What's New for 2000
The 2000 Montana boasts improvements to its V6 and antilock brakes, an upgraded electrical system, a revised instrument cluster and radios, a quieter climate-control blower motor, the option of heated leather seats, reading lamps and oil-life monitoring as well as new paint schemes.
Ever since it took on the Montana name last year, Pontiac's fun-to-drive minivan has been gaining attention as a worthy challenger to its domestic rivals. Like Chrysler, Pontiac offers driver's-side sliding doors on both wheelbase sizes, but Montana adds a power option for the passenger-side door. And Pontiac's minivan can accommodate eight-passenger seating (in both the 112- and 120-inch wheelbase vans), while Chrysler and Ford minivans cannot. Yes, Chrysler vans do feature roll-away bench seats, but they're heavy suckers to unload. The Montana can be equipped with modular seats that weigh just 38 pounds each and are relatively easy to remove. For motivation, Montana features a standard 3.4-liter, 185-horsepower V6 that has been redesigned for better durability, reduced noise, lower emissions and improved fuel economy (to an EPA rating of 19 city, 26 highway). Around town, Montana feels downright spunky, with good throttle response and car-like handling. Its four-speed automatic is seamless and braking is excellent for a 4,000-pound vehicle. Front seats are comfy, and controls are easy to see and use.
In the safety column, dual front and side airbags are standard, as are antilock brakes and daytime running lights that operate the parking lamps rather than the headlights. Puncture-sealant type tires and a rear window defogger are standard, as is a ventilation system that features a replaceable pollen filter. Rear-seat audio controls can be had with uplevel radios or a CD unit, and extended-wheelbase models can be fitted with MontanaVision, a factory integrated rear-seat entertainment system that includes OnStar communications, an overhead LCD monitor, a VCP, and video-game inputs. For soccer dads (and moms) who are sport sedan wannabes, there's an optional sport performance and handling package that offers upgraded tires on racy wheels, a luggage rack, special storage and a sport-tuned suspension with automatic load leveling and traction control.
Montana is, indeed, well-packaged and versatile. But it isn't perfect. If you opt for the modular flip-fold seats, know that they provide little in the way of thigh and leg support. And while the automatic sliding door is great, it doesn't work exactly like a typical elevator door. Designed to reverse direction when it determines that an object is blocking its closure path, it needs a stern reminder that you are in its way. Teach kids that they are, indeed, strong enough to push it back.
Marketers would like you to think that Montana bridges the gap between sport utility and minivan. While we think it takes more than body-cladding, white-letter tires and traction control to match an SUV when it comes to capability, we applaud what Pontiac is doing with Montana. Nobody will confuse this Pontiac with a Jeep, but thanks to a vast array of features and surprising fun-to-drive demeanor, at least they won't have to battle the boredom that most minivan drivers must endure.