Saturn Relay (left) and Buick Terraza vans share underpinnings.


Combining SUV styling cue" />

Issue: Dec 2004


New Product in Brief: GM’s New Midivans



GM’s New Midivans

by Gary Witzenburg







   

Saturn Relay (left) and Buick Terraza vans share underpinnings.


Combining SUV styling cues with mid-van functionality, Relay and Terraza have a foot firmly in both camps. Much improved over previous GM U-vans despite sharing their aging architecture, these (and coming Chevy Uplander and Pontiac Montana SV6 versions) are mostly about making it “OK” to drive a minivan for those who need to but don’t really want one. Available in two trim levels cleverly dubbed Relayª2 and Relayª3, Relay is the brand’s first 7- seater and the next step in its ambitious portfolio expansion and revitalization plan. The nicely trimmed interior reflects Saturn’s “intensified attention to detail and craftsmanship.” Available in standard CX and plush CXL versions, Terraza is Buick’s third entry in its growing truck portfolio. It complements (some might say competes with) the division’s car-based Rendezvous crossover and truck-based Rainier SUV. Its especially fine interior benefits from Buick’s comprehensive tire-patch-to-rooftop QuietTuning noise reduction treatment.

Powertrain and Features

Prominent noses and C-pillars and standard 17-inch wheels and tires contribute to an SUVlike stance. Inside are standard OnStar, a front overhead console and overhead rail storage with snap-in modules. Relay’s second-row buckets can be folded and tumbled forward, while available captain’s chairs (standard in Terraza) fold flat. All second- and third-row seats are removable, and the 50/50-split third-row bench, combined with the available rear storage bin, can be folded for a level load floor. DVD rear entertainment is standard, and an optional Mobile Digital Media powered by PhatNoise system (whew!) can store hundreds of hours of music, movies and other entertainment on a removable hard drive cartridge.

Both are adequately powered by GM’s 3.5L 3500 V-6, rated at 200 hp and 220 lb.ft. of torque and mated to a Hydra-Matic 4T65-E electronically controlled 4-speed automatic. An optional factory-installed remote starting system provides a head start on heating or cooling the interior from a range of about 200 feet.

Safety and Stability

Large 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS, a rigid structure, independent front and rear suspensions and a lengthy 121-in. wheelbase provide surprisingly car-like ride and handling. GM’s StabiliTrak stability enhancement system is optional with FWD, while available Versatrak on-demand AWD transfers torque to the rear wheels when the fronts slip, and even side to side between the rear wheels to balance traction as needed.

Integrated with the traction control and ABS, StabiliTrak uses accelerator pedal position, brake master cylinder pressure and steering wheel angle sensors to interpret the driver’s desired path and a lateral accelerometer and yaw rate sensor to determine the vehicle’s actual path. If the vehicle begins to “plow,” (understeer) it applies the inside rear brake to help it turn. If it begins to fishtail (oversteer), it applies the outside front brake to straighten it.

Structural frame enhancements and cross-rail reinforcements help preserve occupant space while absorbing energy, and the front belts have pretensioners to take up slack and load limiters to reduce peak chest load during a crash. Dual-stage front air bags determine crash severity and which level of inflation (if any) is sufficient, while GM’s Passenger Sensing System (PSS) turns off the passengerside bag if the seat is unoccupied or occupied by a smaller person. Optional seat-mounted side-impact bags help provide head and torso protection for the driver and front passenger.





Terraza Buick Relay Saturn at a Glance











































What they are: “Crossover Sport Utility” vehicles
Who they’re for: Customers desiring “midvan” utility with SUV image
Where they’re built: Doraville, Ga.
Parent company: General Motors Corp.
Competitors: Chrysler Pacifica and Town & Country, Honda Odyssey,
Mercury Monterey, Nissan Quest, Toyota Sienna
Engine: 3.5L OHV V-6
Horsepower: 200 at 5,200 rpm
Torque: 220 at 4,400 rpm
Transmission: Hydra-Matic 4T65-E 4-speed
electronically controlled automatic transaxle
Wheelbase: 121.1 in.
Curb Weight: Relay FWD 4,223 lb.; Terraza AWD 4,621
EPA Economy: FWD 18 mpg City/24 Highway/21 Combined; AWD 17/23/20
Base Price: Relay $24,485; Terraza $28,825 (plus $715 destination)
What we think: Interim gap-fillers until all new Lansing, Michigan-built
crossovers are ready in two to three years;
nicer than expected interiors, features and dynamics
despite aging architecture.


Supplier Involvement

























Interior Integrator, Overhead Rail System,
Seats, Rear Cargo System, DVD Player:
JCI
Instrument Panel: Collins and Aikman
Door and Sidewall Trim: Continental Plastics
Fascias: Plastic Omnium
17” ALS Tires: Goodyear
XM Satellite Receiver: Delphi
OnStar System: Motorola
Digital Audio/Video Player: PhatNoise


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