Pontiac calls its 2001 Aztek the world’s first "sport-recreational vehicle." A catchy niche, maybe, for an all-new vehicle that joins nearly four dozen SUV models on the highways of America. Other automakers have tried to make a distinction for their new crossover offerings with category-straddling names such as "sport-activity vehicle", "sport-utility wagon" and "sport-utility truck," so Pontiac is not alone in seeking its own place in the off-road sun.
What is new, by General Motors’ assessment, is that the Aztek has been designed by out-of-the-box thinkers. Like the host of other whatever-utes, the Aztek is aimed at on-road drivers who want the handling of a sports sedan, the functionality of a minivan, and the ruggedness of an SUV. But with the Aztek, it’s all about personalization, and tailor-made adventure fittings.
What is truly unique about the Aztek is obvious. Its aggressively edgy, polarizing styling cuts a new silhouette that The General hopes will transform Pontiac’s image from "we build excitement" to "we build for lifestyles." The prominent front end is scored with an array of vents, gashes and excessive grille work, while lower body cladding is encased in thermoplastic gray moldings, a carryover trademark from other Pontiac models, designed to prevent dings and dents. A sporty, lowered beltline stretches toward a distinctly snipped and lifted back end. Those features, plus Aztek’s angular windows and cast aluminum wheels, give it a look that we’ve catalogued as both "hideous" and "catchy."
Regardless of Aztek’s appeal, this new cross-dresser will spawn at least three other GM variants from this platform in the near future. You’ve already seen the Buick Rendezvous that looks as if it got all the pretty DNA from the gene pool; in the future, expect Saab and Saturn or Chevrolet variants from this basic blueprint.