Saturn's dealers have been clamoring for an eight-passenger vehicle, now that the Relay minivan is on its last legs. The Outlook is Saturn's answer to their dealers' needs for a sport/utility replacement for that van; Whether or not it answers your needs depends on trailer size and severity of off-road use.

Built on a platform shared with the Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia, one Saturn rep described it as a "front-drive truck architecture, a brand-new component set for non-car use." However it's defined, the Outlook is Saturn's only three-row people hauler. Even if you're not entirely sold on the front-drive truck idea (Rabbit, Rampage, Ridgeline), we submit the Outlook's 3.6-liter engine and six-speed automatic are probably more advanced than any other GM powertrain, save the Duramax/Allison.

2007 Saturn outlook
Base price $27,990
Price as tested $42,821
Layout Front engine, FWD/AWD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine 3.6L/263-hp/244 lb-ft DOHC 24-valve all-alum V-6
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Wheelbase, in 118.9
Length x width x height, in 200.7x78.2x72.8
Curb weight, lb 4750
GVWR, lb 6400
Payload capacity, lb 1600
Max towing capacity, lb 4500
Max cargo capacity, cu ft 75.0
0-60 mph, sec 8.0 (TT est)
EPA fuel econ, city/hwy, mpg 17/25 (AWD)
CO2 emissions, lb/mile 0.98
On sale Currently

The transverse-mounted 3.6 liter V 6 revs smoothly and freely--it's never frenetic--to its 6600 rpm power peak. A six-speed auto with thumb-tap manual control on the shifter is the sole choice and well-suited; it even has a tow/haul mode. Brakes, all-independent suspension, and tuning are shared with Acadia/Enclave. Only the tires (18- or 19 inch all-seasons on the Outlook) vary. As to the Outlook's outdoor capability, with its unibody layout and rather open undercarriage, we'd avoid anything rougher than graded gravel roads.

Instruments bask in an amber glow and include numbered water temperature and voltage data, while woodlike plastic trims out the XR-or a brushed-steel look in the XE-and the center console sports a small pocket recessed in the tunnel by the passenger's left leg. The armrest, which houses rear climate controls, slides fore and aft, but sliding the armrest can (and will) smack the knees of rear passengers. A simple one-lever lift moves the second row for easier backseat access, though it requires more than one step to return it to position. Safety gear includes six airbags, OnStar, and StabiliTrak, but no center-position headrests.

This is an SUV for realists. Comparing an Outlook FWD with a base Yukon shows the Outlook within an inch or two in external dimensions, except the roofline is notably lower, yet the Outlook turns a yard tighter and has more headroom in the back two rows, as well as more third-row legroom and more cargo volume behind any row of seats. Sure, that 3.6-liter will be working hard towing a load, but a Yukon 4.8-liter V8 with a taller-geared four-speed automatic won't be breathing any easier.

Throttle response and modulation, steering feel, noise control, and brake feedback are all perfectly competent, as is dcor and assembly, yet they fail to generate any emotional response. Packaging and styling separate the Outlook from its brethren. Dual exhaust outlets, chrome window-sill trim, and paint-matched mirrors with signal repeaters differentiate upscale XRs from base XEs; that XR premium is $2300 and AWD is $2000. Look for fully loaded models to get pricey. Also, don't expect too many dealers to carry base models: you'll have to work hard to find some to choose from.