What's New for 2006
For the 2006 Uplander, a shorter regular-wheelbase version has been added to the lineup, and a 3.9-liter V6 with 240 horsepower is now an option on front-wheel-drive, long-wheelbase Uplanders. Side-impact airbags for the outboard second-row occupants is another new addition. Finally, last year's Sport Suspension package has been renamed the Safe and Secure package.
Chevrolet's Venture minivan has never sold in the numbers General Motors would like -- the competitors have outsold it for several years running. Part of the problem, according to GM's marketing team, might be due to the "mommy mobile" image minivans confer upon their owners -- some of whom ultimately ditch their vans for SUVs.
In response, Chevrolet has introduced the more rugged-sounding Uplander, a "crossover sport van" based on the outgoing Venture's chassis. Compared to the Venture, the Uplander takes on a taller stance and chunkier front fascia more evocative of a truck. The result, Chevy hopes, is a perception that the van is more of a hip and stylish SUV-like van, and not so much a boring soccer mom van.
Despite the change in name and outward style, the Chevy Uplander does not represent a full redesign of the Venture -- passenger and cargo space are nearly identical. It does, however, incorporate more of the features that today's minivan buyers are looking for, along with a more powerful engine. Seat-mounted side airbags for front- and second-row occupants are optional for 2006, certainly a worthwhile addition, although many competitors now offer three-row airbag coverage. Inside, the Uplander seats seven, and the fold-flat third-row seat offers a 50/50 split, allowing families to carry a mix of passengers and cargo.
An overhead rail system provides rear-seat access to climate and entertainment functions, and can be customized to families' liking with various storage containers. In addition to the usual rear DVD entertainment system, the Uplander is available with a PhatNoise mobile digital media system that allows owners to store thousands of MP3s and/or several dozen movies. We're not entirely sold on the whole "SUV/van" concept. To our eyes, the Uplander looks more like a minivan with a really big and flat front end. Subjective styling issues aside, the 2006 Chevrolet Uplander offers budding families a myriad of interior features and solid overall competence, but still doesn't match the driving dynamics or conveniences of the best-in-class minivans.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The Chevrolet Uplander comes in regular- and long-wheelbase sizes. Regular-wheelbase models come in LS trim only, while the extended versions are available in LS or LT trim. The LS offers power windows, air conditioning (optional on the regular-wheelbase van), a sound system with a CD/MP3 player and the OnStar communications system. Pop for the LT trim and you'll get a passenger-side power-sliding door, deluxe rear-seat entertainment system with infrared headphones, a power driver seat, steering wheel audio controls and alloy wheels. The all-wheel-drive system is available on the LT only, and adds automatic load-leveling rear suspension and an inflator kit. The LT can be upgraded with leather seating and heated seats. An optional PhatNoise mobile digital media system allows owners to store thousands of MP3s and/or several dozen movies. Other noteworthy options include dual power-sliding side doors, rear parking assist and a remote vehicle starting system.
Powertrains and Performance
The standard engine is a 3.5-liter V6 that makes 200 horsepower and 220 lb-ft of torque. A 3.9-liter V6 with 240 hp and 240 lb-ft of torque is optional on the LT, but only on the front-wheel-drive version. A four-speed automatic transmission is standard, and buyers can opt for all-wheel drive on the extended-wheelbase model.
Uplander minivans come standard with four-wheel antilock disc brakes. Side-impact airbags for first- and second-row occupants are optional. Side curtain airbags are not available. The StabiliTrak stability control system is available on the LT when equipped with the optional Safe and Secure suspension package. The NHTSA has performed crash tests; it gives the Chevy Uplander a five-star rating (out of a possible five) for protection of front occupants in frontal crashes. For side-impact crashes, the Uplander earned four stars for protection of front occupants and five stars for the rear occupants.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Chevrolet Uplander seats seven, and the fold-flat third-row seat offers a 50/50 split. A two-tone color scheme with faux metal accents dramatically brightens the atmosphere of the van. Folding center trays (with cupholders) between the first- and second-row seats are available. An overhead rail system provides rear-seat access to climate and entertainment functions, and can be upgraded with various storage containers. Springing for the PhatNoise digital media system saves you the hassle of juggling DVDs on road trips, while an optional remote vehicle start system makes it easy to warm up the van on cold mornings.
Our review of the 2006 Chevrolet Uplander finds that the V6 power plant is down on power compared to its competitors, but it still manages to provide adequate acceleration. The Uplander's suspension is on the soft side, though upgrading to the optional sport suspension does provide for a more responsive ride.