Some vehicles provoke such a strong public response that their legend can overshadow reality to an incredible degree. This is usually a result of certain characteristics, such as performance or styling, although sometimes it can be merely the product of advance hype that bills the automobile as the next best thing since sliced bread. Whatever the origin of the mystique might be, it can be amplified by the media like an echo chamber until it has taken on a larger than life aspect that can seriously impact the vehicle's sales and reputation.
The Pontiac Aztek was a crossover vehicle released in 2001, the first to ever roll out from a GM factory and the first to ever be so vilified in both the automotive press and popular culture in general. What was the source of the world's revulsion towards the Aztek? In a word, the styling. Initially, the product had been displayed at auto shows around the world as a concept car, a vision of how Pontiac would tackle the growing crossover market. This concept attracted praise for its design, but when it came time to translate the vehicle's graceful lines into an actual production vehicle, a number of issues raised their head. The platform chosen for the Aztek didn't mesh with the dimensions of the concept, requiring awkward compromises to be made in terms of exterior styling. Undaunted, Pontiac pushed forward, determined to continue to tweak the Aztek's look in order to make it more palatable to consumers. Unfortunately, the automobile's stunted and compressed appearance, with pronounced front nostrils and an abrupt and unusual to say the least rear treatment never managed to test well with consumers. Although the automaker's marketing division cautioned Pontiac strongly to abandon the vehicle, the development dollars had already been invested and the Aztek was unleashed upon an unsuspecting public.
While the vehicle would go on to become fodder for standup comedians and amateur jokesters the world over, the crossover's exterior appearance glossed over the fact that it was actually a very capable automobile that accomplished exactly what it had been designed to do. In fact, some of the Aztek's utility was and still is unparalleled in the crossover segment. This article talks about the best used crossover available from Pontiac, and advises those who can move past the vehicle's exterior package and instead evaluate the automobile on its merits to definitely drive this impressively useful vehicle.
2001 - 2005 Pontiac Aztek
The 2001 - 2005 Pontiac Aztek's exterior appearance is so far beyond unique as to not even merit discussion. For many buyers, the Aztek look alone will be enough to disqualify it from ever being considered as a purchase. However, for the cross section of drivers intrigued by the special characteristics of this crossover, there are a variety of excellent features waiting to be discovered.
Pontiac's goal was to build a vehicle that was capable of meshing with the lifestyles of very active people - the sort of individuals who went kayaking, mountain biking and camping with their friends, or who enjoyed a variety of different winter or outdoor sports. To this end, the Aztek offers a variety of interesting optional features, such as an integrated tent that makes full use of the rear cargo area and tailgate, complete with an air mattress and compressor. The vehicle's center console contains a removable cooler perfect for storing beverages or perishable food during camping trips, and a unique backpack is designed to be mounted on the rear of the vehicle's seats. The Aztek also features excellent cargo handling in everyday situations, capable of carrying the 4x8 sheet of plywood that has become a standard measurement in the world of SUVs. More than 93 cubic feet of storage are available in total, including a unique slide-out tray that can hold up to 400 lbs of cargo.
Mechanically, the 2001 - 2005 Pontiac Aztek is identical from year to year. A 3.4-liter V-6 engine is the sole power plant for the crossover, and it pushes out 185 ponies through a 4-speed automatic transmission. The base Aztek is front-wheel drive, with all-wheel drive offered as an option. That being said, don't expect to take the Aztek out for an afternoon of dune-hopping - the all-wheel drive system is best left to navigating rural trails during weekend state park excursions instead of pulling actual off-road duty.
The 2001 - 2005 Pontiac Aztek is the most polarizing vehicle of the last ten years. As a used crossover, it offers excellent functionality in an inexpensive package for any buyer who can wrap their head around the automobile's body panels.