The Chevrolet Astro was a mid-sized van introduced by Chevrolet in 1985 to rival domestic (American) competitors the Dodge Caravan/Plymouth Voyager twins and the ...More »
The Chevrolet Astro was a mid-sized van introduced by Chevrolet in 1985 to rival domestic (American) competitors the Dodge Caravan/Plymouth Voyager twins and the Ford Aerostar. Also sharing the Astro's truck-based platform was its sibling, the GMC Safari. The Astro and Safari vans were very successful, especially with large families, conversion companies, and commercial companies. Companies liked the vans because they were also available as very roomy cargo vans, while converters used them as the basis for some very desirable small conversion vans.
Both Pontiac and GMC have used the Safari nameplate (GMC is part of the Pontiac/GMC division); Pontiac used the nameplate on several of its station wagon models from 1955 through 1989. The two Safaris, both Pontiac and GMC, were on the market together (often sold by the same dealerships!) from 1985 through 1989.
Most people refer to the Astro as a minivan. However, this is not true at all. It was slotted in size between a Chevy Venture and a Chevy Express. It is also far more truck-like than any minivan ever built, except for the Ford Aerostar. Not only that, but the Astro and Aerostar are the only so called "minivans" to have rear-wheel drive. A lot of people agree that since the van is so large, its true classification would be considered a mid-size, or "midi" van.
Due to their truck-based platform, the Astro and Safari were oriented more for cargo and towing; a properly-equipped Astro could pull 6,000 lb with ease. This is opposed to the car-based, front-wheel drive minivans which are considered more passenger-friendly but do not have the ability to pull as much weight (3,500 lb is the usual maximum among these).
Initial advertising boasted that it was a vehicle that will "make you realize that life is too big for a minivan", referring to the Chrysler minivans. Its specifications included a 160 to 190 hp (119 to 142 kW) V6 engine, depending on options and/or model year. It seated up to 8 passengers with optional towing capabilities.
In addition to being sold in North America, it was exported to Japan, where the van enjoys a cult following. In 2005, to celebrate the last year of Astro production, Chevrolet of Japan offered a limited edition run of the final production models. The Astro's popularity in Japan was despite the fact that it was only offered in left-hand drive.
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