Review: 2006 Chevrolet Uplander

Vented disc brakes with anti-lock are standard equipment. A principal reason for the lengthened nose is to improve crashworthiness. Each seat is fitted with its own three-point safety harness. Both of the second-row chairs are outfitted for child safety seats, and the middle position in the third row has the necessary top tether for this same purpose. Dual-stage front airbags are capable of primary or secondary deployment, depending on the severity of impact. Sensing an unoccupied seat or the presence of a small and lightweight passenger who is properly restrained, the front-passenger airbag will not deploy. Front- and second-row side airbags are optional.

Critics of General Motors routinely vociferate about pushrod-operated, overhead-valve engines like this 3.5-liter/201-horse V-6, citing them as examples of what's wrong with the entire corporation. The powerplant--with its block of cast iron and heads of cast aluminum--drones, moans, and strains under load. The Honda Odyssey's engine of the same displacement effortlessly generates 27.5 percent more horsepower, earns a higher fuel-economy rating, and recalls Vivaldi instead of Deep Purple. Acknowledging the base powertrain's shortcomings, Chevrolet will introduce a fresher 3.9-liter/235-horse V-6 that employs modern technologies like variable valve timing and active intake technology. Likewise, the four-speed automatic transmission fails to equal the competition, lacking one ratio and some electronic sophistication by comparison.

There are no surprises with the Uplander dynamics; it reminds us of the Venture. Loose, numb steering, body roll, and cushioned ride define the handling, providing comfort on straights and numbed response through turns. The all-wheel-drive version is the more delightful configuration, as it offers fully independent rear suspension with cast aluminum control arms. With the rack-and-pinion steering and disc brakes, this is a pretty good setup and performs nicely in the snow. The front-wheel-drive version has only a semi-independent rear suspension and can't match the other setup's agility. The 3.5L engine ties the Mazda MPV's 3.0L V-6 for horsepower, though that minivan weighs 700 pounds less. The result is the most challenged minivan powertrain on the market. Acceleration from a standstill and when passing is certainly livable, but the performance trails the segment. The 3.9L engine should effectively address the powertrain weakness. Overall, the Uplander is certainly a capable driving machine, but it faces tough competition that's frankly better in the dynamics department.

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