The Pontiac Aztek took pride in being the first crossover vehicle to be produced in the United States. Aimed for youthful, adventurous drivers, the Aztek seemed to be a happy medium between an SUV and a station wagon. It was built for people looking for an SUV’s versatility and toughness combined with a more car-like handling and excellent safety ratings.
But in a country and industry that focuses too much on appearance, it was kind of hard for a vehicle dubbed as “the ugliest car in American history” to survive. The Aztek was revealed to the American audience in 2001 as a grand prize for the first ever winner of Survivor. It was advertised to be "quite possibly the most versatile vehicle on the planet". But much like the Survivor, people either loved or hated the Aztek due to its strange looks.
While Aztek owners claimed that this mid-size crossover handled smoothly, was unbelievably comfortable, and with more storage space and capacity than a regular SUV, the public viewed it as a styling mess, resulting in very low sales and eventually in its demise after its 4-year run in the industry.
2001 Pontiac Aztek: An “active lifestyle” vehicle for the Generation X
Since it was marketed by Pontiac as a sport recreational vehicle for the Generation X, the Aztek came with numerous outdoor-oriented features, which were actually cool and sensible. It rode on GM minivans’ shortened wheelbase and was powered by a V-6 engine paired with a four-speed automatic transmission.
For 2011, the Aztek was among the vehicles in its class to receive the highest Customer Satisfaction Index. It also bagged the “Most Appealing Entry Sport Utility Vehicle” award from J.D. Power and Associates. In fact, Pontiac Aztek scored second highest, if not highest, in all the APEAL component measures, except for exterior styling.
In 2002, Pontiac introduced the optional Versatrak all-wheel-drive. Anti-lock braking system also became standard.
2003: Introduction of the sporty Rally Edition package
For 2003 model year, the optional Aztek “Rally Edition” was launched. The package featured a larger rear spoiler, lowered suspension, 17” chrome wheels, as well as a body-colored grille. This package marked GM’s comeback to the Rally name since the demise of the GMC Rally. Other features added to the option list were XM satellite radio, DVD entertainment system, as well as a tire pressure monitoring system.
2005 Pontiac Aztek: A vehicle with youthful personality
For its final model year, 2005, Pontiac maintained Aztek’s youthful personality but upgraded its On-Star system to hands-free operation. The model’s exterior color offerings were also altered. Despite these improvements, the sales were disappointing, leading to the discontinuation of Aztek’s production after 2005. It was on July 14, 2005 when the last Pontiac Aztek came out of the production line.