Have you ever seen the world through 3-D glasses? Saturn hopes you will. This customer-friendly stepchild of General Motors recently introduced the Vue, a five-passenger compact sport-utility vehicle that has joined this increasingly popular and competitive segment of the automobile market.
Using 3-D glasses as part of a new marketing campaign, Saturn has designed its Vue to offer "a new perspective" on compact SUVs. GM's growing division brings innovations such as a continuously variable transmission (CVT), along with a huge selection of engine and transmission choices. Saturn claims its Vue has a longer wheelbase than any of its direct competitors, designed to maximize interior space and provide a smooth, stable ride. The Vue is further distinguished by its five-speed automatic transmission, electric power steering, OnStar telematics system, space-frame protection and polymer panels.
All of this comes at a highly competitive price.
Saturn's new Vue is designed for buyers who want a manageable, but still highly functional, sport-utility to haul gear without requiring huge parking spaces and a big garage. It's made for young customers with families. It's built for people with active lifestyles. Saturn designed it from the outside in for versatility.
Vue is available in three models, all designed to be highly configurable. The base level ($16,325) is a front-wheel-drive, four-cylinder version offering 143 horsepower and, although it can navigate dirt roads, it offers no off-road capability. The FWD automatic retails for $17,265.
Next up the ladder is the all-wheel-drive four-cylinder ($18,860).
At the top is a V6 all-wheel-drive version ($22,575) that produces 181 horsepower at its peak.
All-wheel-drive models can be used as modest backroad cruisers and, equipped with a V6 engine, can tow a small boat, jet ski or snow machine.
Four-cylinder versions are matched to either a five-speed manual transmission or GM's VTi automatic, a transmission designed for seamless shifting through continuously variable settings. The six-cylinder engine is paired with a five-speed automatic.
Two design themes are available on all versions: the "outdoor expression" and "urban expression." The outdoor version includes a front brush bar, a prominent roof rack, and 16-inch wheels with all-terrain tires. Interior features include a rubberized cargo area and floor covering, Ostrich leather accents and a plug-in handheld GPS unit. The urban version comes with 18-inch wheels, performance tires and a lowered suspension. Inside is an integrated navigation system and rear seat gaming system.
Vue is distinctive and visually striking, but it is not necessarily a true head-turner. Its exterior design is more sensible than sensational, with looks that are modern and practical, and strong lines that avoid the bubble effect that curvy, cutesy mini-utilities share.
The front end is thick and snubbed, with headlamps that ride high atop an exaggerated grille. From the side, Vue is boxy and nondescript, except for its high beltline. Its full backend liftgate with floodlights provides easy and efficient access to the rear cargo area.
Despite its urban appearance, the Vue offers serious strength and stability underneath its façade. Unique polymer bodyside panels provide a rugged dent-resistant exterior without the clutter of lower-body cladding. Car-height bumpers offer enhanced protection from parking lot damage and help create a smoother appearance. A spare tire is mounted inside the vehicle, which significantly reduces potential damage from low-speed rear impacts.
Getting inside Vue is easy, accommodated by wide door openings and a low step-in height. Despite the Vue's high beltline, visibility is good, with a panoramic feel to the interior. The Vue's roomy interior, with 100 cubic feet of passenger volume, betters the interior space of the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV-4.
Inside is where Vue gets interesting. Although instrumentation and controls are straightforward, creative stowage innovations appear throughout the interior. Of note are the three power outlets, configurable cargo spaces and seating for five. A flat load floor in the rear is a result of the compact all-wheel-drive system. A 70/30 split folding rear seat allows for greater seating room for three and provides more versatile stowage of longer items.
A fold-flat front passenger seat makes room for large items like a ladder or a surfboard to be tucked in for a do-it-yourself project or weekend warrior adventure. The rear cargo space includes tie-downs for the safe transport of a wide variety of goods and hooks for grocery bags. A cargo organizer that folds out of the floor is provided for smaller objects; compartments are designed to hold common things, such as a gallon of milk, a welcome convenience for late-night grocery runs or quick stops after work.
In the safety department, the Vue gets high marks. Laudable are its space-age frame and side airbags, found only in competitor Ford Escape. The Vue comes with a rear-center seat shoulder belt, offered only in the Toyota RAV-4. The Vue also comes equipped with child-seat tethers.
We drove both the front and all-wheel-drive models, with each engine choice available and found ample power with each powerplant.
Not surprisingly, we had a strong preference for the increased performance of the V6 model, which comes with a five-speed automatic. It's capable of accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in a very respectable 8.4 seconds, compared with the four-cylinder VTi all-wheel-drive automatic model's tepid 11.1 seconds.
However, the 2.2-liter four-cylinder Ecotec engine does deliver good fuel economy, rated by the EPA for 23/28 mpg City/Highway with the five-speed manual. The VTi continuously variable transmission available for the four-cylinder models actually offers better acceleration performance than the standard five-speed manual (0-60 mph in 10.2 seconds for the VTi versus 11.0 seconds for the manual on front-drive models). But city fuel economy suffers by 2 mpg with the VTi. The V6 is rated for 19/25 mpg.
The AWD system is designed to provide extra stick for unpaved roads and adverse-weather driving. It works automatically with no action needed from the driver and is specially designed to withstand extremely cold weather. This all-wheel-drive system is not designed for serious off-road driving, however.
Traction control is only available on the four-cylinder, 5-speed manual model and comes packaged with anti-lock brakes ($595).
We appreciated Vue's 8 inches of ground clearance, which is ample for a wide variety of driving experiences and provides the look and feel of a sport-utility vehicle.
While handling is not razor sharp, the Vue navigates sufficiently and comfortably over a mixed variety of driving terrain. This comfort is largely the result of its four-wheel independent suspension and a power steering system that is variable according to speed. This system is designed to deliver precise steering even at low speeds-such as in parking lots and around potholes- yet does not compromise crisp handling on the highway. Programmable for specific vehicle handling preferences, the steering system has a torque sensor on hand to automatically boost assistance during emergency avoidance maneuvers. By elminating an engine hydraulic pump, GM was able to improve fuel economy.
The Vue comes with a front disc/rear drum brake configuration, instead of the preferable four-wheel disc brakes. Anti-lock brakes (ABS) is optional on all versions and models.
The Saturn Vue is the latest in a long line of compact SUVs. It offers a CVT and other innovations, but we were expecting a little more because Saturn had the luxury of time to thoroughly study the competition. We think the Saturn Vue is well worth a closer look, with or without your 3-D glasses. One thing is clear, however. You won't need your glasses to see that Vue's starting price ($16,835) brings it high marks in its class.
|Model Line Overview |
|Model lineup: ||4-cyl FWD 5-speed ($16,325); 4-cyl FWD automatic ($17,265); 4-cyl AWD ($18,860); V6 AWD ($22,575) |
|Engines: ||143-hp 2.2-liter inline-4; 181-hp 3.0-liter V6 |
|Transmissions: ||5-speed manual; VTi continuously variable transmission; 5-speed automatic (V6) |
|Safety equipment (standard): ||child seat anchors |
|Safety equipment (optional): ||ABS; side-impact curtain airbags |
|Basic warranty: ||3 years/36,000 miles |
|Assembled in: ||Springhill, Tennessee |
|Specifications As Tested |
|Model tested (MSRP): ||V6 AWD ($22,575) |
|Standard equipment: ||air conditioning with dust filter, reclining front bucket seats with folding armrests, cargo area power outlet, fold-flat front passenger seat, integrated roof rails, 2-position reclining rear seats, 70/30 split folding rear seatbacks, liftgate loading lights, rear window wiper/washer; V6 adds AM/FM/CD stereo with 6 speakers, power outside mirrors, power windows, remote keyless entry, alarm system, auto-dimming rearview mirror with outside temperature and compass display, dual map lights, cruise control, 16-inch alloy wheels |
|Options as tested (MSRP): ||ABS ($575); head curtain air bags ($395); OnStar communications system ($695); power sunroof ($725) |
|Destination charge: ||($510) |
|Gas guzzler tax: ||N/A |
|Price as tested (MSRP): ||$ 24,965 |
|Layout: ||all-wheel drive |
|Engine: ||3.0-liter V6 |
|Horsepower (hp @ rpm): ||181 @ 6000 |
|Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm): ||195 @ 4000 |
|Transmission: ||5-speed automatic |
|EPA fuel economy, city/hwy: ||19/25 mpg |
|Wheelbase: ||106.6 in. |
|Length/width/height: ||181.3/71.5/66.5 in. |
|Track, f/r: ||61/61 in. |
|Turning circle: ||38 ft. |
|Seating capacity: ||5 |
|Head/hip/leg room, f: ||40.4/53.3/41.2 in. |
|Head/hip/leg room, m: ||N/A |
|Head/hip/leg room, r: ||39.9/53.1/36.4 in. |
|Trunk volume: ||30.3 cu. ft. |
|Payload: ||N/A |
|Towing capacity: ||2500 (with trailer brakes) Lbs. |
|Suspension, f: ||Independent strut-type with coil springs and anti-roll bar |
|Suspension, r: ||Independent three-link trailing arm with coil springs |
|Ground clearance: ||8.0 in. |
|Curb weight: ||3491 lbs. |
|Tires: ||P235/65SR16 Bridgestone Dueler |
|Brakes, f/r: ||disc/drum with ABS |
|Fuel capacity: ||15.5 gal. |
Unless otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle.
All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSRP) effective as of November 12, 2001.
Prices do not include manufacturer's destination and delivery charges. N/A: Information not available or not applicable.
Manufacturer Info Sources: 1-800-522-5000 - www.saturncars.com
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