OnStar is standard, as are dual-stage driver and front-passenger airbags and traction control (with front-wheel drive). Anti-lock brakes are optional on four-cylinder models, standard on V-6s. Front and rear head-curtain airbags are optional. Stability control is unavailable, which is a shame because it's an important safety feature on SUVs, and nearly all Japanese and Korean competitors offer it.
There are two engines available: a 2.2-liter/143-horse I-4 and a 3.5-liter/250-horse V-6. If the specs for that V-6 remind you of those for the engine in the Honda Pilot, that's because it is the engine in the Honda Pilot. While GM produces a similar powerplant (3.6-liter/255-horse V-6) for the Cadillac SRX, this supplier relationship gives Saturn import-fighting credentials and blesses the model with the Honda quality reputation. As in the Pilot, the smooth engine features variable valve timing, a flexible powerband, and respectable fuel economy. The four-cylinder is available with a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic and is fitted only in the front-drive configuration. The V-6 is teamed with a five-speed automatic in either front- or all-wheel drive. The top engine is a tempting choice for the power and performance. When weighing the cost, consider that the V-6 matches the I-4 with a manual transmission for highway fuel economy--an impressive feat.
The V-6 Vue has outstanding acceleration for its class--after all, this engine also hauls around the Honda Odyssey minivan, which weighs up to 1,000 pounds more than the Vue. Here, it moves the 3,600-pound Saturn to 60 mph in the low-seven-second range. Packing 107 fewer horsepower, there's a marked difference in the performance when fitted with the four-cylinder engine. This base powerplant is even less powerful than those in the smaller Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. As the Vue is a car-based SUV, there's nothing truckish about its driving experience, although that can be said about many SUVs these days. The all-independent suspension soaks up bumps nicely while not being averse to cornering, though you won't confuse the Vue with a sport sedan. The Red Line, however, on its hunkered-down suspension and 18-inch wheels with 50-series Bridgestone Turanzas, brings a bit of touring-car spirit to the grocery run, even if it doesn't have any more power than the plebian versions of the Vue V-6.