently offers.
Uplander's suggested retail prices start $135 lower than the Saturn Relay, which sits next up the pecking order in GM's minivan hierarchy. That said, while minor styling and equipment differences may apply, there isn't a lot to separate the Chevy Uplander, Saturn Relay, Pontiac Montana and Buick Terraza. When comparably equipped, the retail prices are very close. The choice between brands could come down to satisfaction with a particular dealership, lot location or which dealer is willing to cut the best deal, or which styling or feature set you like the best.
The range of Chevrolet Uplander models is straightforward and easy to understand. All models share a 121.1-inch wheelbase, a 3.5-liter overhead valve V6 and the same 17-inch tires and wheels. All come with a four-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is an option, and the three trim levels are distinguished by standard equipment.
The base Uplander ($24,350) comes well equipped, with standard air conditioning, power windows, power locks, tilt steering column, cruise control and a decent stereo with a single CD player and MP3 capability. Its second-row seat is a two-place bench, and its third-row seat splits 50/50 to increase passenger/cargo flexibility.
The Uplander LS ($26,995) adds a rear window defroster and wiper, dark-tinted rear glass, remote keyless entry and power rear vent windows. The Uplander LT ($29,385) is the most elaborately equipped, with standard power driver's seat, second-row captain's chairs with a folding utility table between them, a power rear sliding door on the passenger side, brushed aluminum roof rails and a single-screen DVD entertainment system with two infrared headphone sets.
All-wheel drive, which GM calls VersaTrak ($2000), is available on Uplander LS and LT.
Our favorite option is the remote starter ($175), which allows the Uplander to be started from inside the house or across a parking lot. The aftermarket has made a mint with remote starters for years, a nice feature when it's cold.
Second-row captain's chairs are optional on lower-trim Uplanders. Other stand-alone options include rear Cargo Convenience storage bins ($285), XM Satellite radio ($325), traction control ($195), roof rails ($50) and the 3500-pound towing package ($170). Popular option groups include a Premium Seating Package ($1,350) with leather surfaces for the first and second row, power front passenger seat and front seat heaters, a six-CD changer with XM ($620), and a Convenience Package with a power sliding rear door on the driver's side and rear parking assist ($545).
The optional PhatNoize system adds a second video screen to the single-DVD entertainment system and a wallet-sized 40-gig hard drive that slips into the Uplander's overhead rail system. That's enough storage space for 10,000 audio files in virtually any format, or 40 feature films in the MPEG format. PhatNoize has a voice-browsing feature that allows the driver to cycle through menu offerings with buttons on the steering wheel hub and a USB port that allows photographs to be loaded directly from a digital camera. Moreover, the PhatNoize hard drive is easily removed and attached to a PC, to be loaded with whatever an Uplander owner chooses.
Safety features include OnStar (including automatic notification when airbags deploy) as standard equipment. Four-wheel ABS is standard, as are front-impact airbags. Front side-impact airbags are standard on the LT and optional ($350) on other models; GM's StabiliTrak skid-control system ($450) is also an option. Uplander falls short of best-in-class when it comes to safety equipment, however, because it does not offer curtain-style head-protection airbags, which are now offered in some other minivans.