2008 Saturn Vue Greenline: International appeal with eyes focused on safety and economy
By Mike Blake, Carlisle Events
Sunday, February 24, 2008
What is American and green-friendly, designed in Korea, styled in Europe and assembled in Mexico? It is the 2008 Saturn Vue Greenline Hybrid, an SUV without a sports-ute appetite or sticker price.
Considered a compact cross-over SUV, the Vue is part of Saturn’s line-up that shares styling cues with several of parent-GM’s European children. The Vue is Saturn’s top-selling vehicle in America and is similar in appearance to GM’s international Antara. It has clones by other names around the globe, as this cross-over is known as the Chevrolet Captiva in Mexico, the Opal Antara in Europe, the Vauxhall Antara in England, the Holden Captiva in Australia and the GMC Terrain in the Middle East. If that isn’t international enough for you, the ’08 Vue Greenline is assembled in Ramos Arizpe, Mexico, with 51 percent American parts.
Built on GM’s Theta platform, the ’08 Vue is the fifth all-new Saturn model since the beginning of the 2006 calendar year, joining the Sky roadster, Saturn Astra compact, Aura sedan and the larger Outlook crossover utility. Its direct lineage comes from Daewoo in Korea and Opel (GM’s European brand), with clear attention paid to stiff driving and handling, good fuel economy, light-weight construction, clean-yet-sculpted lines and large jeweled headlamps.
Billed as “the affordable hybrid”, the Vue Greenline offers a fuel economy rating of 25 mpg city / 32 mpg highway -- the best highway fuel economy of any SUV. That equates to a 27-percent improvement over the comparable non-hybrid model. It also has the lowest price of any hybrid SUV.
The Vue Green Line’s hybrid system combines sophisticated controls with an electric motor/generator mated to a 2.4-liter, inline-4-cylinder, dual overhead cam Ecotec engine. The hybrid portion offers a belt alternator starter system and a 36-volt nickel hydride battery and you save fuel through the implementation of an electric boost during accelerating. The system completely shuts off the gas-powered engine while stopped; fuel flow is carefully managed and the hybrid battery recharges. To comply with more stringent emission and diagnostic regulations, a new catalytic converter system with slightly elevated exhaust system backpressure has been added.
Not built or purchased to blaze around town or at the track, the system puts out about 169hp and 161 lbs.-ft. of torque, and with a curb weight of 3789 lbs, the 180.1-inch-long vehicle lumbered from zero to 60mph in 11 seconds-flat during my tests. A quarter-mile run was achieved in a slow 18.3 seconds and I found that the low torque and power changes your highway strategy as it is wise to let on-coming traffic pass before blending onto the freeway, rather than trying to beat it into the flow. However, you still have a substantial sports-ute that averaged 24.7 miles per galloon during a solid week of testing in the snow and rain of several mid-winter storms around the mid-Atlantic region.
I was surprised at the amount of buffeting the vehicle took and the wobbling it exhibited during wind incidents. The flat sides and the relatively high center of gravity made for a wheel-correcting ride. At 72.8 inches wide and 66.2 inches high on a wheelbase of 106.6 inches, the Vue looks like it would be more stable, but I found significant yaw during tight turns and top-end tremble during S-curve tests.
Still, the economy and price are outstanding. With a base price of $24,170, there were no extra options on this test vehicle, and the destination charges of $625 brought the final sticker price as tested to $24,795.
With the Vue Greenline, you get economy and you also get Saturn safety. Frontal crash tests by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration give the Saturn Vue five stars for the passenger and four stars for the driver, while side crash tests came in at five stars for driver and passenger. Standard safety equipment includes StabiliTrak with trailering stability assist for a towing capacity of 1500 lbs. You also get dual-stage frontal air bags, side thorax airbags (for driver and front passenger), head curtain side-impact air bags (front and second row), pedal release system, OnStar, active head restraints (front), dual seat belt pretentioners and 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS.
The Saturn Vue also provides interior niceties far above the sticker price. There is comfortable seating for five with 40.2 inches of front headroom and 39.3 in row two; 40.7 inches of front leg room and 36.9 in the second row; with 56 inches of shoulder room in row one and 55.9 behind.
My Sea Mist Green test vehicle was accented by a Gray interior that was decked out with a standard CD stereo with MP3 capability and six speakers, XM Satellite radio, automatic climate control system with electronic controls, heated front seats, rear window defroster and wiper, driver information center, and an atmosphere of rich materials including chrome accents on the air vents and instrument cluster, with a low-gloss, low-glare upper instrument panel highlighted by embossed grain and amber backlighting.
The 2008 Saturn Vue Greenline is green-friendly, wallet-responsive and stylish. That’s a pretty decent bottom line for an SUV.
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