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The experienced automotive critics at TheCarConnection.com consulted with the range of information available from General Motors and other sources to put together this review covering the 2008 Saturn Vue models. TheCarConnection.com's editors have driven the new Vue and incorporate their experiences whenever possible.
Saturn's carlike compact SUV, the Vue, has been completely redesigned for 2008, though it's about the same size as last year's model.
The new 2008 Saturn Vue is distinguished by its sportier and more athletic exterior appearance, with prominent side gill vents and dual stainless steel exhaust tips in uplevel trims, including the chrome bar and chunky front end that might not be to everyone's liking. Unlike the previous model, the new Vue has conventional sheetmetal rather than the ding-resistant polymer door panels that used to be a Saturn selling point. The Vue is now also built in Mexico rather than Spring Hill, Tenn.
The 2008 Saturn Vue only has seating for five, in a class where some models feature a small third row, but the backseat space is roomier than typical, with ample legroom. As with most vehicles of its type, the backseats fold flat easily for expanded cargo space--though it isn't especially vast. The front-seat design could use more support, though. It also has one of the quietest interiors in its class, allowing very little road or wind noise.
Three different engines are offered on the 2008 Saturn Vue. A 164-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder is somewhat fuel-efficient--at 19 mpg city, 26 mpg highway--but barely adequate with its four-speed automatic; the XE all-wheel-drive model adds a 215-horsepower, 3.5-liter pushrod V-6 engine with a six-speed automatic; the top XR and sporty Red Line models come with a 257-horsepower DOHC 3.6-liter V-6 and a six-speed automatic. A Green Line hybrid model is also offered but is covered in a separate review. At over 4,000 pounds, the Vue has some of the worst fuel-economy ratings in its compact class, at 16 mpg city for the V-6 with all-wheel drive.
Both of the V-6 engines provide enthusiastic acceleration, with similar gusto from a standing start, but the 3.6-liter is the choice for its better passing performance and more refined character, as the 3.5-liter is somewhat coarse. The six-speed automatic can be slow to downshift with anything aside from full throttle, but on the 2008 Saturn Vue Red Line (and optional on the XR), there's manual shift control.
Both handling and ride quality have been improved in the 2008 Saturn Vue. The ride is firm but absorbent enough for most bumps, and there's very little body lean in corners, thanks to stabilizer bars front and back. The steering, meanwhile, feels crisp and precise. The four-cylinder model uses an electric power steering system that doesn't transmit the road feel or confidence of the hydraulic power steering included with the V-6s, although the V-6 models have some torque steer--a pull to the side with hard acceleration, especially coming out of a tight corner.
All three of the 2008 Saturn Vue models can be equipped with front- or all-wheel drive. Base XE models come quite modestly equipped but have keyless entry, air conditioning, power windows, and a year of OnStar service on the standard-features list. The XR adds larger alloy wheels, fog lamps, and the dual-outlet exhaust, along with automatic climate control, a power driver's seat, a rear cargo organizer, and steering-wheel audio controls. Options on the top XR include heated leather seats, a sunroof, and the Carbon Flash Special Edition, an appearance and upgrade package.
The 2008 Saturn Vue fared extremely well in occupant safety. In tests administered by the federal government, the Vue received a mix of four- and five-star results in frontal impact and top five-star results for side impact. Insurance-industry tests awarded the top "good" rating to the Vue in all categories. The Vue comes with electronic stability control, including a Trailer Sway Control function to help maintain stability while towing, along with anti-lock brakes, front-seat side airbags, head-curtain side airbags, and active head restraints.