Friday, November 17, 2006

2007 Saturn Vue Green Line

November 1, 2006
2007 Saturn Vue Green Line
General Motors
He Drove, She Drove
Saturn Vue walks the Green Line but needs additional updating
By Paul & Anita Lienert / Special to The Detroit News

General Motors' first hybrid utility vehicle, the 2007 Saturn Vue Green Line, elicited a mixed reaction from us. But there is no denying the gas-electric Vue's key selling points -- great fuel economy at an attractive price.

We tested a modestly equipped Vue Green Line with a sticker price of $23,750.

HE: GM was smart to make Saturn the lead brand in rolling out a hybrid SUV. Saturn continues to have a great reputation and positive image among owners. They should really appreciate the virtues of the Vue Green Line, including the fact that it's the industry's least expensive hybrid SUV -- more than $3,000 less than a Ford Escape Hybrid.

SHE: The Vue Green Line may be the perfect vehicle to get you to transition out of a conventional gasoline-powered SUV. It gets 20 percent better fuel economy than the standard four-cylinder Vue, with EPA ratings of 27 miles per gallon in city driving and 32 on the highway. Plus it's quicker than the standard gas-engine model, accelerating from 0-60 in just over 10 seconds.

HE: I have no complaints concerning hybrid powertrain, which is very impressive. I'm less taken with the Vue itself, which is starting to look and feel a bit long in the tooth, despite a facelift last year. I had a number of issues with our test vehicle, and none of them involved the hybrid system. A huge problem was a right front door that was not properly sealed, which enabled wind to come whistling through the passenger compartment at speeds over 40 miles per hour. The Vue also has massive windshield pillars that block the driver's view; in fact, I almost plowed into two pedestrians crossing the street as I was turning left at a local intersection because I never saw them.

SHE: You're right. There's very little to criticize about the hybrid system, which in the Saturn is fairly simple and straightforward. The Vue Green Line uses the same 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that's in the Saturn Sky roadster. It makes 170 horsepower and comes with a standard four-speed automatic transmission. The electric motor is used mainly to supplement the gas engine; about the only time it runs by itself is at very low speeds. The gas engine also shuts itself off automatically at stoplights to save fuel, then starts itself up automatically when you step on the throttle.

HE: It's clear that GM engineers put a lot of time and effort into getting the hybrid system right. I just wish the driveline had a little more muscle. Sometimes the Vue feels like it's taking forever to get up to cruising speed when you're entering the freeway.

SHE: My concerns about the Vue Green Line center around safety. Sure, traction control and antilock brakes are standard. But there is no stability control and no side air bags. Side curtains, which protect the heads of all outboard passengers, are available at extra cost, but only come bundled in a $1,125 option package. I also am a little uncomfortable with the fact that there's no spare tire -- the battery pack takes up that space under the rear cargo floor. Granted, there's an inflator kit in case you get a flat.

HE: Hmmm. Does that mean you're the wrong demographic for a hybrid vehicle? I think we still need to applaud Saturn and GM for making hybrid technology accessible to more consumers. Now they need to replace the Vue with a more modern vehicle if they really want to get the attention of the rest of us.

He drove, she drove Anita and Paul Lienert are partners in Lienert & Lienert, a Detroit-based automotive information services company.

2007 Saturn Vue Green Line offers an excellent hybrid powertrain but could update its interior and exterior design

2007 Saturn Vue Green Line

Type: Front-engine, front-wheel drive, five-passenger utility vehicle.
Price: Base, $22,995 (inc. $625 shipping charge); as tested, $23,750.
Engine: 2.4-liter I-4; 170-hp; 162 lb-ft torque.
EPA fuel economy: 27 mpg city/32 mpg highway.
Where built: Spring Hill, Tenn.
Estimated 12-month insurance cost, according to AAA Michigan : $1,184

Rating: 4

Likes: Great for the budget-minded hybrid shopper. Attractive, clean-looking exterior styling. Standard traction control and ABS. Roomy cabin. Driving feel is close to conventional Vue. Ample cargo space, even with batteries under rear floor.
Dislikes: No spare tire. No 4WD model. No side air bags. Side curtains cost extra, and only come bundled in $1,125 option package.

Rating: 3

Likes: Industry's least expensive hybrid SUV -- $3,300 less than a Ford Escape Hybrid. Significant increase in fuel economy. Comfortable front seats. Better-than-average materials and build quality. Carlike ride.
Dislikes: Front passenger door poorly sealed, with lots of wind noise. Massive windshield pillars block vision.

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