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2004 Minivan Buyer's Guide
by Steve Siler

Chevrolet Venture / Pontiac Montana / Oldsmobile Silhouette
Pontiac Montana minivan

Three variations on the same minivan theme are offered in different General Motors showrooms. All are powered by the same 185-hp V-6, with either front- or all-wheel drive. Available in a variety of wheelbase and drivetrain configurations, there is likely a member of this trio worth considering by almost any family in search of a minivan.

The Chevrolet Venture offers the widest array of configurations, starting at a bit over $21K for a short-wheelbase "Value," which isn't what we would call opulent but that features four doors, seven-passenger seating, power locks and front a/c. Fortunately, a short distance up the food chain will get you into a "Base" models, which adds cruise control and power windows. The $25KVenture LS adds niceties such as side air bags, ABS, a CD player and more, and this level happens to be about where the Pontiac Montana starts up in terms of feature content and price. The Venture LT adds even more to the mix with rear audio controls, power sliders and rear a/c, among other things, all of which is offered in various packages on the Montana. On some long-wheelbase models, a "disappearing" 3rd row seat is available (including some with all-wheel-drive). Likewise the rear-seat entertainment system can be ordered to save your sanity on long road trips.

The Oldsmobile Silhouette is by far the most luxurious entry here, starting at around $28K and rising to about $37K. Now in case you haven't heard, 2004 will be the last year of the 106-year-old Oldsmobile brand. This renders the long-wheelbase-only Silhouette among the last Olds models ever made, which adds a bit of collectibility to your minivan options (who'da thunk?).