2008 Saturn Vue XR

Significance: Other than the fact that the outgoing model looks like a middle school science project? This good-looking ute will soon be available as a mild or two-mode hybrid, with promises that a plug-in version is in the works. On the other end of the spectrum, the Red Line model should be a decent performer.

Saturn's onslaught of new products continues at the L.A. show with the new 2008 Saturn Vue. With the addition of this vehicle, only the lowly Ion carries the torch for old-school Saturn-think. (That poor, poor thing.) Like the Aura and Sky, the Vue shares its platform and looks with an Opel; in this case it's the Antara that debuted at the Paris show in September.

It's apparent from first glance that this isn't the same old Vue, but the differences also go far below the surface. Six air bags are standard, as is a six-speed transmission with V-6 models. And while the sixteen-inch standard wheels are a bit on the small side, seventeens are available. (Speaking of availability, there's no word yet as to whether the Vue will get Opel's clever built-in, fold-away rear-bumper bike rack, but we really hope it does.) The base model, badged XE, uses a 2.4-liter I-4 with 164 horsepower and direct fuel injection, but is available only with front-wheel drive and a four-speed automatic. The top-line, four-wheel drive Vue XR, powered by a 250-horsepower V-6 with variable valve timing mated to a six-speed automatic, promises to be more fun, and Saturn promises a five-speed manual is on the way, too. (It's unclear if the stick will be offered with only the four, only with the V-6, or with both.)

Forthcoming is a Red Line model, which will use the same engine and transmission with different suspension and bigger wheels. We haven't driven one yet, but on paper it promises to be a huge improvement over the outgoing model.

The Vue Green line will also debut in 2008, as GM's first front-wheel-drive 2-mode hybrid. GM has announced its intention to produce a plug-in variant of the Vue Green Line, but development of that system is still underway and no launch date has been set.

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