What's New for 2008
The 2008 Chevrolet Uplander gains additional standard features in the form of stability control, traction control and satellite radio. Trim levels are streamlined, as there is now a single version of the LT trim.
Minivans don't typically enjoy a "cool" image. Functional? Certainly. But they're not something your teenager is going to want to drive to the prom. Chevrolet attempted to address this image problem a few years back by rolling out the Uplander, a replacement for the Chevy Venture. Although the Uplander resembles a minivan, it ditches the normal, snub-nosed minivan style for a more prominent front end. Also, the van's side windows are separate and lack the single large window look typical of most minivans. Chevrolet hopes these styling details make the Uplander look more like an SUV and therefore more appealing to the anti-minivan crowd. But in truth, this "crossover sport van," as Chevy calls it, just strikes us as a minivan with a really bulky front end.
Styling aside, 2008 Chevrolet Uplander still offers many of the features consumers are looking for in a minivan, such as a split-folding third-row seat, folding trays between the front seats, plenty of storage compartments and available rear park assist, DVD entertainment and navigation systems. In addition, the Uplander's 240-horsepower V6 provides respectable performance.
Unfortunately for Chevrolet, merely decent doesn't cut it anymore. The Uplander falls short of just about every other minivan out there in key areas. Its driving dynamics are not as polished, its crash test scores aren't as high and a few features, such as a rear backup camera and third-row side curtain airbags, are not available. However, it's likely one could get an Uplander for at least a few thousand dollars less than the comparably equipped class leaders. Still, more demanding buyers who don't mind spending the extra bucks will be happier with rivals like the Dodge Grand Caravan, Honda Odyssey, Kia Sedona and Toyota Sienna. Even GM's own Saturn Outlook and GMC Acadia crossovers are better choices and are more SUV-like than the Uplander will ever be.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Chevrolet Uplander is available in two versions: regular and long-wheelbase. A stripped-down Cargo version of the Uplander is also available. Regular-wheelbase models come in LS trim only, while the extended versions are available in LS or upscale LT trim. The LS offers 17-inch alloy wheels, full power accessories, air-conditioning, OnStar communications system and a CD/MP3 player with an auxiliary input jack. The LT trim adds alloy wheels, a passenger-side power-sliding door, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, a power driver seat, dual-zone climate control, an overhead console, a trip computer and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls.
Noteworthy options include dual power-sliding side doors, rear parking assist, remote engine start, a navigation system, leather seating, heated front seats and a 115-volt power outlet. A Sit-N-Lift power second-row seat is available on the Uplander LT to help those with limited mobility; it rotates, extends out of the vehicle and lowers for easy exit and includes a slide-out footrest.
Powertrains and Performance
Powering all Uplanders is an E85-capable 3.9-liter V6 with 240 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque. That power is sent to the front wheels through a four-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy estimates for 2008 stand at 16 mpg city and 23 mpg highway.
Antilock disc brakes, stability control and traction control are standard on all Uplanders. Side airbags for the front passengers are optional on LS models and standard on the LT. Second-row side airbags are optional on LT models only. As with the front side bags, the optional rears protect both the heads and torsos of outboard passengers. Although these modified side airbags do much the same job as the side curtain airbags offered on rival minivans, the Uplander doesn't provide any airbag coverage for passengers seated in the third row.
In government crash tests, the 2008 Chevrolet Uplander received a five-star rating (best possible) 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. During Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash testing, the Uplander scored a rating of "Good" (the highest of four) in frontal offset testing. In that agency's side-impact test, however, the Uplander received an "Acceptable" (second highest) rating with the optional rear airbags and a "Poor" rating (the worst) without those airbags.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2008 Chevy Uplander seats seven and its fold-flat third-row seat offers a 50/50 split. Base LS Uplanders have removable modular seats in the second row, although removing and installing them isn't exactly easy. The LT has fixed captain's chairs. The main advantage to the extended-wheelbase model is its additional legroom for second- and third-row passengers and a larger cargo area. All Uplanders have a two-tone color scheme with faux metal accents that dramatically brighten the cabin's atmosphere. Folding center trays (with cupholders) between the first- and second-row seats are available. An optional remote vehicle start system makes it easy to warm up the Uplander on cold mornings.
Chevrolet has tuned the Uplander's suspension to provide a smooth ride and a moderate level of dynamic handling ability. Upgrading to the optional sport/load-leveling suspension provides more responsive handling, though maneuverability in tight spaces is still compromised by the van's large 41-foot turning radius. Braking capability is average. The V6 provides adequate power and the engine is reasonably smooth, although its powertrain lacks the finesse of rivals from Honda, Dodge and even Kia.