CHICAGO – The second half of General Motors Corp.’s four minivans will debut here at the 2004 Chicago auto show, along with an updated ’05 Pontiac Vibe.

The unveiling of the ’05 Pontiac Montana SV6 and Chevrolet Uplander minivans follow last month’s introduction of the Buick Terraza and Saturn Relay at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. (See related story: GM Debuts Saturn Relay, Buick Terraza Minivans)

GM is calling the fleet “crossover sport vans,” because the models discard traditional minivan exterior styling for brawnier front ends, optional roof racks, exposed C-pillars and bigger wheels.

The Montana SV6 (that replaces the Montana) features a horizontal hood and squared-off front fascia. The molded skid plate houses a large air intake, and Pontiac’s usual cat’s-eye headlamps are rounded off and wrap back and over the hood. Beginning between the headlamps, the hood’s shouldered styling expands in a V-shape toward the A-pillars. Pontiac’s signature dual-port grille is present.

The Montana SV6 goes on sale this fall.
The Chevy Uplander replaces Venture.

“The Montana SV6 has a very distinguished look from the front,” says Jack Folden, design director-GM front-wheel-drive truck team. “It's a face you'll remember.”

A 2-tone color scheme is standard on the SV6.

Exterior styling for the Chevrolet Uplander (that replaces the Venture) differs only slightly. Chevrolet’s horizontal band stretches across a huge grille opening. A chrome ring circles the grille.

"The Chevrolet Uplander was created to stand out from the crowd," says Janet Eckhoff, Uplander marketing director. "Uplander breaks from the traditional sloped-nose style of competitors with a design that evokes the emotional appeal of a sport/utility.”

The similarities continue in the cabin and under the hood. Both models are powered by GM’s new “high-value” 200-hp, 3.5L V-6. The powerplant is paired with the Hydra-Matic 4-speed automatic transmission. Towing capacity is 3,500 lbs. (1,588 kg). GM’s Versatrak all-wheel drive system is optional.

The minivans’ interiors feature second- and third-row seats that are foldable and removable. While the seats fold flat with a storage compartment behind the third row, they don’t fold into the floor – an increasingly crucial feature for minivans that frees up more cargo space.

SV6 and Uplander offer up to 136.5 cu.-ft. (3.9 cu.-m) of cargo space and overhead rail systems that integrate rear heating and cooling, audio controls, lighting and the rear-seat entertainment/DVD system. Four-wheel antilock disc brakes are standard. So are standard first- and second-row captain's chairs.

The minivans go into production this fall at GM’s Doraville, GA, assembly plant.

Meanwhile, the ’05 Vibe undergoes a minor upgrade. Styling changes include a bulging front fascia inspired by the ’06 Solstice roadster.

bcorbett@primediabusiness.com