By on July 14, 2013

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It doesn’t take graphs and analytics to tell you that the crossover utility market is red hot right now. The roads are absolutely jammed packed with them and as their popularity has been on the rise the fortunes of other once popular family vehicles like the minivan have been on the wane. To be honest, I am at something of a loss to really explain why that is. They are, in my opinion, an odd combination that offers none of the real benefits of a true four wheel drive SUV, none of the room or cargo capacity of a van, and virtually none of the economy or road handling of a small car. Why oh why, then, did I buy one?

My particular crossover utility is a 2008 Pontiac Torrent. Since the Pontiac brand was officially discontinued in 2010, my little trucklet is officially an orphan but thanks to the fact that it was constructed on General Motors’ Theta platform it lives in a world surrounded by half-brothers and half-sisters. Introduced in 2002, the theta platform underpins the Torrent as well as the Chevrolet Equinox and the Saturn Vue and the current Chevrolet Captiva, a version of the Vue that continues to be built for the rental market under the bow-tie brand, and the GMC Terrain among others. My car is powered by a 3400 V6 backed by an automatic transmission but GM also offered an Ecotech 4 and, so my research indicates, your choice of two different manual 5 speeds.

torrent fascia

Although GM has done a much better job of differentiating the three Thetas currently for sale in the US in the last few years, giving the GMC a more blocky look that is similar to the trucks they sell, the Chevrolet a slicker more modern “Malibuesque” look while the Captiva retains the rounded look that made the Saturn a popular and distinctive vehicle, such was not the case when my Equinox was sold back in 2008. In those days, only the Saturn Vue had its own look, the Equinox and the Torrent were differentiated only by their front fascias on the outside and, so far as I know, only by Pontiac’s signature red dash lights on the inside. In my opinion, the Torrent is the more attractive of the two as Chevrolet hung their center bar grill and an oversized bowtie on the Equinox while Pontiac reached back into their history and pulled out a twin hole grill ala the GTO Judge and stuck a small, brilliant red arrowhead between the twin snouts.

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Moving back past the fascias the two rigs are, as I have said, identical and are designed to look more like the “normal” body on frame SUVs that preceded them rather than the slicker more car like crossovers that have since evolved. My Torrent has a solid upright look to it, with blocky fenders and over sized wheel wells. A sloping c-pillar gives the design a little bit of forward motion and the back glass that slopes down to a fairly upright tailgate completes the truck like effect. On top, large diameter tubing set into rugged plastic mounts runs from just above the driver’s door to the back of the rig and two removable crossbars, now safely in the garage. allow me to utilize this space for cargo should I desire.

Inside the Torrent is built to a cost. The dash, and all the plastic parts for that matter, is made of cheap looking, hard black plastic. There are some obvious seams where the pieces fit together but I cannot go so far as to say that there are any gaps between the panels. In fact, they seem to fit together well, it is only the mating of two different angles that draws the eye to them. The seats in my Torrent are scratchy, utilitarian cloth rather than the nicer leather than would have come on a more well optioned vehicle and the carpets are just simple black carpets and mats that are standard fare in most vehicles today. Rubber flooring, I think, would have been a better choice.

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The instrument panel is big and has easy to read numbers which is good because I rely upon bifocals to see these days. The controls are all easy to use and intuitive, the climate controls with three easy to find knobs and the radio above with one large volume knob like the ones below it. It would be easy to get them confused at night but for the fact that they are fairly well separated. Between the speed and tachometers is a digital information system that shows the regular and trip odometers while you are driving but which will also occasionally alert you to vital information like low tire pressure, when an oil change is needed, low oil pressure or other engine vitals and even when the outside air temp gets low enough to create possibly icy conditions.

The CD player allows 6 discs to be loaded and the buttons on either side of the aforementioned volume knob do all the usual seek and scan duties. Changing between discs is difficult to do on the fly because the forward and backwards controls are included in the row of buttons right below the display that would in days gone by be used the pre-programmed radio stations. The fact that these buttons’ functions changed when different parts of the sound system were brought into play escaped me for a while, but now that I have had the vehicle in regular use it has become more natural. The radio also features an equalizer function that requires accessing a menu something that, like added or removing CDs, is best done while stopped. There are always ways to hook in your i-pod which I might know about if I wasn’t a cave man.

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The wheel is leather wrapped and feels good in my hands but it is connected to a steering gear that I think is a little on the twitchy side. Perhaps it is my increasing age but I prefer just a little more play in my steering, this thing is instantaneous and the slightest input will point you in a new direction. The brakes are good. The car has about 38,000 miles on it now and I have recently replaced the pads on all four wheels. The front were definitely needed but the backs could have gone a while yet. I did tires when we got it 3 years and around 16K miles ago and they are wearing a little more than I expected, especially on the front. But given the fact that my AWD trucklet is closer to a front wheel driver than a rear wheel driver I suppose I should have expected that. The trick, I think, is to keep the tires rotated and everything will be fine.

Performance wise I have been disappointed; the Torrent seems under powered to me. The 3400 V6 demands to be revved in order to make any power and any sudden acceleration results in the transmission downshifting in order to force the engine high in to the rev range. I have never abused my cars and I am reluctant to put my foot down and force an engine to work hard, but the Torrent, it seems to me, likes to be wound up tight all the time. In a hot little turbo car I would not have an issue, but in something that at least otherwise looks like a truck I find it disconcerting. In varied city/highway driving it is returning about 18 miles to the gallon, not as good as I thought it might when I purchased it but not horrible either.

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Paint is another area where I am suffering some mild disappointment. There are two small areas, neither where one would expect to find any real rock damage, where the clear coat has flaked away. This is a vehicle I drive year round so it is exposed to salt, but it is generally taken to a car wash several times during the winter and then gone over carefully by yours truly in the spring. My own detailing includes a thorough underspray with the garden hose, a wash and a wax with Meguiars Gold Class. I wax the vehicle at least one more time during the summer and again in the fall before winter comes. I have, at this point, touched up the edges of the flaking clear coat and the peeling has stopped, but I am unhappy as these two areas, each about a 50 cent piece in diameter, are the only blemishes on the car’s otherwise attractive black paint.

The only mechanical issue I have to report after three years of ownership was an issue with the coil packs. Last summer it began acting up on the highway, stuttering and not accelerating like it should. A simple Google search pointed me in the right directions and a trip to the local dealer, now a Buick shop, had the entire thing resolved in just the amount of time it took me to walk a block to the nearest McDonald’s, eat my breakfast and get angry at the Fox N Friends Morning Show they had on the TV there. Because GM was aware of the issue and tweaked their warranty to cover the parts and service, this little problem was handled on their dime and without too much hassle. Props to GM and our local Buick dealer, they did a good job.

I purchased the Torrent in the autumn of 2010 shortly after I arrived in Buffalo and it was intended to be primarily my wife’s car. Although I was originally looking for a minivan a chance stop at the dealer closest to my house turned up this Torrent, recently traded and adult owned with just 18K miles on the clock. At the time I paid about $16K which seemed like a fair deal and I have since seen others selling for similar money despite not appearing to be as nice. Currently Thetas can be found in virtually all price ranges and in all states of condition but I would realistically guestimate that mine is worth somewhere in the $10K to $12K range as it sits now.

IMG_1647

Ultimately my family’s situation has changed since we purchased the Torrent. My third child, now 18 months old, necessitated the purchase of a van and I began using the Torrent as my daily driver. In the last 18 months it has served me well on my modest commute, sits on a fairly busy thoroughfare while I earn my daily bread and out in the driveway exposed to the elements the rest of the time. It works reasonably well in this role, still looks great and still performs decently.

The rub is that I do not think I would buy this vehicle again knowing what I know now. Although my third child forced us to buy a minivan the truth is that we would have been better off buying one in the first place. Ingress and egress with a four door is a pain in the butt, especially when you have strollers and car seats involved. The back seats are close enough to the front seats that, with my car seat ensconced little-ones in the back, I get a never ending series of kicks to the seatback which causes me a rough ride and lots of dirty little foot prints that demand cleaning. It is not a great family vehicle for little kids and its limited space feels quite similar to the VW Golf TDI I used to own. At least in the Golf, while it ran, I was rewarded by its fuel sipping frugality, but here I am getting econobox space without any of the benefits. That bothers me.

IMG_1653

Should you buy one? That depends, I suppose. The Torrent, I think, is a decent bargain priced entry into the midsized crossover market. If you must have a crossover, are sans children and have a commute that requires some AWD capability, and I have to confess that the Torrent has been fantastic in the Buffalo winters it has endured, making the commute on its normal, all weather tires without so much as a slip or a slide, then why the heck not? If you have a burgeoning family, need something that gets great mileage or are looking for a place that you can comfortably grind out a long commute, then I would advise against it. That then, is The Truth About Cars from this author’s perspective.

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Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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102 Comments on “Used Car Review: 2008 Pontiac Torrent...”


  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    “an odd combination that offers none of the real benefits of a true four wheel drive SUV, none of the room or cargo capacity of a van, and virtually none of the economy or road handling of a small car”

    Thomas, I can’t help but wonder if this opinion would be different if you had chosen one of the better crossovers instead of this Pontiac. There are several that are as roomy as the midsize station wagons some of us wish were the norm. They’ll get 30 mpg highway in 4 cylinder form and are probably as quick as that 3400. This segment will never handle like a Focus, but the better ones handle close enough to mainstream midsize sedans that most drivers won’t know the difference.

    For most enthusiasts, there is little to get excited about in this segment, but for real world consumers this is about the best family hauler you could ask for.

  • avatar
    Spartan

    Great buy for a teenager going off to college. Otherwise, I wouldn’t bother.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      I’d say more for the older gentleman or lady with bad hips/knees/etc.
      There easy to get in and out of, have a good ride and are easy to use.

      Most teenagers see them as minivans.

      • 0 avatar
        gmichaelj

        Yes, my parents (in their 70′s) just traded in an Accord for an Escape. The primary reason was that my father (6’3″) was too tall to easily get in and out of the honda.

  • avatar
    Ion

    I think the appeal of the CUV is that they’re like diet SUV. A CUV typically gets better gas mileage without sacrificing the AWD/4×4 but still retains the practicality of the hatch.

    That said I like the torrent, it somehow comes off as more elegant than the equinox.

    • 0 avatar
      SayMyName

      Like many other tallish, narrow two-box designs, the first-gen Equinox/Torrent definitely look better in black than in lighter colors.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but what CUV has traditional 4×4?

      • 0 avatar
        Ion

        The 1st gen. Liberty (the 2nd is more of an suv) assuming you mean front diff, transfer, and rear diff.

        The definition of 4×4 and SUV=CUV are kind of iffy. I generally consider a 4×4 to be a switchable system but that can include ones that have a front transaxle (like the old escapes). Similarly I’d consider CUVs to be based off a car platform (typically non-BOF)but that could include things like say the Honda Pilot, new Explorer, etc.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        Defining a “traditional 4X4″ is not as easy as it sounds. The configurations are as varied as the vehicles themselves.

    • 0 avatar
      azmtbkr81

      Most CUVs offer roughly the same mileage as true SUVs while providing almost none of the capability. A case in point is AWD Explorer which is rated at 16/18/22. The similarly sized 4Runner is rated 17/18/21 with a real transfer case and heaps more capability. Still I think your diet analogy holds: it looks the same but tastes like crap.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Being one of the few AMC Eagle fanboys outside of Kenosha, I totally understand the segment. When practicality has to be one of your prime buying motivations a crossover is an easy answer. The theta platform is the base for a lot of good crossovers including the Cadillac SRX. I know it’s impossible for one vehicle to be all things to all people and those that try often fail, but crossovers come close, at least for me

  • avatar
    geozinger

    Hey Thomas, I’d love to find a well maintained Torrent like yours for $10-$12K in Western Michigan. They’re all much higher mileage and in much worse condition. The only ones worth buying are the GXP models and they go for close to what a new Equinox LS model retails…

    We looked long and hard at one of these to replace my car; as noted before they’re rather pricey in my neck of the woods. I ended up finding an almost completely loaded 04 Aztek Rally (sans AWD… WTF?), it too has the 3400 and I agree that it is weak kneed at times.

    I think we have to look at these Theta-mobiles as the equivalent (at least idiomatically) of the A-body station wagons of 40 years ago. Truly, if you need to haul lots of people AND stuff at the same time, there is no substitute for the minivan. These are just as much fashion statement of it’s place in time as a 1976 Cordoba was a statement of the mid-disco/brougham era.

    I generally agree with most of your comments about the car; other than if you think the Pontiac interior is Spartan, you should spend time in a first gen Equinox! But, for something that purports to be ‘utility’, I don’t have an issue with hard plastics. Much easier to clean and maintain. These cars remind me of that old Subaru commercial about cars that were inexpensive and built to stay that way…

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Small and midsize crossovers make a perfect vehicle for empty nesters and retirees. My wife and I just bought a new 2013 Honda CRV with AWD and heated leather seats this is similar to a station wagon but sits higher and is easier to get in and out of. I am a few years from retirement and we went from a Ford Taurus to a small crossover for its versatility.

  • avatar
    fredtal

    38000 miles on a 2008, guess folks who own these don’t like driving or have another car they rather drive.

    • 0 avatar
      spartan_mike

      I’m a little surprised that rear legroom is a weak point. I thought the sliding rear seat was supposed to make that a strength. I’m not surprised the 3400 is inadequate. Having experienced it in a rental Impala and being less than impressed. I’m sure an extra 500 pounds and AWD wouldn’t help any.

      • 0 avatar
        bryanska

        The 3400 is super durable, though. I could see this as a really solid choice for someone who is active outdoors and puts their money in canoes & kayaks versus cars.

        While most people think Subarus are the choice of outdoor folk, if you go to a Boundary Waters parking lot you’ll see whatever’s cheap and durable. There’s such a premium on Subarus that it doesn’t make sense. If you love paddling, why would you spend energy buying an expensive Subaru?

        • 0 avatar
          Russycle

          The 3400 does a pretty good job in my Gand Am, but it’s hauling a lot less weight. Not surprised it struggles in an SUV, GM shoulda known better.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            My district has a 2007 Equinox with the 3400 AWD configuration. Drove it about 1000 miles round trip from Gallup, NM to Phoenix, AZ for an education conference.

            At the end of the trip I finally popped the hood to check if it wasn’t a 4cyl the way it screamed and protested when asked to do things like merge onto the freeway or climb a moderate grade.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    Great review! Its pieces like this that make me keep coming to TTAC. If I want to see how the latest Lexus/Acura/Audi/etc handles, I can just go on Youtube and watch 5000 videos.

    If I want to get a real world, no holds-barred perspective on I vehicle, I come here.

  • avatar
    Sam P

    Drive a current generation Equinox sometime. They’re really nice (not just nice for a GM product. Nice as in competitive with the best of the segment). When a friend got one, I was prepared to dislike it.

    I was pleasantly surprised. It has pretty decent cornering for a tall SUV-vannish thing, very good interior quality in league with Toyota and Honda, tons of interior room for 4 big adults, and it’s pretty easy to park.

    • 0 avatar
      SayMyName

      The Equinox (and even the Captiva) are indeed extremely nice vehicles for their price and mission, easily on par with almost all the other “cute-utes” available.

      Alas, I can’t get past the horribly cartoonish, “trucky” styling of the Terrain to say the same for the GMC version.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I find the Terrain both garishly styled (the details are too big and loud for such a small vehicle) and overpriced (in the $40K range for the upper trim levels.)

        I see lots of Captivas though, none of which appear to be rentals. Saw an old couple in a brand new one the other day.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    The 60V6 has always been inadequate. My 1995 Buick with the smaller 3100 version basically falls on its face during highway driving because the powerband is so terrible.

    • 0 avatar
      pietalian

      I also had a 1995 Century with the 3100. The misdiagnosed head gasket failure at 82k pretty much summed up my experiences with that powertrain.

    • 0 avatar
      watermeloncup

      I thought the 3400 was pretty good in my parents’ 1998 Chevy Venture. You do have to rev the engine quite a bit but the transmission responds to throttle inputs pretty readily, so I didn’t find it unpleasant to drive. I looked it up and the 2008 Torrent with AWD is a bit under 100 lb less than the Venture. The power output is virtually identical, despite 10 years of difference in model year, so I wonder if the transmission changed for the worse since then. Automatic transmission programming has become really annoying as carmakers try to get as much economy as possible. Or it could be that I’m just used to revving the engine more (former Honda, current Mazda 3 driver). I guess I’m a bit surprised people are saying this is such a bad engine.

      I do remember the 3100 being much worse, my drivers ed car was a ~1995 Chevrolet Lumina and that was dog slow. It was bad enough that the instructor told me to give it more gas when merging onto the interstate, though I already had the pedal on the floor.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “Performance wise I have been disappointed; the Torrent seems under powered to me. The 3400 V6 demands to be revved in order to make any power and any sudden acceleration results in the transmission downshifting in order to force the engine high in to the rev range.”

    You can thank GM exec for hating the vastly superior 3800 and refusing to use the then recently redesigned Series III engine in anything other than *three* models (Grand Prix, Lacrosse, Lucerne) in the last four years of its use. The 60 degree Chevy V6 was and is inadequate for anything this heavy.

    • 0 avatar
      PonchoIndian

      Once in 3.5 and 3.9 trim with VVT the 60 degree 6 was quite good. I’ll agree that the 3400 was a dud in everything except maybe the Grand Ams and Aleros.

      I have experience with the VVT 220hp 3.5 in a G6 and can say that is is a strong smooth performer that gets great mpg too. Much improved performance over the 3.4

      I think the early 3.1′s (88-94) felt stronger than the 3100′s with sfi and 20 more hp.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        The LHO has more potential than the L82 does, so a couple mods give you a strong little motor. And then there was the HO 2.8, which was rated at 140 hp in the Fiero but actually made around 160.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I’ll take your word for it, haven’t had any ownership experiences with the later 60V6s. I remember the 2.8s were popular in the A-bodies my friends had in high school, it seemed to have decent pickup at the time.

        • 0 avatar
          NoGoYo

          A body was the Celebrity, Century, and Cutlass Ciera, right?

          Those are smaller than my N body Skylark, so just like the 60V6 Cavaliers, they had better performance.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Correct those were A-bodies.

            http://en.wikipedia DOT org/wiki/GM_A_platform_%28FWD%29

          • 0 avatar
            PonchoIndian

            The A-body is larger than your N-body. The N-body is more or less a slightly larger J-body (Cavalier/Skyhawk/Sunbird).

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Here’s a comparison of the engine power/torque curves for the 3800, 3.5L VVT, 3.4L, and 3.0L SIDI. I threw up some lines at 3, 4, and 5 thousand RPM too:

      http://i.imgur.com/DaNorgh.jpg

      • 0 avatar
        nickoo

        Fascinating. Under 5000 rpm, the 3800 seems to be the clear winner, it’s too bad GM never gave it a transmission that it deserved. I would love to see the 3.9L in this comparo.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I’ve read about shops substituting the 4T80E auto trans for custom applications since it was designed to handle the higher powerband of the Northstar. Not sure if there is any performance increase as a result, its done because the 4T60 tends to break down sooner on hopped up engines. Supposedly the supercharged version can crank 300hp+ without breaking a sweat.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GM_4T80_transmission

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          Here’s 3800, 3900, 3.4L, and the non-DI 3.6L (in Torrent GXP tune):

          http://i.imgur.com/ckZhdFw.jpg

          The 3900 Impala isn’t a slouch. I remember that police forces recorded it as being faster than the Pentastar Charger (back before the 8-speed).

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            That was probably true but 3900 tends to chew through transmissions in regular (city) police use.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        This gives me an excuse to complain about the absurd scaling GM uses on its plots. 600 ft-lbs for a 3 liter gas V6? Come on…

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          Yea the scaling can be annoying.

          At least GM makes this information available though. I wanted to compare the pickup V6s, and I couldn’t find an official plot anywhere for the Ford or Toyota.

    • 0 avatar
      philadlj

      Thomas’ Torrent uses the 3.4L Made-In-China LNJ engine. I’ve never heard anything good about this motor ever since Car & Driver first tested the ’05 Equinox.

      I thought by the time the Torrent clone came around, the “High-Feature” 3.6L LY7 engine was the standard motor, but I was apparently wrong. But 185 horsepower pulling 3800 lbs, it’s no wonder its performance doesn’t impress.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    I’ve driven one of the Terrains, I was SHOCKED when I found that rolling down the rear windows created a vibration that actually hurt my head, the entire interior sounded like it was going to fall apart.
    It absolutely scared the hell out of me when it happened I pulled over and looked all over it and finally came to conclusion that the rear windows was the source, I can’t believe (it was dealer loaner) a vehicle with less than 1000 miles was Doing that, I later found out that it is in the design, they actually massed produced them like that.

    On a side note, the captiva is now being sold by a lot of the local chevy dealers now, it’s not just a rental vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      blppt

      Isnt that rear window issue the norm anymore?

      Both of my parents’ VWs (Golf TDI and GTI 5 door) and the 2013 CC I just bought, do that if you only lower the rear windows—there’s a loud buffeting noise and vibration at 45+ mph. Opening the fronts gets rid of the noise/vibration completely.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        Screw that, I wouldn’t pay money for something like that, not that I had to intention to buy one to begin with.
        Back seat passengers sometimes use those windows in case designers didn’t know.

    • 0 avatar
      Marko

      I’ve never been in any car that DIDN’T do that. Wouldn’t you want the front window open at least a crack for airflow anyway?

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        Well if your back passenger wants air but you don’t, needs to spit, breath after some flatulence from other occupants… Yes I did say that….. etc; it becomes extremely bothersome.

        How have you never been in a vehicle that never did it? Out of the tons of vehicles I’ve ever been in, it is without a doubt the only time I’ve encountered that, I can’t see what to call it other than terrible design, and lack of research.

        • 0 avatar
          whynot

          Its pretty common. It happens because with the rear window open the air is coming in as you are moving but really doesn’t have an easy way to get out (because it is hitting the rear of the car and the air rushing in is preventing air from easily coming out), hence the buffeting and annoying noise. That is why you crack open the front windows, air can come in through them and get expelled via the rear windows. I’ve noticed it doesn’t always occur, it depends on what the winds are like.

          There really is not that much engineers can do to get rid of the problem

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            How is it so hard I correct when so many vehicles don’t have such a problem?
            As much as they do in wind tunnels to improve drag coefficients, you would think engineers could identify why it is happening an how to correct.

          • 0 avatar
            bryanska

            Right, it’s just an inherent air pressure property. You can avoid it by installing deflectors just forward of the intake, like a sunroof deflector. Other than that you’re pissing into the wind (literally).

          • 0 avatar
            blppt

            @Hummer, it might simply be that the seals used in new cars are simply that much better at creating an air-tight cabin, so air that might have been able to escape in older cars through less-effective seals, has nowheres to go nowadays.

    • 0 avatar
      SayMyName

      I’ve seen a lot of post-fleet service Captivas on the used side, but I haven’t seen a Chevy dealer around with brand new ones on the lot.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    I too don’t understand the CUV obsession. My folks have lent me their 2011 Acura MDX for our family trip to the beach. While the extra power and comfort will nice compared to our Mazda 5, it really doesn’t have a lot more usable room than our 5 and it will be lucky to do 20 mpg on premium fuel. Still a lot of Honda road noise for a 47k vehicle, though quieter than the Mazda.

    Kids in car seats with hinged doors? Kids with hinged doors period? Pass, my limited experience so far with the MDX has cemented that our next vehicle will be a “minivan” of some make.

    ELS audio system is nice though, as is the V6.

  • avatar
    7402

    I remain mystified by this segment, but confess that tens of millions of buyers can’t all be wrong. The ones I’ve driven are basically tall station wagons that handle poorly. They sell on the basis of seat-height and ease of entry along with a high enough view to see over traditional sedans. The aura that they are capable off-road vehicles and good for snow is mostly by mistaken association with Jeep-like vehicles that really had those qualities when today’s middle-age (mostly female) buyers were young.

    The only one that remotely impresses me is the Subaru Forester, and that only at the low-spec end of its price range where it is a lot of car for the money.

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Jaeger

      I agree millions of buyers must be seeing something I don’t. When my kids were small I went through a couple of small hatchbacks. They had the downsides that Thomas describes but at least they were cheap, practical and good on gas. The idea of putting a lift kit under a hatchback strikes me as something absurd that an eccentric fellow shows off at a car show – and yet millions are driving them as if this somehow makes sense.

      I remain mystified that the segment exists at all, yet clearly the buyers of these things see some sort of appeal that eludes me.

  • avatar
    bikephil

    As a former resident of the hellhole that is Buffalo, I can only say I am sorry for your misfortune. I have yet to see a city that is more depressing and lifeless, other than perhaps Detroit.

    • 0 avatar

      I have had a wonderful time in the Buffalo area. Housing was surprisingly inexpensive and my school district is fantastic. I don’t live in downtown, which has suffered because of the move away from manufacturing, but the city has a lot to offer too, good sights, great food and wonderful people.

      Having spent most of our married lives overseas, Buffalo was a great place to bring my family “home.” I’m a working class shlub and I am happy to be surrounded by working class people. I feel like I am in my element.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      I’ve eaten wings there that’ll melt the snow right off your galoshes

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    I recall at least two owner reports saying that a K&N air filter made a noticeable improvement on the 3.4 engine. By the way, it looks like you probably bought that car in a sweet spot in the market. There has been a pronounced change in the used car market in the past three years. A few months ago, my 2006 Dodge Grand Caravan was wrecked when it had just under 60,000 miles. I looked all over for a replacement with similar miles, but I found none. The closest replacement that I could find had just under 110,000 miles. Depreciation curves are so flat that the new car premium is very small these days.

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      I agree, finding a reasonably priced used car with less than 100,000 miles is incredibly difficult, and Hondas are grossly overinflated with 225k mile 1992 Accords going for 1800 bucks in the local classifieds.

      Finding an 80k mile used car for less than 3500 bucks is quite a challenge.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Agreed, almost an impossible feat for the past few years.

        • 0 avatar
          NoGoYo

          It’s a feat I’m trying to attempt right now! My 1995 Buick Skylark is just too damned frustrating for me to deal with and I’m selling it, but I need to be able to find something to replace it with that hasn’t been utterly used up.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Besides the usual Panther and truck suggestions, I’ll throw Volvo out there. The build quality tends to be very high and the price of admission is nil, although drivetrains vary by year and model. I would avoid any made after 1998 though, lots of diff issues.

            Skylark came in a coupe at one point and had an interesting look, would be sweet to drop a 3800 in one (it might fit).

          • 0 avatar
            PonchoIndian

            The 3800 would fit very easily. Those had the 3.0 and 3.3 V6′s at one point, and those two engines are more or less just shorter deck 3.8′s.

            Might as well go with a series II 3800 for the full effect, jus tmake sure to get the 4t65 to put in it. the 4t40 won’t last too long behind it.

  • avatar
    mikey

    I agree that the CUV trys to be every thing to everybody. IMHO it comes a little short. My daughter had a Torrent and loved it. The kids got bigger,and she found it too small.

    I have driven few CUV’s . I’m just not crazy about they way they feel. There not trucky enough for the truck guy in me.

    BTW, Buffalo is a great town. As a kid growing up in Southern Ontario, I have fond memories of our many Buffalo trips. In the days before cable TV, Buffalo, and Rochester, were like our hometowns. Were only 30 or 40 miles away by water. The radio and TV signals came in as clear as bell.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    @28: A 3800 might fit. As for Volvos, well, if I find an old Turbo Brick that doesn’t have a billion miles and costs a reasonable price, I just might buy it. But it would have to be a turbo, I need a car with some oomph. And I want rear wheel drive because as Jeremy Clarkson once said, front wheel drive is for the feeble. =P

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Volvo turbos are sweet but “Volvo” people tend to drive the hell out of them more-so than the regular models. I have a MY93 240 auto (last of the breed) and the build quality really impresses me. My local CL is littered with 940s which aren’t too bad but they aren’t as durable as the venerable 240 and a lesser extent 740. The thing about a RWD Volvo is they were made to be repaired and keep going, they also enjoy healthy aftermarket support.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        Yeah, the Bricks really are built from the toughest stuff on Earth, because I still see them quite often when other cars of similar vintage are long dead. I’ve even seen a first year 240 wagon, when most other cars from that time period would have broken down two decades ago.

        Unfortunately, I think the supply of Bricks is starting to diminish…something must be doing them in.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Experienced mechanics/shops are closing down or dying off. These are great cars but they can be fincky, it took my ex-Volvo master mechanic 3 tries to finally narrow down the source of the occasional no start condition I was experiencing.

          Plus unless your enthusiast, who wants to drive around in an admittedly dated looking brick with marginal fuel economy?

          The fact sub-par automakers such as Suzuki and Mitsubishi still sold new product in the US through 2013, tells me most people aren’t interested in build quality or long time ownership, they are more concerned with cheap disposable wheels.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            Well I’m a Wrench-In-Training, so I want a car that I can work on by myself without having to buy a bunch of crazy tools or drag the thing to a dealer because the computers are whacked out.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Seriously, RWD Volvo is the way to go then.

            Check out Brickboard and Matthews Volvo Site for more info, there is a huge amount of information available to the DIY Volvo owner/mechanic.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    Well first I would have to FIND ONE.

    That’s kinda important.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Start with Craigslist, maybe Ebay.

      My guy sells cars occasionally but I don’t think he’d got any RWDs for sale at the moment, just two FWD 850s and a V70.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        Yeah, Craigslist kind of sucks if you’re trying to find a remotely interesting car. At least around here it does.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Not sure where you are, but Pittsburgh CL has a few 940s that might not be destroyed.

          Here’s a 740 for $600 I contemplated buying:
          http://pittsburgh.craigslist.org/cto/3906262257.html

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            Oh, I live on the other side of Pennsylvania. I’m stuck trying to avoid going into the scum-hubs that are Allentown and Northern Philadelphia (and its suburbs).

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Not sure what to tell you. Read up on the cars and if they sound appealing be prepared to travel if you find one in good condition.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    I’m willing to go to the car, but I’m not going to go into a bad area with money and just hope I don’t get robbed. Allentown is not a nice place to be.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I wouldn’t look in the ghetto areas, figure out the CLs in the other cities within 100 or so miles and start looking. I’ve bought CL things in Erie which is 129 miles north but its an easy drive.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        Oh yeah, fortunately there are a lot of people around here with cars for sale so I just sort of log whenever I find an interesting car while out on a car trip.

  • avatar
    Scribe39

    Why, oh why did you buy one? Have you thought of temporary insanity? :-)

    I fully agree on the statements lauding the 3800. It should have been used, not Mr. Feeble. The 3400 follows the 3100. When it was still a “3.1″, one of the magazines said it made a lot of noise and a little power.

    My auto tech, who has replaced oodles of intake gaskets on these engines, refers to them as “my retirement plan.”

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      That’s a big reason why I’m selling my Buick Skylark. It’s made it past 110,000 miles with no failure yet, but I can’t afford to be the one footing the bill when it happens…I’m a retail cashier making $7.25 an hour.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        The intake manifold problem occurred because of “orange death” A.K.A. DexCool, which didn’t come out until MY97 or MY98 IIRC. In MY95 Buick should have still been using good ol’ green, check your coolant if its not orange you’re safe (the coolant reserve tank cap should not say “dex cool” either). The 3100 in an N-body actually isn’t too terrible of an engine in that size car, they used to offer a 3100 in J-body Cavs, man those would FLY down the road.

        • 0 avatar
          NoGoYo

          That explains why my mom’s 1998 Cutlass died a sudden agonizing death while my 1995 Buick has been trouble free.

          Still would rather have something with a bit more guts, though. I could get another 40 horsepower out of the engine, but that requires a lot of money I don’t have.

        • 0 avatar
          Russycle

          Supposedly Dexcool isn’t too bad if you change it more frequently than GM’s insanely optimistic schedule. I just had mine done…unfortunately the previous owner of 8 years never did (thanks Mom!). Crossing my fingers.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    Oh yeah, a Series II Park Avenue Ultra would be a great buy. Big, cushy, and propelled by that oh so fine supercharged 3800.

    But the newer ones are still new enough that their geriatric drivers are still driving them…so you can’t find much of them for sale.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I’ve seen quite a few for sale in the past few years just usually overpriced for the miles. 91-95 Park Aves were also quite solid, I would actually prefer the earlier bodystyle to the latter.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        But the earlier 3800 is just not as good as the later one, and if I remember correctly, is different enough that you can’t upgrade a Series I to a Series II like you can, say, upgrade a LT1 to a LT4.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          The LN3s and the Series I were actually great motors in their own right, but you are correct there is no “upgrade” from Series I to II, they are two different architectures.

          Generally speaking, I would prefer the Series I (to MY95) over early Series II (MY96 and forward). The old rule with GM, is your never buy their products in the early years of major changes. Torque is about the same in Series I and Series II its the horsepower that improves slightly.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buick_V6_engine

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            GM loved changing engines entirely but keeping the same displacement…brand new 3.8 V6s, heavily modified 3.1 V6s, brand new 350 V8 TWICE…It’s a miracle any of these cars can be kept straight any more.

            Also, fun fact. A 1995 3100 uses the same oil filter as a 3800. I found this out when I was doing my last oil change and saw that the LeSabre oil filter is the same as my Skylark oil filter. GM standardization!

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          “But the earlier 3800 is just not as good as the later one.”

          I’m not sure why you think that, but I disagree.

          I’ve owned EVERY version of the front-wheel drive Buick V6 except for the supercharged Series III.

          I’d go with the ’88-’95 versions over a Series II (I’m guessing a Series III is out of your budget). Avoid the pre-’88 stuff altogether.

          There’s a lot of plastic parts relating to the intake and cooling system on the Series II that breaks. I never personally had an intake gasket failure, but many have. If you replace all this with aftermarket stuff, you’re golden, but it’s things you can avoid with a LN3 or Series I.

          IMO, the only thing the Series II brings to the table over the older ones is that the supercharged version is capable of some serious performance modifications. They are also newer, so it may be easier to find a well-maintained example.

          Really, I think the best Buick V6 from a durability and ease of maintenance POV is the 3.3L. It combines the LN3′s one piece metal intake with the Series 1′s better ICM/coil set-up.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            What are you going to find with a 3.3 in it?

            Also, I tend to evaluate engines based on power and aftermarket support, both of which are areas where the LN3 and Series I fall down compared to the Series II. They’re not bad engines, but I’m not the kind of guy who wants to leave an engine stock unless it’s just so damned amazing that modifying it would be a sin.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I agree on the 3300 but it wasn’t a popular engine and not used in many applications.

            A smaller 3.3 L 3300 was introduced in 1989 and produced through 1993. It is effectively a lower-deck version of the 3800, with a smaller 3.7 in (93.98 mm) bore and 3.16 in (80.26 mm) stroke for 3,340 cc (204 cu in).[3] Like the 3800, it used a cast iron block and heads, push rods, and hydraulic lifters. Unlike the 3800, however, it used a batch-fire injection system rather than sequential injection, as evidenced by the lack of a cam position sensor. It also did not have a balance shaft. Power output was 160 hp (119 kW) at 5,200 rpm and 185 lb·ft (251 N·m) at 2,000 rpm with a 5,500 rpm redline.

            Applications:

            1989-1993 Buick Century
            1989-1993 Buick Skylark
            1992-1993 Pontiac Grand Am
            1992-1993 Oldsmobile Achieva
            1989-1991 Oldsmobile Calais
            1989-1993 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Comment on the later Park Aves, from what I’ve read they nickel and dime you lots with sensors, regulators, modules, and other electrics bits.

          You’d probably be better off with the 91-95 Park Ave. It’s more long-n-low anyway, and has that sweet glass wrapped around the front. Get one in two-tone!

  • avatar
    danio3834

    “an odd combination that offers none of the real benefits of a true four wheel drive SUV, none of the room or cargo capacity of a van, and virtually none of the economy or road handling of a small car”

    I too found this about small SUVs when I last shopped for a newer vehicle. I ended up with a Charger because I found that a 6 cylinder CUV with about the same amount of cargo space, but with neutered performance, averaged about the same fuel economy…as a Hemi equipped large sedan.

    I can see the appeal of the visibility due a higher seating position, but I’ve honesltly never found myself yearning for that as many women do. If I want to know what lies ahead, I’ll put the hammer down and pass.

    Maybe I’ll submit my own review of my now slightly used car.

    • 0 avatar

      One thing I forgot to add is that the A pillars on the Torrent are huge. They are at least as thick as my thigh and the way they sweep back makes it difficult to see if a turn signal on a car on my forward quarter comes on. Other than that, visibility is decent.

      Although it wouldn’t apply to you since it sounds like you have had your Charger for a while, one thing that I am taking a wait-and-see position on is the reader reviews of their own recently purchased cars. If you go to sites like e-pinions it seems like most of the reviews are written during the first few “honeymoon” weeks of car ownership. I think that reviews like that would be worthless and I would prefer to see reviews that feature cars people have owned for at least a year or two so that we can get a more thorough long term assessment of the various issues a car might have.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        I swap out cars often, so I find that I’m sort of opposite to most consumers. I hate the new vehicle at first, then grow to love it based on its merits, or just continue to hate it until it gets swapped for something else. My review of the car would probably have been worse if I had done an auto-journo review of the car.

        I didn’t like the Charger at first because of the gigantic A-pillars obstructing visibility, but i’ve found that’s pretty much standard fare for most new cars. The as-delivered torque management and stability control is stupid and conservative, I since “fixed” that issue myself. It doesn’t have a limited slip differential as it probably should, even though it doesn’t *truly* need it. Other than those things, I can say its been a delight and 100% reliable with nothing needing work under warranty.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    In 3007, Chevrolet changed the standard engine in the Chevy Uplander minivan to the 3.9 liter “high value” V6, 240 HP and 240 ft/lb torque. The short wheelbase version only weighed about 4100 lbs, which is light for a minivan. Because the Uplander wasn’t as good at minivan type stuff as the competition, and not particularly reliable, you might be able to get a 2007 model with 80k miles for under $7,000. As minivans go, these are hotrods, with a 0-60 time in under 8 seconds stock. If you are looking for a Pontiac Torrent replacement with more room, you might want to check out one of these. They are ugly but cheap and fast with a lot of room.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I’ve driven the Buick version, and it was/is a complete piece. Terrible MPG, interior rattles, wind noise, poor fitting panels, bouncy ride.

    • 0 avatar
      gearhead77

      I drove one of these recently, thinking it had a 3400. I was shocked when I pulled out of an intersection quickly with it with the 3900. Passing or merging, no problem at all, as long as you could stand the coarse noise it made. It had no other redeeming quality to it other than the power.


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