- The Washington Times - Friday, December 22, 2000

Pontiac designers set out to fashion a vehicle with cutting-edge looks and versatility that far outreaches the competition. What they came up with is the Aztek, a vehicle that has polarized just about every aspect of automotive design.

According to Pontiac, its mission was to "redefine the automotive landscape by challenging the conventional wisdom about vehicles." There is no doubt designers certainly have challenged a great deal.

Did they go too far?

During the introduction of the Aztek, Pontiac representatives continued to talk about how they felt the vehicle was cutting-edge and would revolutionize the market.

The Aztek is a variation of the minivan but without a minivan persona. It is comfortable to drive, handles a great many variations of duties and doesn't take up the space of a gargantuan sport utility vehicle. Truthfully, it is all that a minivan has been for many years, but now you can be different while hauling the children to soccer practice.

The folks at Pontiac aren't going to be happy with that analogy because they envision their target market for the Aztek to be the 30-year-old, unconventional, active car buyer one who wants to stand out in the crowd, who doesn't want to follow the herd.

No doubt, drivers will stand out in the crowd when they are behind the wheel of the Aztek.

Delving deeper into the soul of the Aztek, drivers will find a capable vehicle. Pontiac engineers, taking what they have learned from building minivans, have stretched their image of the Aztek to combine many attributes of a sport utility vehicle.

Two drive versions are available, front-wheel drive and an all-wheel-drive version. The front-wheel-drive model probably will be plenty of vehicle for most because it will do everything most vehicle owners want it to do. In fact, it probably will do more than most will ask of it.

Powered by a 185-horsepower V-6 engine, the Aztek offers good performance along with excellent fuel economy. Also, with a base price of $21,995, it begins with an economical price tag. It probably is more important for prospective buyers to see what the interior space offers than what the power ratings are.

Pontiac stressed that it looked toward versatility in a big way when designing the Aztek, and although the interior design may take drivers by surprise, after you spend some time with the vehicle, you begin to see that designers hit their mark with a resounding bang. The interior is sporty, imaginative and certainly different from any you have seen.

The instrument panel has an adventurer's appearance. If drivers aren't ready to go off exploring before getting into the Aztek, they will be after they experience this layout.

It will be interesting to see how the car-buying public reacts to the Aztek's radical exterior styling as well as adventurous interior. Pontiac has its fingers crossed that the Aztek is radical enough to draw those buyers who want to be different or at least a whole lot of people who want to project that image.

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