2008 Saturn Vue Road Test Review
W ith the introduction of the 2008 Vue, Saturn is one step closer to a total revamp of its product line. Like the Aura and Outlook, the Vue is a dramatic step forward in styling, quality and performance.
The second-generation Vue is a compact crossover based on the Opel Antara and GMs Theta chassis platform. Opel is a German division of GM, and its becoming commonplace for Saturns to be based on Opels.
The 2008 Vue is built in Mexico. Steel has replaced the earlier models composite body panels because steel panels fit better and give the vehicle a more expensive look.
Compact crossovers blend carlike manners with SUV function, and do so in a relatively small overall footprint. The new Vue is offered with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Prices start at $21,395 for the front-wheel-drive XE and range to $26,895 for the all-wheel-drive XR.
Powertrain choices include a 2.4-liter four-cylinder in the front-wheel-drive XE and Green Line hybrid, a 3.5-liter V-6 with 222 horsepower in the all-wheel-drive XE and a 3.6-liter V-6 with 257 horsepower in the XR. A sporty XR Red Line and a Green Line hybrid will be available later in the year.
The test vehicle was a pre-production XR with all-wheel drive. The 3.6-liter engine with variable valve timing is smooth and strong. It is capable of towing up to 3,500 pounds when the vehicle is properly equipped. In larger vehicles, this engine sometimes feels as if it needs more midrange torque for a stronger throttle response, but that wasnt the case with the Vue.
The fuel economy rating is 16 miles per gallon in the city and 22 on the highway. The 2008 figures have been revised to be more realistic. On an extended highway trip, I averaged about 23 miles per gallon.
The XR comes with StabiliTrak, a vehicle stability program that includes a special tow-stabilization program to help control the vehicle if the trailer begins to sway. RV owners will be pleased that the Vue can be towed with all four wheels on the ground.
The new Vue has athletic, coupelike styling. A mock engine-air vent sits behind the front wheels and forms the leading edge of a character line that is stamped into the side of the body.
Inside, the Vue looks like a more expensive vehicle than its price would suggest. The level of interior design is light years ahead of the current Vue. Surface textures on the dash and door panels are nicely textured. Brushed silver accents on the steering wheel give a contemporary look. A navigation system and upgraded CD player are offered also, but the test vehicle was not so equipped.
The steering wheel has fingertip controls for the cruise control and radio, and theyre small thumbwheels that are rolled up or down. That motion is intuitive and simple to use.
The Vue has seating for five. No third seat is offered, which makes sense because it would have to be very small.
The test vehicles cloth seats were reasonably comfortable. After four hours behind the wheel, however, I wished for deeper cushions with more lumbar support.
The split-folding rear seat makes it easy to configure the cargo compartment for a variety of uses.
On the highway, wind and road noise were not at all intrusive. The most obvious sound was some minor wind whistle around the outside mirrors.
Because the new Vue is sportier than before, and because it has such an improved interior, it will appeal to buyers who might not otherwise consider a Saturn.