The Chevrolet Astro is a rear-wheel drive mid-sized van produced by the Chevrolet division of General Motors. The Astro was sold alongside the identical GMC Safari and once competed with the similar Ford Aerostar. Unlike the Dodge Caravan and other contemporary front-wheel drive minivans, the Astro uses a rear-wheel drive platform. The Astro is also available with all-wheel drive, making it popular with off-roading and camping enthusiasts.
The sole powerplant for the Astro is the 4.3-liter Vortec V6. This engine produced 190 horsepower at 4400 rpm and 250 pound feet of torque at 2800 rpm. The 4.3-liter V6 was derived from the 5.7-liter V8 engine and therefore shares many mechanical components. Standard towing figures for the Astro are healthy for a vehicle of its size, ranging from 4700 to 5300 pounds, depending on the Astro's configuration. The weakest aspect of the Astro was the fuel economy. The two-wheel drive variants of the Astro achieved an EPA estimate of 16 miles per gallon in city driving and 20 miles per gallon on the highway. The four-wheel drive variant of the Astro achieved a paltry 14 miles per gallon in city driving and 17 miles per gallon on the highway.
The Astro was introduced in 1985 in response to the Chrysler minivans. Instead of using a front-wheel drive platform, the Astro used a rear-wheel drive body-on-frame platform derived from the Chevrolet S-10 compact pickup truck. Ford took a similar route by using the compact Ford Ranger pickup as a starting point for the Aerostar. Using a rear-wheel drive platform allowed the Astro to have a higher towing capacity than the Chrysler minivans, at the cost of interior space, ride, handling and fuel economy. The Lumina APV minivan would be introduced in 1990 as a direct competitor to the Chrysler minivans.
The Astro was available as a passenger van capable of seating up to 8 people, or as a commercial-grade cargo van that seats 2 people. Standard equipment included anti-lock brakes, cruise control, tilt steering and air conditioning. Optional equipment included a multi-adjustable power seat, second row sound controls, CD player, leather seats and locking differential. Driver and passenger air bags and child safety door locks are standard as safety equipment.
Base retail prices for the Astro started at $22,930 for the two-wheel drive cargo van. The regular two-wheel drive Astro retailed at $24,430, while the all-wheel drive Astro topped the list at a starting price of over $26,000. Cash rebates and other incentives dropped the price of the Astro significantly below MSRP.
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