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Machine Design

2008 Saturn Vue

I didn’t know the Saturn Vue had been redesigned this year.

by Lee Teschler

So when the test vehicle showed up, I was expecting to see the familiar outline of a dumpy sport UTE. Surprise: The little crossover SUV is now based on a European Opel called the Antera. It’s a big improvement and looks downright sporty.

Auto writers used to complain about the poor fit of the Vue’s plastic body panels. They are a thing of the past, and the redesigned vehicle is well executed inside and out.

It also has some zip. The XE model we drove had a 3.5-liter pushrod V6 and a six-speed automatic as standard equipment. The 222-hp SUV accelerates nicely and moves through traffic without any problems. Some reviewers note that the Vue is heavier than some of the vehicles it competes against – about 500 lb heavier than the Rav 4, for example. The bad news is that the weight makes the mileage ratings only so-so, 15/22 mpg in city/highway driving. The good news is that the Institute for Highway Safety rates the new Vue “Good overall” for crashworthiness, thanks in part to the extra pounds. Also in the safety department, it carries a full complement of air bags — front, side, and curtain — as well as traction control and active head restraints. This is all standard equipment.

The suspension is strut in front, multilink in back. Strut suspensions aren’t known for their ride quality, but the Vue handles bumps well nevertheless. The front bucket seats are comfortable and there is little road noise.

The interior is sharp considering the car’s price range. The plastic parts are textured and don’t look cheap. OnStar gets thrown in free for the first year, and the six-speaker audio system does a nice job with the satellite radio.

You get about 54 ft3 of space in back with the rear seats folded down, about 25 ft3 less than some other vehicles in this class. Still, the rear seats fold down easily. We filled the back with a halfdozen rolls of fiberglass insulation.

The only options on the XE model we drove were roof rails and floor mats. They added $230 to the $24,570 base price. You can also get this model with a four-cylinder engine for about $3,000 less, but I can’t recommend it. The six-cylinder XE has some zip, but I suspect the same car with a 2.4-liter four banger would be doggy. And the gas mileage is better but not markedly so. Similarly, there’s an XR version with a bigger V6 generating 35 hp more. People who do an appreciable amount of towing might find this option attractive.

Other features of note on the Vue are 16-in. chrome wheels, a tire-pressure monitoring system, and steering-wheel controls for the cruise system and the audio. All in all, it is a well appointed vehicle that isn’t a bad deal for something selling in the mid-$20s




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