Review: 2006 Saturn Vue

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Review: 2006 Saturn Vue

Based on the Theta architecture that has since begot the Chevrolet Equinox and Pontiac Torrent, the plastic-paneled Saturn Vue had humble beginnings powered by either a tepid four-cylinder or a mild 3.0-liter V-6. Two years ago, Saturn gave its soft-roader a serious power infusion in the form of a Honda-sourced 3.5-liter/250-horse V-6 matched to a five-speed automatic transmission. So equipped, the Vue will walk all over every similar-sized SUV save the pricier, turbocharged Subaru Forester. Compared with other compact SUVs, such as the Honda CR-V, the Vue is slightly bigger and, with the V-6, much more powerful. The Vue received several updates for 2005, such as a four-speed automatic transmission for the four-cylinder engine, but 2006 is true midlife freshening. For this year, the Vue is treated to a cosmetic update and a full round of detail changes that significantly increase its desirability.

For 2006 the Vue gets a new hood, grille, and headlights. Out are the gigantic old headlights that Saturn formerly embraced as a brand styling trait, replaced on V-6 models with cooler projector-style lamps. The overall look is clean and geometric, and the Vue manages to remain distinctive on roads glutted with SUVs and crossovers. The Vue uses plastic body pieces, a Saturn hallmark, but the large panel gaps necessitated by heat expansion of the plastic aren't as out of place here as they are on the Ion. Saturn designers used the gap between the hood and the fenders as an intentional SUV-appropriate styling element, creating a hood with a sort of clamshell look. The Vue Red Line brings high-performance cues like spoilers, a one-inch-lower suspension, and 18-inch wheels, as well as its own unique grille that resembles the one on the hot new Saturn Sky convertible.

Bravo, GM: The Vue's interior is redesigned for 2006, and it looks much better. The center console is flanked by bars of convincing faux wood, and the sleek design of the stereo controls and HVAC knobs gives the center stack a modern, IKEA-like vibe. There are now redundant radio controls on the small, three-spoke steering wheel, and rear-seat passengers can be treated to a DVD entertainment system. The driver faces large, legible, white-faced gauges. Vue V-6 models get new seat fabric, though leather is available as an option. The sporty Red Line edition is decked out with leather seats with grippy suede inserts. There's no surplus of interior space, but the Vue is a nice size--a little bigger than the typical cute/ute at 181.3 inches, yet small enough to be city-driving and parking-lot friendly. Side storage bins in the cargo area are designed to hold a gallon of milk, and a cargo organizer can flip up to secure grocery bags. (It's refreshing when an SUV acknowledges its true mission). The 70/30-split rear seats fold flat, and the front passenger seat can also be folded to carry items up to eight feet long. Newly standard on all trim levels are cruise control; power windows, door locks, and mirrors; and remote keyless entry with a security system.

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