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Can't wait to become part of The Green Revolution? You're in luck, Al and Kermit, because 2008 should be your year. High-mileage hybrids are blooming like lily pads in a pond fertilized by too much farm runoff. Case in point, by the end of this year you'll be able to hop on over to your local Saturn retailer and have your pick of three politically correct models.
The four-cylinder Vue and Aura Green Lines have been on sale for months, offering drivers a practical, low-cost green option. An even greener choice (in terms of MSRP) will be the Vue Green Line 2 Mode. It arrives in dealerships later this year, and showcases GM's first front-wheel-drive application of their two-mode hybrid technology that was co-developed with BMW and the old DaimlerChrysler.
Unlike the previous edition of the Vue Green Line (2007), the 2009 Green Line 2 Mode is built on an excellent foundation. You likely know the Vue is an unrepentant clone of the Antara sold in Europe through GM's Opel division. Our miles spent in the Vue/Antara have been singularly pleasing, and based on our experience in GM's full-size SUVs with the two-mode technology, we have high expectation for the more sophisticated Vue 2 Mode.
While we can't comment on how the new Vue hybrid drives, we can tell you what GM told us leading up to the little ute's Detroit auto show introduction. The powertrain combines GM's corporate 3.6-liter direct-injected V-6 with variable valve timing (as in the Cadillac CTS) with a pair of electric motors rated at 55 kilowatts each. Fuel economy is claimed to be up to 50 percent better, compared to similarly equipped V-6 Vues. By our estimates, this would put city mileage at 24 mpg. Highway mileage won't increase by 50 percent, but it would be reasonable to assume that 28 mpg is attainable, as Saturn did boast a more than 500-mile range from the 18.4 gallon tank — do the math.