What it Is
2009 Saturn VUE Two-Mode Hybrid Preview – Detroit Auto Show: Wait, doesn’t Saturn already have a Vue hybrid? Yes, it does, and it’s called the Green Line. However, the current hybrid is barely worthy of the name, using a system that provides very little assistance to the car’s overall fuel economy. Things will change at the end of the year when the 2 Mode goes on sale, with Saturn promising the new hybrid will be the most fuel efficient V-6 powered SUV of any sort on the market, with fuel economy improvements of about 50 percent over the current XR.Why it Matters
Saturn is GM’s greenest division, or at least, that’s the image it’s currently cultivating for itself. However, the dirty secret is that the current mild hybrid system doesn’t do a lot. The 2 Mode will change that significantly, providing plenty of power and a good boost in fuel economy all under one hood.
What’s Under the Hood
The 2 Mode is based on the same 3.6-liter V-6 engine currently used on the XR. The magic happens with the additional battery pack under the rear cargo floor and the two-mode transmission, which allows full-hybrid operation: auto shut-off at idle; electric-only at low speeds; regenerative braking; and a blend of electric/engine operation the rest of the time. The projected city fuel economy is said to be 50 percent better than the XR, which would mean somewhere around 24 mpg.
What it Looks Like
The 2 Mode looks a lot like any other Vue, with a few subtle differences. The whole vehicle is lowered about 1 inch compared to non-hybrid Vues, and the front air dam has been reworked for better aerodynamics. Otherwise, aside from the big “HYBRID” decal on the side (which is likely for display only) and a few badges, it’s standard issue Vue, no bad thing to our eyes.
What Saturn Says
Saturn is quick to point out that the Vue 2 Mode won’t be a weak-kneed hybrid, saying that it will hit 60 mph in about 7.3 seconds. “The Saturn VUE Green Line 2 Mode challenges the notion that a compact SUV can’t be both powerful and efficient,” said Jill Lajdziak, Saturn general manager. “Customers tell us they want a compact SUV that will respect the environment and save money at the gas pump, but they don’t want to give up performance and utility. We’ve responded with the Vue Green Line 2 Mode.”
What We Think
The Vue is a good little compact crossover, and it wowed us enough to take home our 2008 Editor’s Choice award for Best New Small Utility Vehicle. Adding a full hybrid system to the package will both appeal to environmentalists and, if Saturn’s power boasts are true, won’t punish those of us who want a little extra power now and then.
By Keith Buglewicz
Photo Credit: Oliver Bentley