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2005 Minivan Buyer's Guide
by Martha Hindes

2005 Chevrolet Uplander

Just when it seemed no one could find a new name that's sporty, capable, intriguing and practical, leave it to Chevrolet to create one, "Uplander." That's the moniker headlining its version of General Motors' new quartet of minivan replacements from its separate divisions for '05.

This new seven-passenger contender in a steadfast minivan market won't be a yesterday's leftover, despite a holdover vehicle base. Instead, Chevy - the lion's share - joins Pontiac (Montana SV6), Buick (Terraza), and Saturn (RELAY) in a launch due sometime this Fall. This front-drive newcomer has about 90 percent minivan DNA, and then adds sport utility genes to the mix, including optional Versatrak all-wheel-drive. GM even coined a new designation for the line up -- crossover sport vans -- perhaps to appease the now grown up kids who vowed they would never own a minivan as an adult.

In the past, only Pontiac added zap to the outgoing Montana, hinting it had true off-road talent. The new one stays with "Montana," but highlights the 3.5 liter, 200-HP V-6 power plant name (with 220-lb. ft. of torque), then adds an optional 110-volt power outlet, fold-down second and third row seating, ceiling rail storage system with DVD, plus "PhatNoise" entertainment. (The "in crowd" will know how to pronounce that one). Chevy abandons its long-in-the-tooth Venture name that lived through '04. Buick and Saturn are new to the market, not being in the segment before.

For the four-pack of newcomers, an authoritative nose, defining fold lines and dark cladding trim minimize the low-deck minivan characteristics. The typical walkthrough between seats is still there. However, if you squint and pretend there are no side sliding doors for this unibody-on-ladder frame vehicle, and you might be tempted to think "sport utility." It adds a welcome series of in-floor rear storage bins to secure hidden treasures.

One thing GM likely will combine in the future is a curious array of three separate antennas for standard and satellite radio systems, as well as, OnStar security communications like it displayed on its prototype.