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What it is
Saturn Vue – 2008 Preview: Once known primarily for its plastic-clad sedans and coupes, GM’s Saturn brand is on a tear to reinvent itself with a growing collection of new rides. It started with the Sky roadster, then the praiseworthy Aura sedan, and most recently the capable Outlook large crossover. And now you can add a totally redesigned small SUV, the 2008 Saturn VUE. Due to go on sale during the first half of 2007, the new Vue will take on competition including the Toyota RAV4, the Honda CR-V, and the revamped Mitsubishi Outlander. Pricing hasn’t been announced, though we can expect base stickers to remain in the high teens to low $20,000s range.
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Why it matters
Because of those pesky petrol prices, buyers continue to seek out vehicles that are more fuel-efficient, and therefore, a bit easier on the wallet. However, many also want the functionality of a utility vehicle. For them, Saturn offers useful space as well as a bevy of powertrains, including V6 and four-cylinder engines, not to mention multiple hybrid systems. Starting in the fall of 2007, the Vue will be available as a Green Line hybrid, and will be followed soon thereafter by an additional two-mode hybrid. As if that wasn’t enough, Saturn also plans a plug-in hybrid version of the Vue. In a climate of volatile gas prices, that makes the Vue one to watch.
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What’s under the hood
Saturn will offer the Vue in front- and all-wheel-drive configurations. Front drivers, both base and Green Line hybrid examples, will draw power from a 2.4-liter four-cylinder pushing 164 horsepower at 6,300 rpm and 160 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,500 rpm. The Green Line gets an electronically-controlled four-speed automatic, while the XE gasser gets a standard five-speed manual transmission. All-wheel-drive Vue XE models feature a 3.5-liter V6 that delivers 215 horsepower at 5,900 rpm and 220 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,800 rpm. Top-of-the-line XR and Red Line units house a 3.6-liter V6 with variable-valve timing that’s good for 250 horses at 6,500 rpm and 243 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,400 rpm.
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What it looks like
Saturn officials claim the 2008 Vue benefits from the brand’s “new European design cues.” Hmm – looks kinda like a Kia Sportage to us, though arguably more attractive in the details. There’s the signature Saturn chrome emblazoned grille which sits near the top edge of a rather tall face. Likewise, the side profile appears tall, accented by a rising belt line, dual vertical vents just behind the front tires, sculpted rockers, and a roof that pinches downward as it approaches the tailgate. Sixteen-inch alloys are standard on lower trims, with 17s on the upper trims. The interior, with its tall center stack and clear gauges, is reportedly built with high-grade materials that feature a precise fit.
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The five-passenger 2008 Saturn Vue will be delivered with standard items including a CD player and MP3 player, a split second-row seat with an integrated fold-down center armrest, low-gloss plastics, and a rear cargo management system with attachment rails and handy storage nets. Cloth seats can be upgraded to leather on most models, while options such as a navigation system, a power driver’s seat, an automatic climate control system, a remote starting feature, and rain-sensing wipers may also be added. Safety is addressed with six standard airbags, active headrests, and rollover-sensing technology.
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When you can buy it
Shoppers hankering for the 2008 Saturn Vue will have to wait until the second quarter of 2007, as that’s when they’re scheduled to be released to dealers. No word on what dollar figures will be printed on the window stickers. A Green Line version, using the same hybrid technology as is used on the current Vue Green Line, will go on sale sometime during the fall of 2007. A new two-mode hybrid (technology that’s already been announced for the 2008 Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon) is slated to debut on the Vue in 2008, reportedly to be followed by a plug-in hybrid version (specific dates not available).
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What Saturn says
Overall, GM is intent on infusing its new vehicles with appealing design and useful technology. If the 2008 Saturn Vue is any indication, the company is putting its money where its mouth is. They promise European style and handling in the redesigned 2008 Saturn Vue, as well as a long list of standard features, not to mention options that today’s buyers desire, such as a navigation system and automatic climate control. The company’s General Manager, Jill Lajdziak, had this to say: “The all-new Vue is versatile, technologically advanced and loaded with safety equipment. Saturn customers will be as pleased with the vehicle as they are with the customer treatment they’ve always received at their Saturn retailer.”
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What we think
From first glance, the 2008 Vue looks to be a valuable addition to the reinvigorated Saturn lineup. The attractive styling closely mimics that of the larger Outlook crossover, powertrains run the gamut from what are expected to be fuel-efficient four-cylinders and hybrids to more eager V6s, standard and optional features address the needs and wants of the majority of mainstream buyers, and the promise of improved quality in terms of materials and craftsmanship nails one of our main issues with the current Vue. We’ll see how it fares against models like the Toyota RAV4, a powerful contender, though one that doesn’t offer the Vue’s hybrid powertrain.
Photos courtesy of Ron Perry and Saturn
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