Saturn’s onslaught of new products continues with the new 2008 Saturn VUE. With the addition of this vehicle, only the lowly Ion carries the torch for old-school Saturn-think (at least, until the Astra arrives.) 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.)
Saturn has announced a base price of $21,395 for the 2008 Vue, a hike of $3295 over the outgoing model. While that may seem a bit excessive, that actually puts the Vue directly between the Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4, whose prices are just a few hundred dollars lower and higher, respectively. Saturn also defends the increase by noting that the base engine is more powerful and is linked to a standard automatic transmission. Standard stability control and side curtain air bags also justify the increase.
Forthcoming is a Red Line model, which will use the same V-6 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.