Saturn Vue – 2008 First Drive: The world of compact crossovers has been divided for some time into two parts: the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 in one half, and everybody else in the other. It's not that they're always the biggest sellers in their segment, although that's usually the case, but if one is shopping for a "cute ute," you can pretty much guarantee that the Toyota and Honda are on the list. With that in mind, it's even more surprising that one of the strongest competitors to come along in some time is a nameplate that up until this time was considered a backmarker. The 2008 Saturn VUE is completely redesigned, and is such a quantum leap over the original that we’re a little surprised that GM decided to keep the name.
Forget everything you know about the Vue, from its dumpy shape to the ill-fitting plastic body panels. The 2008 Vue is based on a European-designed model from Opel called the Antera. It is altered only slightly inside and out, mostly to accommodate Saturn badges on the exterior and GM’s standard American switchgear inside. The Vue itself is the first of a new line of truly global products from General Motors. The basic platform will eventually replace the Chevrolet Equinox and Pontiac Torrent (hooray!), and much of the work was spread between GM’s North American, European and Korean divisions.
The new Vue brings several things to the table. First is style. Inside and out, this is one sharp looking little ‘ute. Sure the fender vents are a little much, but hey, at least you can brag to your friends that your Saturn looks like a Land Rover. Second is power. The available 3.6-liter V-6 engine and its accompanying six-speed automatic transmission are as good as any similar drivetrain from any other manufacturer you can name. Finally, there’s execution. Long a GM stumbling block, the Vue puts its best foot forward with excellent interior accommodations and few complaints to be found.
It’s too soon to say if the pre-production car Saturn delivered to us is going to be identical to what consumers see, and while we are generally impressed there were a few rough edges on our test car. If those edges are filed smooth by the time consumers get their mitts on models, we’re guessing they’re going to be very happy with what they find.