When the Saturn Outlook was first introduced in 2006 as a 2007 model, the all-new Saturn crossover was positioned by product planners as a key part of "Saturn's new face," sporting Saturn's cutting-edge future design language as first seen on the Sky roadster.

But with current gas prices taking bigger chunks of green from the buyers' wallets, the slow-selling GM division is beginning to re-equip its already established models to better cope with contemporary times. Most recently, Saturn engineers made a couple of significant changes to the 2009 Outlook, beginning most importantly with what's under its hood.

Powering the unibody Outlook crossover, which is based on GM's Lambda platform, is a reworked DOHC 3.6L V-6 featuring Variable Valve Timing (VVT) and direct-injection technology. Together the two systems boost power outputs while at the same time slightly improving fuel-efficiency ratings. The top-tier Outlook XR now makes 288 hp at 6400 rpm and 270 lb-ft at 3400 rpm, while the base level Outlook XE edition churns out 281 hp at 6400 rpm and 253 lb-ft at 5500 rpm. Providing ample traction to all four wheels (front-drive XE and XR versions are still available in '09) is GM's Active On Demand AWD system that variably adjusts power and torque depending on the vehicle's speed, throttle, and surface conditions. A HydraMatic 6T75 six-speed automatic transmission further helps out with the bigger Saturn's fuel efficiency.

Compared to 2008, the upcoming Outlook attains a slight bump in mpg economy. Front- drive models hit an EPA measured 17 mpg city and 24 mpg highway; all-wheel drive cars achieve 16 mpg city and 23 mpg highway. The outgoing FWD Outlook was rated one mpg less in the city and one mpg less on the highway in AWD form.

For the 2009 model year, a revised rear fascia shared by both finds its place out back. Downward-facing dual exhaust tips on the XR eliminate the need for bumper cutouts like on previous iterations. Other than that, not much of the exterior has evolved from the outgoing XR and XE models. A Preferred Package on the XE trim level provides body-colored moldings as well as heated mirrors and turn signals. Available 20-in. alloy wheels can be specified on the Touring Package, while standard rolling stock remains at 18 inches. Two new colors, Quicksilver and Silver Moss, replace the aged Silver Pearl and Ocean Mist, respectively.

Up to eight passengers can be accommodated by the 2009 Outlook, depending on seating configuration. Leather on XR models and a redone cloth trimming on XEs come standard, although XE buyers keen on leather can select it as an option. A Bose 5.1 nine-speaker surround-sound multimedia system can be opted to keep passengers more than sufficiently entertained. GM's standard OnStar 7.2 and new for '09 Bluetooth connectivity will help ensure all eyes will stay fixed on the road ahead. Six standard airbags spread throughout the front, side and curtain areas protect all passengers extending into the available third row of seating. A new backup camera system (navigation not required) can be included on either model to further aid in tricky reverse situations.

The Outlook holds the unofficial title of being GM's slowest-selling Lambda-based crossover, but Saturn officials are banking on the Outlook's improved feature list and slightly better fuel efficiency to attract crossover buyers with even more options. Expect the refreshed 2009 Saturn Outlook to hit dealerships nationwide in the coming months.

2009 Saturn Outlook
Base Price $29,360
Vehicle layout Front engine, FWD, AWD, 7 or 8-pass crossover SUV
Engine 3.6L/281-hp/253-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6 (XE model); 3.6L/288-hp/270-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6 (XR model)
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Curb weight (dist f/r) 4700-4905 lbs (mfr)
Wheelbase 118.9 in
Length x width x height 201.1 x 78.9 x 69.9 in
Headroom, f/m/r 40.4/39.3/38.4 in
Legroom, f/m/r 41.3/36.9/33.2 in
Shoulder room, f/m/r 62.0/61.1/57.8 in
Cargo Vol, behind f/m/r 115.9/68.6/24.1 cu ft
EPA City/Hwy Econ 16-17/23-24 mpg
CO2 Emissions 0.99-1.05 lb/mile