All-new in 2005, the Buick Terraza undergoes a few changes for 2006. A 235 horsepower, 3.9-litre V6 becomes an available option (subject to later availability in the model year); dual-stage front airbags, and first- and second-row side impact airbags become available on CX and standard on CXL; a PhatNoise mobile digital media system becomes available; and there are two new exterior colours, Dark Garnet Metallic and Sandstone Metallic. Prices are also notably lower than 2005, by as much as $2,220.

The Terraza is one of four vehicles that GM likes to call “crossover mid-vans”, but which the rest of us call minivans; it shares its platform with the Chevrolet Uplander, Pontiac Montana SV6 and Chevrolet Relay. 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-levelling springs. Two trim lines are available, the CX and CXL, and each is available in front- or all-wheel-drive. Seating is seven-passenger.

The new available 3.9-litre V6 features variable valve timing and variable intake technology, to deliver 235 hp and 239 lb-ft of torque. Both it and the standard 3.5-litre V6 use a Hydra-Matic four-speed transaxle.

Along with an available rear-seat DVD player, the Terraza also offers a first-in-segment Mobile Digital Media Powered by PhatNoise system. It’s a wallet-sized, 40-gigabyte hard drive that installs in the overhead rail system. Its capabilities include storing and playing up to 10,000 songs in MP3, WMA or WAV formats; storing and playing up to 40 movies in MPEG format; storing and playing a combination of songs and movies; providing software for classic video games; a voice-browsing interface; the ability to listen to books, magazine or newspaper articles recorded on a PC; simultaneous listening to two entertainment sources; and transferring digital camera pictures through a USB port and playing them on the DVD screen.

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 the GM minivans, the Buick is naturally the most luxurious and the most expensive. It’s large and heavy, and so its acceleration and cornering ability isn’t segment-busting. Still, performance is adequate and the brakes are fine at bringing all that weight to a halt. The all-wheel-drive system is torque-on-demand, meaning that it operates in front-wheel mode until any loss of traction results in the system sending power to the rear.

The Terraza is a big van, and parking assist is a definite asset, since the large rear seats and head restraints hamper the rear visibility. The overhead rail system isn’t all that attractive, but it does make it easy to snap in any additional options you may want to purchase. The interior is packed with features, but materials and their fit-and-finish aren’t up to some of its Japanese competitors; it’s closer to a Dodge Caravan or Ford Windstar than it is to the Honda Odyssey.

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