Saturn Vue XR Annandale VA

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2008 Saturn Vue XR AWD Mid-Size Sport Utility Vehicle

By Derek Price   

It's a vast improvement over the previous Vue and shows how Saturn is committed to selling better vehicles than in the past.

It's a vast improvement over the previous Vue and shows how Saturn is committed to selling better vehicles than in the past.

Saturn Vue XR (2008) - enlarge

What was tested? 2008 Saturn Vue XR AWD ($26,270).

Options: Premium trim package ($1,075), convenience package ($505), navigation system ($2,145), trailering package ($350), advanced audio system ($325).

Price as tested (including $625 destination charge): $31,295.

Saturn - the car brand, not the ringed planet - has always been a mystery to me.

On one hand it's the most lovable branch of General Motors, one that keeps its buyers sublimely happy. Saturn buyers are among the most loyal a dealer could wish for, largely because they rate their buying experience so high. It's the no-hassle dealerships they love, not necessarily the cars themselves.

This two-seat convertible sports car is not only fun to drive, but absolutely gorgeous.

This two-seat convertible sports car is not only fun to drive, but absolutely gorgeous.

Saturn Vue XR (2008) - enlarge

And that's no surprise. When you drive the vehicles Saturn produced before this year, you'll find they're mainly garbage - nothing but puffed-up Power Wheels toys covered in plastic bodies and driven by chain-saw engines.

Starting recently, though, Saturn began rapidly dumping its geriatric lineup in favor of new, fresh, decent vehicles - ones people might even want to buy even if the company's dealerships were staffed entirely by angry, drunk midgets.

The Sky is one of those. This two-seat convertible sports car is not only fun to drive, but absolutely gorgeous.

Saturn's bread-and-butter SUVs are joining the improvement party, too.

Acceleration with the biggest engine is almost V8-like.

Acceleration with the biggest engine is almost V8-like.

Saturn Vue XR (2008) - enlarge

The Vue - introduced in 2004 as a low-cost but otherwise lackluster crossover - is totally new for 2008. The cretaceous-period design of the old Vue is replaced by, believe it or not, a newish European car called the Opel Antara.

While I normally think badge engineering is stupid, in this case it did Saturn a lot of good. The Opel-based Vue is handsome on the outside and comfortable on the inside, with a stylish cabin and smooth ride.

The ride is actually softer and squishier than in most SUVs, especially the new ones that try to be sporty. The whole vehicle dips and dives quite a bit when you stop or accelerate, but it has a nice feeling of levitation on the highway - if you like that sort of thing. Another strong point comes at the engine buffet. You have three tasty choices, ranging from a fuel-thrifty 2.4-liter four-cylinder to a powerful 3.6-liter V6.

It only gets 16 miles per gallon in town, according to the federal government.

It only gets 16 miles per gallon in town, according to the federal government.

Saturn Vue XR (2008) - enlarge

Acceleration with the biggest engine is almost V8-like. On the downside, so is its gas mileage. It only gets 16 miles per gallon in town, according to the federal government.

Another drawback is the high...

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