Saturn's new Vue is one of the first in-the-sheetmetal manifestations of GM's European Opel arm, and, for the most part, color us impressed. In an ever more crowded field where being noticed is half the battle, the Vue's exterior appearance made the judges think crossover cool. The praise continued for the cabin's new digs. The Vue's interior packaging is worlds better than the outgoing model's and is arguably the best Saturn effort to date--especially considering its relatively inexpensive base price. Save odd touches like the steering wheel that feels as big as a wagon wheel and a quirky cargo-net setup, judges now think the Vue is more than capable of holding its own in its five-passenger market niche.

Our test Vue came with the optional 3.6-liter, DOHC 24-valve V-6 rated at 257 horsepower, mated to a six-speed automatic. Good thing, too, because every last horse bucked loudly getting the Vue's porky 4109-pound mass up to speed. An impressive number of engine options are available (including GM's new two-mode full hybrid in 2008). The six-speed automatic transmission put the power down adequately to the wheels, although in manual mode one judge noted some unusual behavior.

On our test loop, the Vue's steering felt heavier than Jared before Subway, and attempting to whip more than two tons of fun into and out of the curves, while wrestling with the oversize wheel wasn't fun. "Carlike" isn't a word that springs to mind.

So while the new Vue didn't distinguish itself on the tarmac, it's still more attractive, offers many options and models, and also boasts world-class safety features. It's a package that should help get more customers into Saturn dealerships, but it's not one that's going to make our winner's circle.



2008 Saturn Vue
Base price range $21,395-$29,395
Price as tested $28,665 (XR AWD)
Vehicle layout Front engine, FWD/AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine 3.6L/257-hp/248-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Curb weight (f/r dist) 4109 lb (58/42%)
Wheelbase 106.6 in
Length x width x height 180.1 x 72.8 x 67.1 in
0-60 mph 7.8 sec
Quarter mile 16.0 sec @ 87.0 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 123 ft
Lateral acceleration 0.72 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight 28.8 sec @ 0.63 g (avg)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 16/22 mpg
CO2 emissions 1.06 lb/mile
Ratings
Engineering ***
Design ****
Interior/Functionality ***
Performance ***
On-Road Refinement ***
Off-Road Ability **
Value ***
Bottom Line Much improved over the previous model, but needs more on-road refinement.