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Sure, this topic has been hashed over quite a bit, but this article has an interesting, if months out of date, Canadian take on the GM CSV Minivan/Utes.

Just how different will they actually be from an AWD equipped Montana in the end? I guess we'll see. 20 horsepower in a new engine, suspension and wheel tweaks might make the difference between capable minivan and "crossover sport van".

Honda and Toyota did it by more completely revising their vehicles into the Pilot and the Highlander -- GM goes mid-way, by eliminating the "minivan" and adding a smaller Equinox but otherwise competing with both Sienna and Highlander with a single (well, for each brand) vehicle.


SUVs about to get soft
Here comes the 'faux-by-four'

Fri Sep 26 2003

By Alex Law
IN many ways, the auto industry is trying to move its utility vehicles into a Mama Bear situation, with the classic SUV being too hard and the minivan being too soft.

The pursuit of the "just right" Mama Bear package has now taken us to "crossover vehicles" or "soft-roaders" or (my own personal invention) the "faux-by-four vehicle."

Essentially, these vehicles have the attitude of the SUV but the ride, handling and packaging of the minivan, which helps explain how I came up with the "faux-by-four" designation.

General Motors hopes to make this jump early in 2004 when it unveils its lineup of crossover sport van (CSV) entries that will go on sale as 2005 models late next year.

The first step required the naming of the CSV models it would sell, so we can look forward to the Buick Terraza, the Chevrolet Uplander, the Saturn Relay and the Pontiac Montana SV6.

Careful readers will take note of that last name and assume that there may be some connection between the upcoming CSV models and GM's current lineup of minivans, which includes the Pontiac Montana as well as the Chevrolet Venture and the Oldsmobile Silhouette. Those readers would be right, since the Montana SV6 and the others are in many ways made-over minivans with a tougher exterior appearance, more flexible interiors, a new powertrain, and optional all-wheel-drive.

Risky connection

But GM clearly believes such a connection is risky to the acceptance of the new CSVs, since the word "minivan" does not appear in the release announcing their names.

That's fair enough, since GM seems determined to produce vehicles that combine all of the good things about a minivan (the easy entry and exit through rear sliding doors into an interior with maximum height between floor and ceiling) in a shape that genuinely suggests SUV.

Anna Kretz, the executive in charge of the CSVs, said by "delivering an optimal blend of mid-van versatility with SUV-like attributes, the new models take the segment in a new direction and help GM compete across a broader range of the highly competitive people and cargo-carrying marketplace."

GM insiders say the vehicles will bear a strong family resemblance, but they won't look like the minivans they replace or any of the various utility vehicles sold by any other company. They will also cover a greater breadth of buyer interest, if for no other reason than each of the four vehicles will service a different market.

Terraza will "complement Rendezvous and Rainier by delivering another premium, refined experience that blends the best qualities of Buick sedans with the utility that today's marketplace demands."

It will compete at the upper end of the segment, Kretz says, and continue the trend started by Rendezvous that's pulling new, younger customers into the Buick showroom.

Interior refinement

Uplander will join Equinox and Malibu Maxx in Chevrolet's portfolio of crossover vehicles, using improved interior refinement, a next-generation entertainment system and a long list of safety and convenience features to appeal to value-conscious families.

Relay is meant to be a flexible people carrier with interior appointments reflecting the direction of future Saturn vehicles, Kretz says, and is supposed to continue Saturn's growth by attracting a new group of customers.

It will also help Saturn meet the needs of existing Saturn owners with growing families and active lifestyles who like the low-impact, no-hassle buying experience that's key to the brand's success.

Pontiac Montana SV6 features a new SUV-like design, interior refinements and an array of features, Kretz explains. "Current owners have valued the Montana for its unique sporty appearance and versatility -- qualities enhanced even further by the new look and features of the SV6."

Kretz promises that the crossover sport vans " will be different from anything available today in the mid-van category. The new vehicles will combine outstanding ride and handling, compelling styling, and convenient features such as power sliding doors." The CSVs will start to come out of GM's Doraville assembly plant late in 2004, and Kretz expects they will have the same level of quality that made their predecessors among the highest quality minivans in the world.

This is a big deal in Canada, since we have always consumed minivans at about twice the rate as Americans and GM's CSV models looks to take the segment in an interesting new direction.

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