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.

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For those who don't want to rely entirely on the automatic transmission, the Vue XR is available with what Saturn calls a TapShift manual shift control (a $150 option on the Vue XR), which takes the form of a rocker switch on the left-hand side of the gear shifter.

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When entering destinations on the Vue XR's navigation system, drivers are faced with simple programming interface that starts with the Destination hard button. Addresses can be spelled out using a predictive touch-screen keypad or selected from an extensive points-of-interest (POI) database.

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To back underline its performance-oriented character, the Vue XR features some de rigueur fake carbon fiber trim in the cabin.

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The XR's swooping roofline and raked D-pillar reminded us of the body style on the 2007 Honda CR-V.

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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; as well as the optional navigation and upgraded audio systems, at a cost of $2,145 and $325, respectively.

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The Vue XR's upgraded stereo system features a digital music interface called Music Navigator, which indexes all the songs on an MP3 or WMA disc, and then gives drivers a useful means of selecting music.

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The 2008 Vue XR 3.6-liter V-6 plant delivers plenty of performance credibility to back up its sporty profile. The Vue's XR's six-speed automatic transmission and variable-valve timed engine represents a significant leap forward in terms of power train technology, compared with that of the 2007 model.

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In our review, we were especially impressed with the Vue XR's bright, colorful, crisply rendered maps and the individually designed landmark icons that make it easy for drivers to orient themselves in dense urban areas.

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In addition to its disc-playing capabilities, the Vue's standard stereo can be used to play music from portable digital audio players via an auxiliary input jack conveniently located on the front of its faceplate.

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The Vue XR's optional upgraded 180-watt advanced audio system gives the car 10 speakers (in place of the standard system's six-speaker arrangement) and an 8-inch subwoofer in the cargo area.

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With the scan process complete, the system presents drivers with a split touch-screen menu: On the left a series of options enables the selection of music by folder, album, or artist; while on the right, individual tracks are listed six at a time. We found the system to be a straightforward and intuitive means of browsing our tunes while on the road.

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