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From the outside, the Vue XR--the performance-tuned member of the lineup--has a bold, aggressive stance: its bulging front fenders give the car attitude, while its grilles suggest that there is some real performance to back up the looks. From the side, the Vue's swooping roofline and raked D-pillar are evocative of the body style of the 2007 Honda CR-V, while its tapered rear end fortunately avoids the ugly fate of the boxy Outlook and GMC Acadia. As we found in our test, the attraction of the Saturn Vue is more than skin deep, as it demonstrates admirable performance and delivers some impressive technology features.
Test the tech: BMW bashing
It just so happened that on the same week we had the Saturn Vue XR in the CNET garage, we also had the 2007 BMW X3 3.0si, a comparable car in terms of size, engine specs, and on-paper performance credentials. While the Vue XR's 3.6-liter V-6 has a displacement advantage over the X3's signature BMW in-line six-cylinder plant, the horsepower figures for the two cars are almost identical, with the Bimmer squeezing 260 horses out of its engine and the XR just behind with 257 horsepower. Torque figures are equally close, with the Vue XR getting the slight upper hand with 241 pound-feet, compared with the X3's 225 pound-feet. Faced with two cars with such closely matched specifications, there was only one thing that any self-respecting automotive journalist could do: race them.
For our performance face-off, we decided to test the 0-to-60 acceleration times of both cars (with traction control off) using a performance computer. First up was the Vue XR, which managed a first 0-to-60 run of 7.65 seconds: not blisteringly fast, but it felt peppy off the line, and its midrange pickup was impressive. In our second run, we managed to go quicker, getting to 60 mph in a sprightly 7.35 seconds. During fast launches in the Vue XR, we did notice some considerable torque-steer as the car tried to veer to the left, but it was nothing that we couldn't handle, and we returned the Saturn feeling pretty impressed with its performance.
|2008 Saturn Vue XR||2007 BMW X3 3.0si|
|Engine||3.6-liter V-6||3.0-liter I-6|
|Power||257 horsepower||260 horsepower|
|Torque||241 ft.-lb.||225 ft.-lb.|
|Weight||4,325 lbs.||4,012 lbs.|
Next up was the BMW X3. Despite giving away some engine displacement to the Vue XR, the X3 had an advantage in weight, size, and horsepower. It also had a BMW badge on it, which is a useful asset in any performance contest. With Senior Editor Wayne Cunningham behind the wheel, we pulled the X3 up to the start line and waited for the performance computer to reset. Off the line, the X3 demonstrates a more linear acceleration than the Vue XR; however, the Bimmer lacks the midrange thrust of the Saturn. Our first run confirmed these suspicions, as the X3 reached 60 mph in a laggardly 7.62 seconds. There was one run left for BMW to assert its performance dominance. Wayne gunned the throttle off the line, and the X3 felt quick through the gears, but the performance computer told a different story: the Bimmer could manage only 7.50 seconds. The Saturn Vue XR had carried the day, and with it the bragging rights of beating out the incumbent in the sport-tuned compact crossover SUV segment.
In the cabin
The interior of the 2008 Saturn Vue XR is impressive. In keeping with the car's sporty exterior styling and demonstrated performance capabilities, the cabin has a couple of sporty design cues, including imitation carbon-fiber trim on the dash and door sills, and bolstered seats to keep you seated during hard cornering. Our test car was equipped with the $1,075 Premium trim package, which gave us leather-appointed seats, a leather-wrapped shift knob, and heated driver's and front-passenger seats. The most unique design element of the cabin on first impression is the parking brake, which looks like a kite handle. Our Vue XR tester was also equipped with the optional navigation and upgraded audio systems, at a cost of $2,145 and $325, respectively.
As we have seen in other recent General Motors SUVs such as the 2008 Buick Enclave and the 2007 GMC Acadia, GM's navigation systems are well designed and a pleasure to use. The system's touch-screen LCD display features large buttons and an intuitive menu structure that make programming destinations straightforward. We are especially impressed with the bright, colorful, crisply rendered maps and the individually designed landmark icons that make it easy for drivers to orient themselves in dense urban areas: in San Francisco, for example, the maps feature bespoke graphics for Grace Cathedral, Coit Tower, the Ferry building, and the Transamerica building.