In the rearview: Pontiac Aztek

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Well, it wasn’t a bad idea.Aztek lead

Then again, neither was the Titanic.

The great ship ended up at the bottom of the ocean as the result of a lethal combination of bad judgment, poor timing and spectacular design defects.

But at least the Titanic was beautiful, sleek and fast.

People still mourn her loss.

Pontiac’s Aztek was none of those things. It was awkward, bizarre … .

When it sank, people cheered.

In retrospect, though, the Aztek wasn’t all that awful . . . at least, functionally speaking.Aztek camping

Like the much-loved VW Westphalia camper bus of the 1970s, the Aztek was the perfect rig for self-contained adventure trips. It didn’t have a pop-up camper top – but it did have an optionally available tent extension for the rear (and two-piece, swing up and swing down) tailgate. An air mattress fit easily with the second row of seats removed. Or, drop the lower section of the tailgate  and cart home a stack of 4×8 plywood sheets.

On the roof, there were configurable racks for securing everything from kayaks to bicycles (you could also “park” one inside the Aztek).

The center console was removable – and doubled as a portable beverage cooler. There were secondary controls for the 10 speaker Pioneer stereo mounted in the rear – along with multiple molded- in cupholders and accessory power points – just the ticket for parking lot parties.Aztek cargo area The deck was low, the roof tall. Lots of space for people and their stuff.

In 2003, Pontiac fitted the Aztek with one of the very first factory-installed tire pressure monitoring systems. These have only recently become standard equipment in new cars – almost ten years after the last new Aztek shuffled off the stage.

You could even order a fighter jet-like Heads Up Display (HUD), which projected your speed and other information holographically in the driver’s line of sight, eliminating the need to glance down at the main gauge cluster.  Aztek rear quarter 2

All-wheel-drive was available, too.

That plus a bit more ground clearance than the typical car had also meant you could drive the Aztek places most cars couldn’t go – like down to the creek for a picnic.

On paper, it sounded good.

It was good.

Many of the above described features are now commonplace. But the Aztek was the first to package them together in a single vehicle. Pontiac deserves credit for being forward thinking in this regard – and perhaps one day automotive historians will take note

It’s not an exaggeration to state that the Aztek, misshapen as it may have been, pioneered the crossover SUV concept – today’s very much “in” thing. Back in the late ’90s, there were SUVs – mostly based on trucks – and there were cars.

Not much in between.

Aztek tried to bridge that gap – and might have pulled it off.Borat thong If someone had thought to put a paper bag over its head… .

Because aesthetically, it was an absolute disaster. Borat in a thong, screaming Kazakh gibberish and running through the halls of the Vatican. It seemed to have been created deliberately weird, Gomez Addams style.

A gag?

Nope. They meant to do it.

An article in Business Week that appeared shortly after the Aztek’s 2001 launch quoted a GM insider as admitting that the Aztek’s hideous snout was deliberately styled to be “aggressive for the sake of being aggressive.”

But the problem wasn’t that the Aztek looked too “aggressive.” Americans – especially in the early 2000s – were into aggressive. Hummer H1 Alphas. Vipers. When gas was cheap and your house was worth 20 percent more every year, hell yes. The more aggressive – the better!

And it was worse than merely ugly. Lots of not-so-good-looking cars have come and gone. Some were even popular. None caused the rumpus raised by the Aztek.

The Aztek went beyond ugly. It was an affront. The automotive equivalent of Ozzy Osbourne biting off the head of a bat and spitting it at the audience.Aztek front quarter

No one wanted the bat’s head in their lap.

I was present at the public unveiling of the Aztek, at the 2000 Detroit Auto Show. To this day, I’ve not experienced anything quite like it.

Remember that scene in The Producers? The first act of “Springtime for Hitler”? Jaws dropped. Dead silence. Eyes boggled. Word failed.

Disbelief reigned.

A misshapen dumpster-thing appeared before our eyes. The mauled face of a Gila Monster lizard, crushed by a passing semi, wrapped up with a perimeter armor plate of corrugated plastic body cladding – offset by lurid day-glo colors. A demented exposition of psychedelic geometry, angles abounding. A concatenation of jumbled forms and belligerent, intentional tastelessness. Aztek side profile

It made one’s teeth hurt just to look at it.

One of my journalist colleagues captured the reaction of the appalled automotive press thusly: “This car could not have been more instantly hated if it had a swastika tattoo on its forehead.”

The shock was palpable.

Then came the laughs.

They reverberate to this very day – almost a decade after the last Aztek schlepped ignominiously off the line after an embarrassingly abbreviated production run of four years.

“We wanted to do a bold, in-your-face vehicle that wasn’t for everybody,” said Chief Designer Peters.

Well, he got what he wanted.

As it turned out, the Aztek was almost for nobody. Aztek Heisenberg

Excepting perhaps Walter White on Breaking Bad, of course. Where an Aztek served as a stage prop for failure. Once Walter became Heisenberg, bye-bye Aztek.

Hello, Hemi Charger.

How bad was it? GM hoped to sell 75,000 Azteks a year; 30,000 annually was the “break even” threshold.

That first year – 2001 – only about 13,000 found homes – and the slide got worse with each passing year. By ’05, the final year, the number had dwindled to just over 5,000. Time to insert the needle – gently, now – and put her out of her misery.

And ours, too.Aztek dash pic

But to be fair to the Aztek, it wasn’t just its off-putting looks – or the endless jokes – that crippled it from the get-go.

The thing was also preposterously pricey.

In 2001, the base MSRP was $21,445. Elaborated in today’s inflation-adjusted dollars, that would be almost $29,000. With a handful of options, the asking price could easily sail into the mid-$30k range. Why was this a problem? The Aztek’s target demographic was Generation X. People who – in the late ’90s/early 2000s – were in their 20s and early 30s, not long out of college, probably still single, with slacker-type jobs (remember those?) that didn’t generate the coin one would need to fund a $30k vehicle, no matter what it looked like.

Even if they liked it very much.FI/GM-Problems

And the people who could afford a $30k vehicle? The over 40s, with families and responsible jobs? Most of them would rather have been photographed in full leather gimp suit with a goat in flagrante than roll up to the office parking lot in an Aztek.

For the too-old it was just too much. And for the young, it cost too much.

And that left almost no one else.

As great a misfire as the poor Pontiac’s eyesore aesthetics may have been, the stupefyingly inept marketing (and pricing) is probably just as responsible for GM’s greatest fiasco since the”unsafe at any speed Corvair.”

Keep in mind: Earlier Ugly Bettys like the AMC Pacer and Gremlin actually sold not badly – because they were cheap and that made them kind of fun. Think of the times you bought some little item on a whim, not because you really needed it, but because it made you smile. ugly Betty

GM could have been sold the Aztek for a lot less – and while that might not have made it a Boratian Great Success, it might have kept it from becoming the ultimate automotive belly flop.

The mechanical things were straight-up Pontiac Montana minivan – already amortized. The exterior panels were just panels – and many of them made of plastic. The V-6/4-speed automatic powertrain was pure GM boilerplate, shared with a dozen other same-era GM models.

Nothing about the Aztek  demanded a $30k-to-start MSRP.

GM was just being greedy  . . . and stupid.Aztek yogo

And Pontiac as much as Aztek paid the price. The division never recovered – even after the introduction of great-looking/great-performing cars like the Solstice and G8. Four years later, in 2009, they turned out the lights for good.

It’s said most disasters are not the result of one thing gone wrong but rather, a confluence of things gone wrong that, together, make disaster inevitable.

A fitting epitaph for the Aztek – and Pontiac.

Rest in peace, old friends.

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50 COMMENTS

  1. Ahh,Aztec.Find a nice one,loaded with options,and it will be quite the collectible,ala Edsel.
    It is quirky,rare,drivable,GM parts available and still cheap enough to buy.Classic written all over it.Would fit my 1950’s VW van and 1960’s Jeep stable just fine.

  2. I may sound crazy because I actually would liked the Aztek and the Pacer. 30k for the Aztek was way too much though. If it had been 20k, I might have purchased one. In 2007, I bought the Honda Odyssey and have driven that quite a bit. Good car and cost less than 29k.

    • Herb, if only they hadn’t put so much of pebbled black ABS it would have been much better. Once you got an Avalanche real dirty in west Tx. they were never the same unless you wanted to steam all that black crap and re-paint it with something glossier and slicker. Once they turned all those panels into shiny metal that looks like the rest of it, I really like the Avalanche. Aztek could have been the same way.

  3. I got my 2001 Aztek with rebuilt engine from my wife for free. Well not exactly free because we bought a Prius for the gas pricey future and she drives that mostly. Also she spent money on repair for the Aztek from time to time helping to eliminate a lot of the traditional problems. The remaining ones I’ve discovered are a result of loose contacts in the C305 connector under the driver’s seat or in the rats nest of wires surrounding the ‘abs system box’ to the lower right of the master cylinder. Fix those and everything from track, abs lights and gas gauge problems disappear! I needed a versatile camping/utility vehicle and my little ‘Azzie’ fits the bill. Also I like the spacey design of the ‘Tek’. My license plate holder says, “What other Car? Engage Hyperdrive!” which indicates where I’m coming from. Both Prius and Aztek are red and they look so cute side by side in our garage, like a husband and wife.

  4. If you’re going to buy a minivan, buy a minivan.

    Not something built on the same platform, but smaller & more expensive.

    This is why I don’t understand crossovers – most are just squashed-down minivans, with less cargo room & poorer visibility.

    • Personally I prefer the old fashioned “station wagon” form factor. What the Brits call a “shooting brake.” Same chassis as a sedan. Merely an added row of seats that can fold flat in an elongated greenhouse.

      Most of the time people don’t really need the added off road ground clearance. They merely like to fantasize about “roughing it.”

      Meanwhile in the real world, the station wagon/shooting brake form factor with its lower CG handles better on the highway.

      Actually many modern “sport wagons” are essentially smaller, sportier station wagons. High end examples include the Audi Allroad and BMW xDrive Wagon. But many highly affordable, lower end sport wagons are being offered as of 2014.

  5. The pic of the Aztek with the tent extension reminded me of a similar picture I saw of the Chevy Citation back in the late ’70’s. Similar idea, similar design: open the hatch and attach the extension to make your “camper.” No doubt the Aztek would be a bit more comfortable for sleeping. But they were both bad omens for those models — and for GM.

    From an aesthetic standpoint, the Aztek was wrong in just about every possible way. The Borat comparison is apt — but Borat was intentionally ugly. The Aztek was not. I also recall a piece in Automobile magazine where Robert Cumberford took apart the Aztek design feature by feature. It took a whole two-page spread to cover all of Pontiac’s mistakes.

    I always liked the Pontiac brand, and during GM’s struggles, I’d hoped they would survive. But when they released the Aztek, I knew they were goners.

  6. Breaking Bad was not the first show to feature the Aztec, if memory serves me right. I vaguely remember a hacker nicknamed “Eyes only” driving one in the short lived series Dark Angel. Wow, it’s almost embarassing that I remember that.

  7. The aesthetics of the Aztek don’t strike me as anything exceptionally peculiar, more so or less so than any other American car of the same time.

    I’ve always thought that American cars from the late ’70’s through to the ’90’s and early ’00’s seemed always be made unnecessarily cluttered and fussy.

    This is of course as someone outside the US car market looking at it.

  8. The real shame is that the Aztek never needed to be ugly.

    There is no reason why a vehicle with the Aztek’s general specs could not be given an attractive body shape similar to any number of recent crossovers, such as the Mazda CX-5 or the Nissan Rogue.

    The Aztek is ugly because it looks like a Frankenstein’s monster pieced together with parts from different vehicles. It lacks a unified body shape. Was that necessary for utilitarian or cost reasons? I doubt it.

    • Morning, Bevin!

      Nope – it wasn’t necessary. But it was deliberate! Literally. GM designers wanted the thing to be “in your face” – and they succeeded!

      • Dear Eric,

        That’s what blows my mind.

        Sometimes people march toward certain disaster with their eyes wide open.

        The Charge of the Light Brigade comes to mind.

  9. The dealer I bought my (now gone) Grand Am GT was getting out of the GM dealer business. He had 2 Pontiacs on the lot, the Grand Am and an Aztek. The sales guy joked that if I bought the Grand Am he’d throw in the Aztek because it was taking up valuable BMW space in the lot. It was that burnt orange color that didn’t exist anywhere but in Pontiac’s product lines.

    Didn’t know about all the cool features. Maybe if the salesman (or the product marketing) mentioned them I might have bit. But for $30K? No way!

  10. The Colt Vista Wagon was the first crossover SUV,
    and avail with all wheel drive too.

    anyhoo, did you see the Aztek that the American Top Gear show built?

    it actually looked pretty cool with a lift kit, brushguard, big off road tires,and the spare mounted on the back hatch.

    • Like the Mustang II, like the ’74 GTO, the Aztek grows on me as the years roll by. I agree with Mike that buying one now (dirt cheap) might be a good investment in that 20 years form now they’ll be collectible curiosities, like Pacers and Gremlins.

      • Pacers and Gremlins and even Marlins were style leaders compared to the Aztek! At least the Gremlin sold very well by AMC standards, they used to be a very common sight American roads.

        • Jason Flinders wrote, “Pacers and Gremlins and even Marlins were style leaders compared to the Aztek!”

          Wow, and that’s saying something!

          I’ll second that notion. Gross as that too sounds: “Pacers and Gremlins and even Marlins were style leaders”

          You guys are getting ugly, now.

          Where’s that photo list of older cars one of ya’s was mentioning yesterday or so?

          • I have a friend who has a 1st-gen Marlin (1965), it’s actually a very comfortable cruiser and has great ventilation when you lower all the windows. It’s not too bad seen from an elevated rear 3/4 view, but awkward from just about any other angle, being basically a curved fastback roof grafted onto a rectangular Rambler Classic. It was unusual for its time in being equipped from the factory with standard power front disc brakes and dual-circuit master cylinder.

            http://images.hemmings.com/wp-content/uploads//2013/05/1965RamblerMarlin_02_700.jpg

            The 2nd-gen Marlin (1967) was better-proportioned but sold even worse than the original.

            http://www.oldcarsweekly.com/wp-content/uploads/Marlin-main.jpg

            The less said about the Pacer the better, most likely, an interesting idea hampered by AMC’s chronic lack of resources and the failure of GM’s rotary engine to reach production.

            The Gremlin had terrible space utilization and suffered from being a cut-down larger car, but was cheap, simple, and basically reliable and had kind of a funky look. (Hey, toots, where’s the rest of your car?)

        • The ’74 GTO was based on the Chevy Nova, as transmuted into the Pontiac Ventura. A plain car, certainly. But not an ugly car.

          The original ’64 GTO was kinda plain, too!

          And – check the stats – the ’74 wasn’t all that slow, relative to most of the standard-engined GTOs that preceded it.

          Remember: Though it had “only” a 200 hp 400 V-8, it was much lighter than its immediate predecessors. Also, the ’74’s 200 hp was about the same as the output of the optional “T/A 6.6 400” V-8 in the much-heavier (but much more popular ’77-79 Trans-Ams), which were pretty solid performers in stock condition – and easily modified to be much quicker.

          The ’74 GTO also had a functional shaker scoop, which was (and is) pretty cool.

          If Pontiac had been able to smuggle the SD-455 into the thing, it would have been an animal!

          • Dear Eric,

            The 65, 66, 67 GTOs were the best looking of them all! The vertical stacked quads were da bomb.

            Car Life tested a 1965 GTO with Tri-Power and what they considered the most desirable options (close-ratio four-speed manual transmission, power steering, metallic brakes, rally wheels, 4.11 limited-slip differential, and Rally Gauge Cluster), with a total sticker price of US$3,643.79. With two testers and equipment aboard, they recorded 0–60 miles per hour (0–97 km/h) in 5.8 seconds, the standing quarter mile in 14.5 seconds with a trap speed of 100 miles per hour (160 km/h), and an observed top speed of 114 miles per hour (182.4 km/h) at the engine’s 6,000 rpm redline.

            0–60 miles per hour (0–97 km/h) in 5.8 seconds

            Not too shabby even by 2014 standards!

            I agree about the Nova based 74. Not Aztek ugly. But that’s setting the bar pretty low. A muscle car ought to inspire lust, not yawns.

          • Actually, Eric, the ’74 GTO had a 7.6:1 compression 350 rated optimistically at 200 HP. I well remember seeing one for the first time in 1973 and saying “That’s not a real GTO!” That was in the dark days of early smog control, castrated V-8 engines and the introduction of the 55 MPH speed limit. Just in time for me to get my drivers license. For many years the GTO was my favorite car. I owned and drove a ’64 GTO for many years and, of course, should have kept it!

            • Right you are, Randy – but the ’77-’79 “T/A 6.6” 400 in the Trans-Am was also low compression (8.2:1, if memory serves) and rated (initially) the same 200 hp (220 beginning in ’78). And the ’74 GTO weighed less than a late-’70s TA!

              Both cars ran low 15s, stock – and could (based on personal experience) be brought down to the mid-14s with fairly simple/cheap mods (such as a true dual exhaust with no cats and a power tune for the ’77-’79 Trans-Ams).

          • @Bevin – Not exactly a looker, but If you can find one, these were one kick-ass car to drive. A Porsche 911 would have a very hard time getting away from it on city streets. I can attest to that.

            The 1974 Nova was not available with any police gear, period. However, the ’74 Nova became the test platform for one of the most popular and highly engineered police cars to ever hit the streets, especially in Southern California. The Nova police car got its notoriety from Motor Trend Executive Editor John Christy. Christy was also a Specialist Reserve Deputy with the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department. Christy made technical changes to the LASD vehicle test procedures to make them more realistic, more accurate, more detailed and more relevant. This new test method paved the way for mid-size cars to replace full-size cars in many patrol areas. The ’74 Nova tested by the LASD was powered by a 350-cid/185-hp, four-barrel carbureted V-8 with a Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission and 3.08 rear gears. This engine was totally unique to the police Nova. The chassis was a mixture of standard and optional Nova SS and Camaro Z28 parts. The brakes were from the full-size Bel Air. The power steering had Z28 valving, which gave more road feel and response. The suspension had front and rear sway bars. The Nova used specially-developed, Firestone E70x14 pursuit tires. The COPO 9C1 Nova, jointly developed by the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department and Motor Trend magazine, is the most important police car Chevrolet ever made. The Nova 9C1 revolutionized the police use of mid-size patrol cars in exactly the same way as the special service package Ford Mustang got cops to rethink pursuit cars.

            http://www.oocities.org/novaessess/SSpolice.htm

            • Hi Gary,

              I always liked those mid-’70s Novas. Not the prettiest, but potentially real sleepers.

              I’d love to have a ’74 GTO even more, though.

              200 hp to start with – vs. the Chevy 305/350 and 185 hp, max (with much less torque). Functional “shaker” scoop in the Pontiac. I’m pretty sure the GTO also had comparable to cop-spec. Nova suspension, brake and final drive enhancements.

              ’74 was a good year in that it was also the last year for no catastrophic converters.

              Put a $200 cam kit in that GTO, a set of factory Ram Air exhaust manifolds (or headers) and tune the carb and ignition – and you’d have a runner. In stock trim, it was already about as strong as the ’77-79 Trans-Am with the W72 option “T/A 6.6” version of the 400 (200-220 hp) and much lighter.

              The cam swap and tune ought to bump the hp up to around 260-280 “honest” hp out of the otherwise stock 400.

          • Dear Gary,

            To tell the truth, I was more persnickety back then.

            Today, if I could have a 74 GTO I’d actually be pretty damned happy.

            Actually there are some real bargains to be had even today. The base V6 Mustangs over the past several years have been excellent values in terms of bang/buck.

          • @Bevn – Oh ya. a yellow 67′ GTO. My dream car while working as grocery store bagger. Total chick magnet. Next best was my buddies Camero SS, which never lost a stop light race on Saturday nights on Whittier Blvd. Back before the NSA and DHS Stazi police departments.

            • I like ’em all (GTOs) but particularly the ’71-72 with the 455 HO, gaudy paint & stripe combos, the wing on the trunk, Honeycomb wheels…

              Pontiac in its heyday masterfully combined muscle with elegance and outrageousness.

          • @Eric- In a real-for-life-street race it is the drivers it skill, suspension, brakes and engine package that counts. Pure power gets lost in the intersections and curves. I have to quit drinking when I post. 🙂

            • Sho ’nuff!

              My point was that these two cars are basically the same (the ’74 GTO is a Nova, with Pontiac exterior styling differences) but that I’d rather have the Pontiac because – for openers – a 400 or 455 is exactly the same size as the stock 350 and would bolt right in, without any noticeable to the eye differences – and also because the stock 350 Pontiac was stronger than the stock Chevy engine. Which would matter in a street race, assuming equal ability drivers!

          • Dear Gary,

            In terms of appearance at least, the 67 was the last really good year.

            As I mentioned before, to me eyes, the 65, 66, 67 GTOs were the best looking of them all! The vertical stacked quads were da bomb.

            • Well, there’s that!

              One of the scariest street races I ever partook of was when I squared off with a then-new Corvette in my friend Stuart’s (“Stu Monster”) ’71 GTX 440. That car was a white-knuckle ride. Imagine: big block Mopar in a two-ton wrapper riding on 14-inch Hurst mags…. extra-floaty/overboosted power steering. Worthless brakes.

              But still pulling like a freight train of death at 135 MPH….

          • @Eric- The AMC 401 Matador was another beast. Burning rubber from a rolling 30 MPH start, but overheated and fell depart in regular and high speed pursuit driving. The idea was right, but the product was too flawed in the end. Like most of the Chrysler products I drove they almost made a great car.

          • “Like most of the Chrysler products I drove they almost made a great car.” (@garysco)

            AMC was not part of Chrysler when the Matador was built, it was an independent company (the last of the non-big-three postwar “independents”). The main thing sourced from Chrysler from 1972-on was the excellent Torqueflite transmission. (A big improvement over the previously-used Borg-Warner slushbox.)

            Mine only has a 360 V8 (the AMC 360, NOT the Chrysler 360) so it is not quite the beast it would be with a 401, but it certainly has no problems keeping up with modern traffic. With heavy-duty springs and shocks, and a quick-ratio power steering box originally intended for a Trans-Am it even handles pretty decently for what it is.

          • @jason – Well there you go. It seems that building a fast car is not hard. But one that will go fast, stop, handle well and hold up is the trick

  11. The Aztek is proof that blind people don’t buy cars- and only a blind person could like the hideous Aztek.
    Another example of GM’s arrogance. They though the car would sell because corporate pinhead “experts” said it would. Amazing.
    This debacle was a major factor in the demise of my all time favorite brand, Pontiac. It would be funny if not so tragic.

  12. Eric,
    Did you know that Borat’s Kazakh gibberish is actually fluent Hebrew? This makes his anti-semitism all the more amusing….if you speak Hebrew, that is..

  13. Buying an Aztek at this time will prove to be an excellent investment. You should be able to find one in pretty good condition, and buy it for almost nothing.

    Why would this POS ever have collectable value? It will never be a Classic. But here’s what it will have….extreme rarity. Few sold in the first place. And the majority of those that did will quickly make their way to the crushing machine.

    Then, like the ugly, slow selling Edsel, it will become a legend (of failure.) Some collectors will want one for this reason. They will find Azteks in very short supply, And this will raise the price….more than you’d expect.

    The biggest problem in holding on to an Aztek in that extra slot in your garage is that you’ll have to keep it covered, so you don’t have to look at it.

    • Azteks will be as worthless in 30 years as they are today, it’s just too painful to look at from any angle. And just like the much better looking but mechanically identical Buick Rendezvous, it has absolutely no redeeming qualities to make them desirable in the distant future.

      Think of the equally hideous and poor selling Cutlass and Regal fastbacks from the late 70s. Nothing at all special about them except horrible styling. Better looking and lower priced corporate cousins from Chevy and Pontiac sold like hotcakes. No one pays premium prices for plain old ugly, not now or ever.

      The Edsel pampered it’s occupants with luxury, power and futuristic gizmos not available in the Ford or Mercury lines. The horsecollar grill was goofy on an upscale automobile but the rest of the vehicle featured contemporary styling for the era. Those distinctions, plus being THE synonym for corporate failure, have made the Edsel desirable.

    • There are some very very rare Edsels. I’ve never heard of them going for much money.

      Now there are some rare sub models of Mustang and other cars that weren’t desirable in their day that are collectable. But that’s because they are version of a Mustang or Camaro that nobody else around would have.

      The first Aztek or an Aztek show car or something might be worth something, but a garden variety production Aztek from the middle of the run? Highly unlikely.

  14. Contrast this with the Aztek’s corporate cousin, the Buick Rendezvous, and you really begin to see what a difference styling and marketing can make. While the Aztek helped bring down ailing Pontiac, the Rendezvous, based on the same minivan platform and built in the same plant, was a sales success for Buick and helped save that brand (for a while).

    I haven’t compared the options side by side, but I imagine they are pretty similar on paper in capability. I bet even the tent can be hooked up OK to the Buick if so desired.

    It is amazing how much styling sells vehicles. A car may be the worst piece of garbage to come out of a manufacturer in years, but if it has good styling, it will sell (any Hummer). Conversely, it may be a wonderful, practical, reliable platform, but if it isn’t attractive it will struggle, at least with an image problem if not sales. Just think about mini-vans or station wagons vs SUVs and crossovers.

    Oh, and tire pressure monitoring systems have been commonplace in passenger cars since 2007 thanks to federal government safety mandates. This, of course, adds a lot of unnecessary cost to new cars, like air bags and backup cameras do. Depending on the vehicle, a single TPMS gauge in a wheel costs anywhere from $40-$160. Multiply that by 4. I’m not sure this feature deserves a lot of praise in the Aztek any more than annoying seatbelt chimes or lane departure warning alarms, except that at least TPMS can actually make it a little easier to monitor tire pressures for the lazy among us.

    • The original VW Beetle sold very well and it was considered ugly, as well as antiquated even by 1960s standards. Sometimes cheap and reliable does the job no matter what the looks or underlying technology.

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