All-new for 2005, the Chevrolet Uplander replaces the outgoing Venture minivan. It’s one of four new vans in GM’s stable, also appearing as the Pontiac Montana SV6, Buick Terraza and Saturn Relay. Unlike in the U.S., which only gets an extended version, Canadian buyers can choose between short- or long-wheelbase Uplander models, all with seven-passenger seating.
Although it’s a minivan, GM prefers to call the Uplander a “mid-van”; its styling is more like an SUV, with a flat, truck-like nose. All Uplanders are powered by a 3.5-litre V6 mated to a four-speed automatic; the company’s Versatrak on-demand all-wheel-drive system is available on the LT extended van.
Both wheelbase lengths come in Value Van, LS or LT trim. The Value package includes power heated mirrors, 16-inch steel wheels (17-inch on extended wheelbase), variable intermittent wipers, intermittent rear washer/wiper, air conditioning, tilt wheel, power front windows, CD/MP3 stereo with four speakers, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, power locks with keyless entry, and OnStar.
The LS adds roof rack side rails, cruise control, floor mats and integrated child seat, while the LT adds 17-inch aluminum wheels, overhead storage bin, leather-wrapped wheel with audio controls, power swing-out rear quarter windows, power six-way driver’s seat, front and second-row utility trays, and remote starter.
Driving the Uplander is a pleasant surprise; handling is more car-like than a typical minivan, and the V6 gives it enough power for merging onto highway ramps or when passing on an uphill grade. There’s a lot of storage space, especially in the larger version, although passengers in the regular wheelbase won’t feel slighted when it comes to legroom. A removable four-compartment cargo organizer, optional on the two lower extended models and standard on the LT extended, provides plenty of room to corral items out of sight; one compartment is also water-resistant for wet gear, and should you be off to a party, a bottle of wine fits perfectly on its side. All models come with an overhead rail system; it’s kind of tacky and looks like it was purchased at IKEA, but optional items (including a DVD entertainment system, first aid kit and CD case) can be easily snapped on to it, or moved around for greater versatility.
Rear visibility suffers with the van’s large seats and tall headrests, and while the second and third rows fold to form a flat floor, Chrysler’s Stow ’n Go seating still reigns. In the Uplander’s favour, though, it does offer an all-wheel-drive version, which can’t be added to the Chrysler because of the under-the-floor folding seats. And in recent U.S. government crash testing, the Uplander received the top “good” rating for frontal crash protection.
The Uplander is built in Doraville, Georgia.
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