2006 Uplander New Car Test Drive
The Chevrolet Uplander is hands-down the best minivan GM has ever offered. With its counterparts from Buick, Pontiac and Saturn, the Chevy Uplander puts GM on much better footing in one of the auto industry's most competitive segments.
Uplander comfortably seats seven, with a choice of individual captain's chairs or a two-place bench seat in the second row. And it takes care of its passengers in a well-designed, nicely finished interior. The base LS model offers a high level of standard equipment, including a subscription to GM's 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.
For 2006, Chevy will address one of this minivan's most glaring shortcomings as it introduces a new 3.9-liter V6. This optional engine is the world's first cam-in-block V6 with variable valve timing, and delivers 22 percent more horsepower (240) than the Uplander's standard 3.5-liter V6. That quickly, the Uplander will change from one of the least powerful minivans on the market into one of the most powerful. The 2006 Uplander also offers the availability of side-impact airbags for second-row passengers for the first time.
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.
Chevrolet 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. Our test vehicle's finish and build quality matched the best in the class.
Uplander offers all-wheel drive, a great feature in the snow country. GM's VersaTrak system adds relatively little weight to the vehicle, and it can do things some similar systems can't. In short, if you need all-wheel drive, you've come to the right place. With the optional towing package, the Uplander is rated to pull up to 3,500 pounds.
Chevrolet has re-aligned the Uplander model line for 2006. There are two basic models for consumers, sharing the same 121.1-inch wheelbase, standard 3.5-liter overhead valve V6 engine, four-speed automatic transmission and 17-inch tires and wheels.
The base Uplander has been dropped for 2006, making the well-equipped Uplander LS ($26,995) the entry level model. The LS comes standard with air conditioning, power windows and locks, tilt steering column, cruise control, a rear-window defroster and wiper, dark-tinted rear glass, remote keyless entry, power rear vent windows 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 LT ($29,385) is more elaborately equipped, with a 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. In Chevy's dealer nomenclature, there are actually three subdivisions for the Uplander LT: 1LT, 2LT and 3LT. The 2LT and 3LT are essentially option groups that add more equipment.
All-wheel drive, which GM calls VersaTrak ($2000), is now optional only on Uplander LT. Chevy also offers a front-drive, empty-box cargo Uplander for commercial use and conversion companies.
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, and it's a welcome feature when it's cold. Other stand-alone options include rear Cargo Convenience storage bins ($285), XM Satellite Radio ($325), traction control ($195), roof rails ($50) and the 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).
Safety features include optional side-impact airbags ($350) for the second row seats. Front passenger side-impact airbags are standard on the LT and optional on the LS. Front airbags come standard. GM's StabiliTrak skid-control system ($450) is an option on front-drive Uplanders. Four-wheel anti-lock brakes (ABS) come standard. Also standard is a one-year subscription to OnStar, which features automatic notification when airbags deploy, a great feature. Uplander falls short of best in class when it comes to safety equipment, however, because it still does not offer curtain-style head-protection airbags, which are now available in some other minivans.