An all-new model for 2005, the Buick Terraza is one of four new vehicles that GM likes to call "crossover mid-vans" but which the rest of us call "minivans"; along with the Buick, there’s also the Chevrolet Uplander, Pontiac Montana SV6 and Chevrolet Relay. All are based on a modified platform used on the 2004 minivans, but with several improvements, including a spectacular positive leap in front-end crash test results.

While the platform is used for both regular- and extended-wheelbase versions, the Terraza, like the Saturn Relay, comes in the longer version only. Unlike the Saturn, the Terraza has an independent rear suspension with load-leveling springs. Seating is seven-passenger.

The Terraza comes in two lines, the CX and CXL; both are powered by a 3.5-litre V6 with a four-speed Hydra-Matic transmission. Both lines are available in front- or all-wheel-drive.

The CX features fog lights, heated power mirrors, roof side rails, power passenger-side sliding door, 17-inch steel wheels (aluminum on AWD), variable intermittent wipers, intermittent rear washer/wiper, dual-zone air conditioning, an overhead rail system for removable, optional bins (including an optional rear-seat DVD system), cruise control, Homelink garage door opener, leather-wrapped wheel, power windows, power swing-out rear quarter windows, cloth seats, six-way power driver’s seat, CD/MP3 system with eight speakers and four-wheel disc brakes with ABS.

The CXL adds 17-inch aluminum wheels, rear cargo convenience centre, overhead storage bin, wheel-mounted audio controls, leather interior, power eight-way front seats with driver memory, remote starter, side impact airbags, traction control and rear parking assist.

Of all of the new minivans, the Buick is naturally the most luxurious, and the most expensive; it also marks a first for Buick, which has never marketed a minivan before. Bigger and heavier than the minivans they replace in the rest of GM’s lineup, the 2005 models don’t have the acceleration or the cornering ability of their predecessors, a trait the Terraza shares. Still, performance is adequate and the brakes do a fine job of bringing all that weight to a halt. The all-wheel-drive is torque-on-demand, and is front-wheel-drive until any loss of traction results in the system sending in power to the rear.

The Terraza is a big van, and the parking assist is a definite asset; rear visibility is hampered by its large rear seats and head restraints. The overhead rail system looks like it was bought at IKEA, but it does make it easy to snap in additional options, if desired. The interior is feature-packed but fit and finish and materials aren’t up to some of its Japanese competitors; it’s definitely closer to a Dodge Caravan or Ford Windstar than to the Honda Odyssey.

The Terraza is built in Doraville, Georgia.

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