$25,000 to $35,000 Front Drive or All Wheel Drive Minivan
Who should buy this car:
A person looking for an upscale minivan that looks like an SUV
Comparable models in this class:
Chevrolet Uplander, Chevrolet Venture, Chrysler Town and Country, Dodge Grand Caravan, Ford Freestar, Honda Odyssey, Mazda MPV, Mercury Monterey, Nissan Quest, Pontiac Montana, Saturn Relay, Toyota Sienna
Buick calls the Terraza a sport utility in its advertisements. It's even called a "special purpose" vehicle on the window (price) sticker. But in reality, it's a minivan. It shares its platform with the Chevrolet Uplander, Pontiac Montana SV6 and Saturn Relay, with dimensions that are almost identical to those three vehicles.
Still, Terraza looks like a sport utility and it has a stubby nose like an SUV. But from the windshield back, it's all minivan, complete with powered sliding side doors and a lift-up (non-powered) tailgate. In GM's lineup, it replaces the Oldsmobile's Silhouette mini to create Buick's first minivan, so it's significant from that standpoint alone. It also drives like a minivan, despite its lofty aspersions.
Terraza is the most expensive of the four new GM "crossover sport vans." Our tester carried a $33,035 bottom line that included options such as chrome wheels ($650), XM Satellite Radio ($325) and a remote vehicle starter system ($175). Our tester was the top-of-the-line CXL version.
Terraza is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine delivering 200 horsepower. As I've said before with this engine, 200 horsepower is low for this size V6. Other manufacturers deliver 225 to 250 hp with 3.5-liter V6 powerplant. That said, in the Terraza, the 3500 V6 as Buick calls it, feels powerful and moves the vehicle along at a brisk clip. Power reaches the front wheels through a 4-speed automatic transmission with a column-mounted shifter. All-wheel drive versions are also available.
The Terraza comes equipped as a seven-seater, with bucket seats in the first two rows and a bench in the third. The bucket seats were comfortable, and all had fold-down armrests. The rear seat is a bench and folds flat to provide maximum storage capability. A neat feature was that the rear headrests bend back when the seats are folded, eliminating the need to remove them and find storage for them. A flat floor is created when the third row seat is folded. The tailgate doesn't have a remote release on the key fob, although the fob did have remote starting.
To activate the remote start, you would press the Lock button, then quickly press and hold the start button. After about 2 seconds, the engine starts and comes to life. The fan also goes on high to quickly cool or warm the interior. When you unlock the door and enter the vehicle, you first must insert the key into the ignition ant turn it to run before you can shift out of park. Once that is done, the fan goes to the speed you have set and the radio and other accessories will come on. The nice part of this system is that you no longer have to suffer in an overly hot or overly cold cabin while you wait for the climate control to come to life and do its job.
Other convenient storage areas included fold-down trays between the two rows of bucket seats, four cupholders for front passengers and two more for the second row passengers, a nice cubby in the lower center portion of the dash, a good glove box, and four storage compartments below the rear floor. There's also an overhead console system that has snap-on modules to configure it any way you choose.
Our tester came equipped with a DVD entertainment system which included two RF headphones. These were stored in pockets behind the rear seats, cutting down significantly on third-row seat legroom. In all probability, though, that's not critical, since rear seats in minivans tend to be occupied by smaller children, who would also be the ones to benefit most from the DVD system.
One advantage of the "SUV" hood is that it provides better engine access than the standard minivan. All the dip sticks and fillers are accessible. There was no gas strut to keep the hood up, though, just a prop rod.
The instrument panel was well-designed and clear. Audio controls were located on the steering wheel and didn't get in the way when making turns, so that I didn't clumsily change stations or media when I turned. The rear window wiper control is on the turn signal stalk, which forced moving the cruise control switches to a "Toyota-style" position on the right side of the steering column.
Overall, the Terraza is a nice minivan. I don't think it's in the same league as some of the more established vans, especially those from Japanese manufacturers like Toyota and Honda, or Chrysler's minis, which are still the benchmark. Still, it's a good first try, and a big step up from the Silhouette.