2001 Pontiak Aztek: Could Detroit’s Ugliest Vehicle Be Its Coolest?

2001 Pontiac Aztek AWD
Tommy and Charlotte know you’re jealous of TFL’s newest ride. [photo: TFL]

Aztek: A car ahead of its time

Pontiac launched the Aztek as a model year 2001 vehicle with great expectations. It was going to out do Subaru’s Outback for outdoor-lifestyle cred. The minivan/SUV/original crossover was going to be the cool family car amongst a sea of bland minivans. It was going to be a party mobile unlike anything tailgaters had ever seen.

But the Mexican-manufactured vehicle bombed immediately. It faced a chorus of derision from auto journalists and the public alike for being underpowered, weird. And, well, just really weird. Seventeen years later, TFLcar decided to make this beauty with 191,000 original miles on it our next project car.

We found it in Colorado Springs for $1,500, which is what you’d expect for a vehicle this old with that many miles. But as Roman explains in the video below, the Aztek came with a host of tech and features that were years ahead of its time. Which leads us to believe, that love-it-or-hate-it, the Aztek was actually a ground-breaker that could eventually find its place in the history books as the first true crossover.

2001 Pontiac Aztek AWD highlights

  • AWD powered by a 3.4-liter V6 that could allocate up to 70 percent of its power to the wheel with the most traction
  • 3.500 lbs towing capacity with a self-leveling suspension
  • Built-in air compressor to re-inflate tires after off-roading or an air mattress for camping
  • An optional tent attachment that turned the rear cargo area into a sleeping space
  • An adjustable head’s up display
  • A portable cooler/center storage compartment
  • A tailgate with seats and cupholders
  • Reportedly, the cabin was quieter than the Lexus RX at the time
  • Despite its ugliness, the GM designer responsible for it went on to design the Chevy Corvette and Silverado

Among the lowlights in our Aztek:

  • Finicky high-beam/turn indicator lever
  • A useless fuel gauge and unreadable LED odometer make fuel range a guessing game

Find out TFLcar’s plans for this ugly duckling in the video below and let us know what shenanigans you’d like to see us get into with our 2001 Pontiac Aztek.