For 2008, Saturn has retired the second-generation, facelifted Vue five-seat crossover vehicle and replaced it with an all-new vehicle that is closely based on GM's German Opel Antara in terms of its basic layout, platform, and interior decor. It will eventually be sold around the world in Saturn, Opel, Chevrolet, Holden and Daewoo brands. About the only things left over from the old plastic-sided Vue are a couple of its powertrains. Otherwise, it's a much fresher, sportier-looking vehicle than the big, slab-sided square-cornered SUV it replaces.
As such, the all-new 2008 Saturn Vue presents itself with a slightly smaller interior in terms of its total cubic feet of storage, but a much more pleasant and useable interior than the outgoing model provided.
With two trim levels, three engines, two transmissions and a choice front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, the 2008 Saturn Vue fits below the larger and roomier, eight-passenger Saturn Outlook in both size and price. The Vue retails from about $21,400 for a basic front-drive model to more than $31,000 for a loaded all-wheel-drive version. While the starting price is more than $3,000 higher than that of the previous model, the list of additional standard content is quite long, so the value proposition is still a good one. With this breadth of offerings, the new Vue provides a step up for the Saturn sedan customer with a growing family, or a step down in size and an improvement in fuel economy over a minivan or mid-size SUV.
With the 2008 Saturn Vue, you get a whole lot more style, more power and acceleration over the 2007 model. The available V6 engine comes with a six-speed automatic that replaces the previous five-speed automatic, and better highway fuel economy (when checking the 2008 numbers against the 2007 numbers, remember that the EPA has changed the testing procedures resulting in fuel economy ratings that are lower and more realistic results). The Vue V6 AWD model is rated at 16/22 mpg City/Highway, while the four-cylinder front-wheel-drive version gets 19/26 mpg, a substantial difference. With a V6 engine, the Vue is rated to tow up to 3500 pounds.
Saturn loaded the new 2008 Vue down with safety equipment. The Vue comes standard with a full complement of air bags, traction and stability control, anti-lock brakes.
With more standard features, more power, and better fuel economy, the all-new 2008 Saturn Vue represents a vehicle that's full of space and storage, easy to use, easy to drive, and easy on the eyes.
Saturn Vue XE ($21,395); XE AWD ($24,515); XR ($24,895); XR AWD ($26,895); Red Line ($27,395); Red Line AWD ($29,395)
Crisp, sporty and modern from every angle, the exterior design of the new 2008 Saturn Vue is dramatically different from the boxy old Vue, and that's because it is based on the European Opel Antara crossover and not the previous American-bred platform. In our opinion, the new Vue is the best-looking, most together vehicle Saturn has ever offered.
The Vue uses a whole new front end design with a distinctly Saturn grille, a much busier under-bumper and skid-plate area to add visual interest, multi-element headlamp units sweeping around the front corners, a forward-leaning rear door, big wheel arch accents, an arching roofline with very tasty roof bars, and a forward-leaning rear side window and D-pillar to give a much more sporty and modern impression.
Sizewise, the 2008 Vue is right in the heart of the segment with all of the other domestic and imported five-door, five-seat crossover SUVs, exactly 15 feet long overall on a 106-inch wheelbase. The Vue uses the same underpinnings as the European Opel Antara, tuned for America, which means simple, effective MacPherson strut front suspension with coil springs, and independent rear suspension with trailing arms, coil springs, and lateral locating links.
Our first impression inside the 2008 Saturn Vue was extremely positive. Where the outgoing vehicle had cheesy imitation wood and plastic, the new European look is clean, modern and classy in terms of design, appearance, materials and function. There's a good balance of brightwork to panels from the left door across the instrument panel and dashboard to the right door, and the heating/air conditioning vents are big, round and nicely done.
The driver's bucket seat is comfy, containing but not restrictive. The seating position at front left is commanding and comfortable, and everything is within easy reach. Arranged ahead of the driver is lovely array of multi-colored instruments surrounded by brushed-metal rings. The instrument panel is pleasant to look at, easy to read and use, night or day. Saturn has chosen brushed metal over shiny chrome, which avoids problems with fingerprints and sun reflections, and for that we give them high marks. The steering wheel is a work of art, with radio and cruise control buttons built in, a thick rim with lovely stitching and a nice set of metallic accents in the lower half. The steering wheel offers tilt adjustability, but does not telescope.
The touch-screen for the AM/FM/XM radio and the navigation system is big and bright and high enough in the center of the dash to be read quickly and safely, and low enough to stay out of the glaring sunlight most of the time. It's one of the easiest systems to use of all the competitors in this segment, with big markings and good contrast. This is a mid-market Opel design, so there's no wood in here at all, but the plastics, metals and fabrics are all very touchable and good-looking. Down below, the shifter is a single-gate model, surrounded again by brushed metal.\
There's 56 cubic feet of cargo room just inside the easy-lift tailgate with the 60/40 second-row seats flopped down. There's a huge glovebox, an under-seat box under the front passenger seat, more storage in the second-row console, and, hiding under the cargo floor is a whole network of nooks, crannies and cubbies built into the spare tire carrier assembly, and some almost-hidden storage way up front in the compartment.
In the cargo compartment floor are two sets of rails into which fit a set of six sliding chocks to help secure cargoes of all shapes and sizes, with more tie-downs in the floor and in the seatbacks. Fold the front passenger seat down, and you can easily carry a one-man kayak inside the Vue with room left over for wetsuit, paddles and a whole lot more gear. The 2007 Vue carried a rating of 63.8 cubic feet of cargo with the second seat down, some 13 percent larger using EPA measuring methods, but less useable overall than the open and hidden space in the new truck.
Compared with other five-seat crossover utility vehicles from the Japanese, Korean, European and domestic competition, the Saturn Vue behaves more like a European vehicle. That makes sense, given its German Opel roots.
The power steering is not overboosted or mushy, and has good but not great road feel. The ride is taut without being jarring, and body roll control is right up there with the best of the other Europeans, including BMW and Land Rover, so the Vue invites spirited driving, especially through long sweeping curves. Isolation from the world outside is very good.
We were very impressed with the acceleration performance from the available 3.6-liter V6. Paired with the new six-speed transmission, this engine makes the Vue smooth, quiet, and authoritative without a lot of noisy cabin intrusion. The 257-hp V6 engine is near the top of the class in terms of power and torque. It'll accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in about seven seconds flat. In sixth gear, the engine sound all but disappears, providing a relaxed, easy cruising mode.
We like brakes that start braking right at the top of the pedal travel, and the Saturn Vue's brakes delivered on that, with lots of braking power at the initial stab of the pedal and even more with more pedal travel, very linear and effective.
The Saturn Vue is all-new for 2008. After five years on the market as an American-bred, plastic-bodied crossover, the Vue has matured into steel unibody crossover family hauler based on a German Opel. The new Vue boasts very good performance, real room for five, storage possibilities galore, and tons of personality. Built in Mexico to a very high quality standard, it's the best Saturn product so far, and we recommend you add it to your looking list.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Jim McCraw is based in Detroit.