Saturn entered the sport utility vehicle arena for 2002 with its compact, carlike Vue. One special technological touch was a gearless continuously variable transmission.
For 2005, Saturn introduces a conventional four-speed-automatic transmission as an option for the four-cylinder model. V-6-powered Vues get a five-speed automatic and have either front- or all-wheel drive.
Saturn added a Red Line series in early 2004 that promises high-performance sportiness. Rather than the Vue's original 3.0-liter V-6, the Red Line model used a Honda-built 3.5-liter V-6 rated at 250 horsepower. That engine is also installed in other V-6-powered Vues. Developed with the assistance of General Motors' Performance Division, the Red Line has a lowered performance-tuned suspension, ground-effects body components and 18-inch wheels.
XM Satellite Radio and rear-seat DVD entertainment are optional. GM's OnStar communication system, also offered as an option, gains upgraded hands-free capability for 2005. The Vue has earned five-star ratings all around in crash tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Space-frame construction and dent-resistant polymer bodyside panels are similar to those used on Saturn's passenger cars. Full-length frame rails and a steel safety cage form a single welded structure.
The front fascia features a horizontal bar and badge that sit between large rectangular headlights. Car-height bumpers can resist 5-mph impacts. The Vue measures 181.3 inches long overall, rides a 106.6-inch wheelbase and has 8 inches of ground clearance. Red Line models feature unique rocker panels and fascias. A sunroof is optional. Chrome headlamp bezels and belt line moldings decorate 2005-model-year V-6 models.
Saturn's SUV has a fully independent suspension and electric power steering. New five-spoke machined-aluminum alloy wheels go on 2005 models. All-wheel-drive V-6 models get standard 17-inch tires, versus 16-inchers for four-cylinder and front-drive Vues.
Saturn stylists emphasized user-friendliness. Five occupants benefit from easy entry and exit thanks to a low step-in height. The front-passenger seatback folds flat, and rear occupants get a 70/30-split folding bench seat. Cargo volume is 30.8 cubic feet when the backseat is up and 63.8 cubic feet when the seat is folded. Side storage bins are included, and the rear cargo organizer flips up.
Under the Hood
The base 2.2-liter four-cylinder produces 143 hp. It teams with a standard Getrag five-speed-manual transmission or an optional four-speed automatic. The 250-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 mates with a five-speed automatic. Available all-wheel drive can transfer up to 100 percent of engine torque to the rear wheels.
Antilock brakes are standard on V-6 models and optional on four-cylinder-powered versions. Side curtain-type airbags are available.
Performance with the original V-6 fell short of vigorous, but the current 250-hp V-6 provides a welcome power boost. This model feels tighter and more stable. A regular Vue's handling can't be called sporty, but it's adequately precise. The Red Line is tauter yet. Ride quality is nearly flawless on smooth pavement, but some Vues grow skittish on wet surfaces.
Visibility to the front and side is excellent due in part to a very low cowl. Getting in and out of this SUV is very easy.