Positive Outlook

Saturn Vue

Shame on GM for launching the Saturn brand to fight imports, then starving it with too few new products. Thankfully, those days are over, and last year, Saturn rolled out the Vue. Consistent with Saturn's mission, the Vue is not your ordinary midsize SUV. Driveline and suspension components come from car-not truck-shelves, so don't expect a V-8 or dual-range transfer case suitable for exploring the Rubicon. The Vue has a welded-steel skeleton clad in steel and molded-plastic panels.

Thanks to modern independent suspension and thoughtful tuning, the Vue drives more like a midsize car than a rambunctious truck. The ride is poised, especially with a load in tow: The response to a yank of the steering wheel is quick and agile. The 3.0-liter V-6 cooperates with a five-speed automatic transmission to deliver adequate passing performance and hushed cruising.

To study the Vue's towing prowess, we hooked up a 19' Checkmate carried by an OMD single-axle trailer. A stop at the weigh scales revealed that this payload exceeded the factory's 2,500-pound tow limit by 20 pounds. The Vue didn't mind. The 195 ft.-lb. of torque multiplied through the wide-ratio automatic transmission was enough to keep the truck and trailer rolling smartly. It took 15.8 seconds to go from 0 to 60 mph, enough to keep from clogging traffic. Solo, the Vue hustled to 60 mph in less than 10 seconds. Our trailer didn't have brakes, so 60-to-0 stopping distances with a towed load were perilously long at 217 feet. Trust us when we urge you not to try this at home. The Vue's trailer must have brakes to travel safely when it's hauling the full-rated payload.

No low range was needed to yank the boat onto dry land. The engine revved to 2500 rpm, one front wheel pawed briefly for traction, and the train began chugging up the ramp. Saturn uses an on-demand four-wheel-drive system that engages only the rear wheels when the front tires run out of grip.

MODEL Saturn Vue
Engine 3.0-liter DOHC V-6
Net hp/rpm 181/6000
Net torque (ft-lb/rpm) 195/4000
Transmission 5-speed automatic
Suspension Front strut type, coil springs
Suspension Rear trailing arm, coil springs
Brakes (front/rear) disc/drum, optional ABS
Tires Bridgestone Dueler H/T 235/65SR-16
Wheelbase (in.) 106.6
Length (in.) 181.3
Width (in.) 71.5
Height (in.) 66.5
Curb weight (lbs.) 3,700
Towing capacity (lbs., max.) 2,500
Cargo capacity (min./max. cu. ft.) 64
Fuel capacity (gal.) 15.5
0-60 mph acceleration (without/with 2,520-lb. towed load, sec.) 9.1/15.8
60-0 mph stopping distance (without/with 2,520-lb. towed load, ft.) 139/217
Observed towing fuel economy (avg. mpg) 13
Price (as tested) $23,150

LAST WORD. A modestly priced SUV worthy of your shopping list.