Review: 2008 Saturn Vue
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
The new, European-style compact Saturn Vue SUV is a big improvement over its predecessor, but loses Saturn's traditional dent-resistant body panels. It's also heavier than major rivals, which isn't a plus because weight eats into fuel economy.
At least the Vue's new steel body panels fit better than its old plastic panels, and it's similar to the European Opel Antara from General Motors' European operation. It thus has much better steering, ride and handling, thanks to a European-style suspension that doesn't allow sloppy handling.
The new Vue is about the same size as the old one. It comes in entry XE, higher-line XR, hot-rod Red Line and hybrid gasoline/electric Green Line trim levels. The Green Line debuts in 2008 and isn't priced as of this writing in late 2007. All Vues except the Green Line, which will come only with front-wheel drive, are offered with front- or all-wheel drive (AWD).
All Vues have automatic climate control, cruise control, tilt wheel with radio controls, split-folding rear seat and power windows, outside mirrors and locks with remote keyless entry. The XR adds a power driver's seat and larger 17-inch (vs. 16-inch) wheels with wider tires. The Red Line has heated front seats, sport suspension, automatic transmission with manual-shift capability and even larger 18-inch wheels with wider (55-series) tires.
Extras include an $800 power sunroof and a Premium Trim package for the XE and XR with leather covered seats and heated front seats. A $505 Convenience Package includes a remote start system and rain-sensing wipers.
I tested an XR with AWD and a $26,270 base price. But such options as those above-mentioned packages, a $325 advanced audio system and $2,145 navigation system raised the bottom line price to $30,320.
The Vue especially needs its 3.6-liter 257-horsepower V6 when equipped with all-wheel drive, which makes it heavier. That engine has dual overhead camshafts to give the Vue strong acceleration. The 3.6 V6 is offered for both the XR and Red Line. The standard engine is a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder with 169 horsepower. The other V6s is an old-style overhead-valve 3.5-liter V6 with 222 horsepower. It's available for the base Vue.
Horsepower for the hybrid hasn't been released as of this writing, but figure on approximately 170 and lots of torque.
Manual Gearbox Coming
Only the 4-cylinder Vue has fuel economy numbers to e-mail home about, leaving that version and the upcoming Green Line for those with more than average concern about mpg ratings.
Using the EPA's downrated (from 2007) 2008 fuel economy figures, estimated economy of the 4-cylinder front-wheel-drive Vue is 19 mpg in the city and 26 on highways—or 15 and 22 with the 222-horsepower V6 and AWD (There is no base 4-cylnder AWD trim level.)
The front-wheel-drive 257-horsepower XR provides 16 city, 23 highway, while the AWD XR I tested delivers 16 and 22.
All Vues have front-seat side and side-curtain airbags with roll-over sensors and collapsing pedals. There's also traction and anti-skid control and a trailer stability assist feature. That's a class exclusive that applies brakes when a trailer begins swaying because of such factors as improper weight distribution.
The load floor is rather high, but the cargo area is large and can be made considerably roomier by folding the rear seatbacks forward.
Saturn has loyal repeat customers and high customer satisfaction. But it needs more models like the Vue to compete with Japanese rivals. Still, many folks refuse to look at any American vehicles. For instance, the new midsize Saturn Aura sedan is very competitive with Japanese rivals, but initially has been a sales disappointment. One wonders how the Vue will do.