|Assembly||Ramos Arizpe, Mexico|
|Predecessor||Pontiac Sunrunner (Canada)|
|Class||Mid-size crossover SUV|
|Body style(s)||4-door SUV|
|Layout||Front engine, front-wheel drive / four-wheel drive|
|Engine(s)||3.4 L LA1 V6|
|Transmission(s)||4-speed 4T65-E automatic|
|Wheelbase||108.3 in (2751 mm)|
|Length||192.1 in (4625 mm)|
|Width||73.7 in (1872 mm)|
|Height||66.7 in (1694 mm)|
|Curb weight||3779–4043 lb (1714–1834 kg)|
The Aztek was heavily criticized on its exterior styling, with Time magazine in 2007 calling the Aztek one of the worst cars of all time, and again in 2010 as the 34th worst invention of all time. A poll in The Daily Telegraph in August 2008 placed the Aztek at number one of the "100 ugliest cars" of all time.
Given that many sport utility vehicles (SUVs) were rarely driven off-pavement, a new car-based "crossover" was marketed with hopes of providing SUV-like elements customers actually wanted. These features included large cargo capacities and elevated seating. The vehicle was marketed to younger drivers who could picture the Aztek as complementary to an active outdoor lifestyle with fewer of the drawbacks perceived with traditional SUVs such as poor gas mileage, uncomfortable ride, high step-in height and vulnerability to roll-over. Television commercials portrayed the Aztek as an adult "My Buddy", able to go along for all sorts of adventures such as getting lost in remote southwest locations or as a sleep-in vehicle before an open fire in a municipal park.
First shown to the public in 1999, the Pontiac Aztek concept car was fairly well received. It featured "Xtreme" futuristic styling and promised maximum versatility in support of a young and active lifestyle for its intended Generation 'X' buyer demographic.
The production edition of the Aztek was launched with the tagline: "Quite possibly the most versatile vehicle on the planet." in conjunction with CBS's hit game show, Survivor in 2000.
Colby Donaldson won this car as a prize during the final reward challenge of Survivor: The Australian Outback.
Technology and notable features
- The Aztek was produced at General Motors' Ramos Arizpe, Mexico, assembly plant, where it shared an assembly line with the Buick Rendezvous. In Canada, it filled the gap left since the Sunrunner's discontinuation in 1997, while in the United States and Mexico it was the first Pontiac-badged SUV ever sold.
- At launch the Aztek was available with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive in base and GT trim.
- In lieu of four-wheel drive, the Aztek offered Versatrak, a full-time, fully-automatic all-wheel drive system which provided traction in the snow or rain and could handle moderately rough off-road surfaces.
- The Aztek was one of the first automobiles to be designed entirely using computerized rapid-prototyping/rapid-visualization tools.
- The dashboard was designed by NASA contractor Johnson Controls, and featured Pontiac's trademark red lighting scheme along with an optional heads-up display.
- The Aztek was able to carry within its interior the standard 4 feet (1.2 m) by 8 feet (2.4 m) sheet of plywood, a common and useful task most of its SUV competitors were unable to perform. (note: Aztek carries 4x8 plywood sheets with the tailgate lowered, but the gate doesn't lie completely flat and the large glass liftgate is heavy.)
- In support of the Aztek's intended role as an accoutrement for a youthful, active lifestyle it offered a number of novel options/accessories, such as a center console that doubled as a removable cooler and a tent/inflatable mattress package that, along with a built-in air compressor, allowed the Aztek to double as a camper. Extending this image was a seat-back mounted backpack, and a number of specialty racks for bicycles, canoes, snowboards and other such objects.
- An optional 10 speaker Pioneer stereo system provided a set of controls located within the rear quarters of the vehicle for tail-gate parties as well as an unusual 2-piece tailgate with built-in cupholders and contoured seating area for added comfort. The Aztek was available in a Limited Edition model in 2004. It featured standard leather trimmed seats, a higher grade stereo system, a rear spoiler, aluminum interior trim, standard heads up display, and an adjustable 6 way driver's seat. The model only lasted for two months.
- The Aztek was also available with two rear cargo area options, a pull-out cargo tray that held up to 400 pounds (180 kg) that rolled on built-in wheels when removed from the vehicle, or a versatile cargo net system that held up to 200 pounds (91 kg) and could be configured a claimed 22 different ways.
- The Aztek did not have a wiper blade on the rear liftgate, unlike most other SUVs (though double-door models omitted it, such as the Chevrolet Suburban/Tahoe)
The IIHS gave the Aztek a Marginal overall score in the frontal offset test. However, they did not conduct a side-impact test.
2004 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Crash Test Ratings:
Side Rear Passenger:
Yearly American sales
|Calendar Year||Total American sales|
GM forecast sales of up to 75,000 Azteks per year, and needed to produce 30,000 annually to break even. Just 27,322 were sold in 2001 with more than 50% being sold to captive rental company fleets or used by General Motors executives.
Pricing of the Aztek was also an issue at launch. In addition to being widely criticized for styling, the vehicle was simply too expensive for its intended "Generation X" audience and was priced significantly higher than competing vehicles. After the 2001 model year, the GT model was dropped and pricing was slashed, in addition to extremely generous rebates and cut-rate financing instituted by GM in the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
The Aztek was cited derisively numerous times in Steve McConnell's software design book, Code Complete 2: The Pontiac Aztek and the Perils of Design by Committee
The Aztek had among the highest Customer Satisfaction Index scores in its class, and won the appellation of "Most Appealing Entry Sport Utility Vehicle" in 2001 from J.D. Power and Associates, an independent consumer survey organization who noted: "The Aztek scores highest or second highest in every APEAL component measure except exterior styling."
Just as the 1959 Cadillac represented the zenith and final overextension of the tailfin as a desired styling device, the Aztek's "overuse" of cladding marked a breaking point for the automotive press' and public's acceptance of the ribbed cladding that Pontiac used as its primary styling differentiator for almost 15 years, a styling element introduced with the 1985 Grand Am which quickly spread to all of its models. The restyled 2002 Aztek's body colored cladding eliminated most of the horizontal strakes, and Pontiac began a program at the direction of Bob Lutz to substantially subdue or remove cladding from all of its models.
The Aztek was discontinued after the 2005 model year, and was replaced by the Theta platform Pontiac Torrent. The Aztek's production line in Ramos Arizpe, Mexico, was retooled to build the Chevrolet HHR.
Matthew DeBord of The Big Money argued that despite its poor reviews and sales, the Aztek is the car that, in the long run, could save GM. He praises GM for being daring and trying to create an entirely new market in vehicles, rather than simply copying successful formulas. He argues that the Aztek's failure is similar to the failure of the Apple's Newton and Mac Portable - two failed products that revolutionized the computer industry and became the basis for later successful products made by Apple.
Year to year changes
- All new model available as base model and GT both in front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive, the latter boasting an independent rear suspension.
- In February 2001, a red Aztek served as the pace car for the Daytona 500.
- Cladding smoothed and changed to body colored, front marker light/turn signals changed from amber to clear, spoiler added to rear glass gate.
- Aztek "Rally Edition" introduced, which was an option package which featured a lowered front suspension, a larger rear spoiler, body colored grille and 17" chrome wheels. Though some regarded it as a model of its own, since it would resurface the Rally name to GM since the discontinuation of the GMC Rally.
- DVD entertainment system, XM satellite radio and a tire pressure monitoring system added to the options list.
- A CD/MP3 player was added as an available option.
- In its final model year, the Aztek gained hands-free operation of its OnStar system.
- "The 50 Worst Cars of All Time", Time (September 7, 2007). Retrieved on May 22, 2010.
- "The 50 Worst Inventions", Time (May 27, 2010). Retrieved on May 31, 2010.
- "The 100 Ugliest Cars", The Daily Telegraph (London) (August 25, 2008). Retrieved on May 22, 2010.
- "Pontiac Aztek 2000-2005". autoevolution.
- "Survivor recap: Season 2, Episode 13". CBS.
- Johnson Controls (August 7, 2000). "Versatile Features in Pontiac Aztek Interior Reflect Johnson Controls' Outstanding Capabilities", http://www.prnewswire.com/cgi-bin/stories.pl?ACCT=104&STORY=/www/story/08-07-2000/0001284297&EDATE=.
- "2002 Pontiac Aztek Overview". ConsumerGuide.
- "Pontiac Aztek". IIHS-HLDI.
- "2004 Pontiac Aztek". safercar.gov.
- GM (January 3, 2003). "GM Reports Best December Sales Since 1979", http://archives.media.gm.com/news/sales/030103_decsales.html.
- GM (January 5, 2004). "GM Reports December Sales of 447,900, Down 9 Percent From Record Year-Ago Levels", http://archives.media.gm.com/servlet/GatewayServlet?target=http://image.emerald.gm.com/gmnews/viewmonthlyreleasedetail.do?domain=3&docid=2215.
- GM (January 4, 2006). "GM Reports 392,041 Deliveries in December", http://archives.media.gm.com/servlet/GatewayServlet?target=http://image.emerald.gm.com/gmnews/viewpressreldetail.do?domain=2&docid=21738.
- GM (January 3, 2007). "GM Reports 341,327 Deliveries in December", http://archives.media.gm.com/servlet/GatewayServlet?target=http://image.emerald.gm.com/gmnews/viewmonthlyreleasedetail.do?domain=6&docid=31596.
- GM (January 3, 2008). "GM Reports 323,453 December Deliveries; 3.87 Million Vehicles Sold in 2007", http://archives.media.gm.com/servlet/GatewayServlet?target=http://image.emerald.gm.com/gmnews/viewpressreldetail.do?domain=3&docid=42261.
- Flammang, Jim (February 10, 2003). "2003 Pontiac Aztek". Cars.com.
- Callahan, Terry (January 18, 2001). "NASCAR WCUP: Pontiac Aztek to pace Daytona 500". The Auto Channel.
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