2005 Buick Terraza Review

Let's get one thing clear right off the bat: The 2005 Buick Terraza is a minivan.

Yes, General Motors calls it a "crossover sport van," and that works, technically. But if you go out hunting for this vehicle, rest assured that it contains sufficient minivan DNA to make it a minivan.

I have no problem with that. Automakers are bending over backwards to label some of their vehicles anything but minivans. Too uncool, their marketing staffs say.

At the risk of sounding exceedingly unhip, when I hear "minivan," I think of sedan-like handling, plentiful cargo space and enough available goodies to keep little ones entertained for hours on end. Minivan is a good word in my book. As for the tested Terraza - a top-level CXL model with all-wheel drive - what I didn't like was the sticker price: $33,855 to start and a whopping $36,015 on the bottom line when goodies such as XM Satellite Radio are added on.

Wow, I never thought I'd see the day when I'd climb into a $36,000 Buick minivan!

The saving grace is ... there's a lot included in the starting price.

A partial listing includes an OnStar communication system, a passenger sensor for the front-right air bag, side-impact air bags, self-leveling air suspension, vented disc brakes, a rear parking-assist system, a DVD-based entertainment system with screen and two headphones, leather seating surfaces, eight-way power front seats, dual-zone climate control, rear-area air conditioning, power sliding rear doors and heated exterior mirrors.

OK, I stand corrected. It's a luxury minivan.

And there was one other thing on the tester ... by far the coolest thing on a supposedly uncool minivan. It had a remote start-up system, a mere $175 option.

Nothing like parking a Terraza in front of the neighbors' house and hitting key fob buttons to fire up the vehicle with nobody in it. Really gets their attention.

And, yes, I suppose this feature is nice in cold climates, where you might want to warm up a frost-encrusted vehicle before stepping into it.

I was having so much fun playing with all the Terraza's buttons and that remote-start feature that it took me awhile to get the thing up to highway speed. With nearly 4,700 pounds to drive and only 200 horsepower available, I expected a struggle.

I was wrong. The Terraza proved to be downright peppy in most driving situations. Steep hill climbs prompted some grumbling from the engine, but no screaming. Like most minivans, there was some body lean in sharp turns taken at 30 mph or higher.

GM has touted Terraza's QuietTuning technology, designed to reduce interior noise via a forged steel crankshaft, strategic engine positioning and assorted acoustic treatments. Frankly, I did not find the Terraza any quieter than other minivans. But in all situations, noise never reached a level to disrupt passenger conversations or a DVD movie playing for the rear-seat crowd.

All Terrazas - four trim levels, including two with front-wheel drive - come with an overhead console on rails. This gives you the option of using snap-in accessory and storage modules that can carry compact discs, DVDs, sunglasses and cell phones. Problem was, on the tested Terraza, the snap-in unit was extremely difficult to snap in. And despite my best efforts, one side always managed to loosen itself from the rail and flap around. Very annoying, but maybe I'm just tech-challenged.

Cargo storage behind the front seats is another story. There's plentiful space with the second and third row seats folded, although they do not fold completely down into the floor. Terraza also has an additional rear cargo storage area - covered with fold-up doors. Down below are four storage compartments that can hold items such as milk containers, 12-packs of soda and grocery bags.

The most un-minivan thing about the Terraza is its styling. The front end, with a large, egg-crate style grille, looks more sport-utility vehicle than minivan.

Overall, there's a lot to like about the all-new Terraza, but I would think a buyer would want to stick with it for the long haul. A young couple that does a lot of traveling with young children might be happy to plunk down $36,000 or so for a van that will get regular use for five, six, seven or more years.

But buying a Terraza with idea of trading it in after two or three years would be what I call bad economy.

    See also:

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