Saturn, that feel-good seller of automotive appliances, is trying to inject some passion into the brand with its Red Line series of performance vehicles. The Vue is the first Saturn to be Red-Lined. The conversion consists of a stiffened and lowered suspension, eighteen-inch wheels with meaty 245/50SR-18 Bridgestone Turanzas, and a monochromatic body kit that adds enough flares, scoops, and spoilers to make even the most jaded Honda Civic tuner take notice, especially when the vehicle is ordered in electric lime.
Honda enthusiasts also may get a kick out of the Vue’s new V-6. For 2004, all V-6 Vues get a 3.5-liter Honda engine, which puts out an impressive 250 horsepower and 242 pound-feet of torque. At last count, General Motors made eight different V-6 engines for the American market; in choosing the Honda V-6, GM seems to be acknowledging the superiority of the Honda powerplant. Is none of GM’s own V-6s good enough for the Vue?
That question aside, the additional 69 horsepower, versus the old 3.0-liter’s 181, substantially aids acceleration. Saturn claims that 0 to 60 mph can be achieved in a believable seven seconds. The wide tires, the tall body, and the soft suspension fail to keep the 250 horses in check. When hustled, the Vue exhibits poor body control and an unwillingness to stay settled.
Inside, the Vue Red Line gets the subtle tweaks that all 2004 Vues enjoy. New black-on-white gauges and in-creased sound deadening make the cockpit a better place to spend time, but the varicose-vein relief pattern on the plastic and the misaligned trim pieces are glaring reminders that the Saturn is still not up to Honda or Toyota standards.
When selling an off-brand or cut-price item, electronics salespeople have long used the phrase “Sony guts” to assure customers that, despite outward appearances, the equipment has the best in the industry inside. They were usually lying, but Saturn sales consultants should take a note from their retail brethren and start convincing Vue customers that V-6 versions have “Honda guts.”