What's New for 2001
Updated styling and more feature content top the list of changes to the Montana for 2001, but perhaps most importantly, GM has figured out how to provide buyers with a third-row seat that flips and folds to create a flat load floor in extended-length models. New standard features include OnStar communications, power windows, a CD player and remote keyless entry. A rear parking aid sensor, power driver-side sliding door and an in-dash six-discCD changer are new options. When you buy the available TV/VCP setup, you get a larger screen for 2001.
Ever since it took on the Montana name and a pseudo-SUV marketing angle, Pontiac's fun-to-drive minivan has been gaining attention as a worthy challenger to its rivals.
Like most other minivan makers, Pontiac offers a driver's-side sliding door, adding optional power activation for 2001. And Pontiac's minivan can accommodate eight-passenger seating, while other minivans cannot. Chrysler, Ford and Toyota vans feature removable third-row seats, but they're heavy suckers to unload. This year, Montana can be equipped with a handy folding back-row bench that creates a flat load floor when stowed.
On top of these useful features, Montana buyers can even get a reverse parking aid sensor and a TV/VCP setup to make family life in the 'burbs more pleasant. For motivation, Montana features a 3.4-liter, 185-horsepower V6 that gets 19 mpg in the city and 26 on the highway. Around town, Montana feels downright spunky, with good throttle response and car-like handling. Its four-speed automatic shifts seamlessly 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. OnStar communications is standard for 2001, making it easy to call for help should the need arise.
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 an overhead LCD monitor (larger for 2001), a VCP, and video-game inputs. New this year is an available in-dash six-CD changer. 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, 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. While the automatic sliding doors are great, they don't work exactly like a typical elevator door. Designed to reverse direction when they determine that an object is blocking the closure path, they need a stern reminder that you are in the way. Teach kids that they are, indeed, strong enough to push them back.