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Saturn Vue gets more power for 2004

November 14, 2003|by JASON STEIN/Wheelbase Communications

The Vue's familiar shape is about to become a lot more recognizable for 2004.

That's because Saturn is embarking on a new mission of reeling in youthful buyers who crave performance as well as the no-haggle buying experience.

Introduced in 2002, the Vue was a late arrival to the entry-level crop of sport-utility vehicles that are noticeably smaller, more fuel-efficient and less robust than their larger - and usually sturdier - relatives.

Fortunately, growth in the small-ute category shows no signs of flattening anytime soon, and the Vue has quickly established itself against the Toyota Rav-4, Ford Escape, Jeep Liberty, Honda CR-V and Hyundai Santa Fe, to name a few.

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For 2004, the Vue is about to challenge for category supremacy.

In the past, the words "performance" and "Saturn" have never been synonymous. This General Motors Tennessee-based offshoot has earned its stripes by treating buyers with a chummy degree of respect and - with its plastic composite body panels - appealing to rust-belt dwellers. But no one would ever confuse the company with its competitors that sell the kind of tire-squealing, road hugging cars that cater to the enthusiast crowd.

Until now, that is.

The five-passenger Vue will be available with what Saturn calls its Red Line package (pictured) that includes a performance-tuned suspension and steering, ground-effects body kit, and 50-series Bridgestone Turanza tires mounted on 18-inch alloy wheels.

And just in case you're thinking the Red Line version of the Vue is nothing more than pretty-boy add-ons, Saturn also includes a 3.5-liter SOHC V-6 that produces 250 horsepower and 242 lb.-ft. of torque. The new Honda-derived engine, which is matched to a five-speed automatic transmission, replaces last year's 181-horse 3.0-liter V-6 that was an option.

According to Saturn, the Red Line will hit 60 mph in around seven seconds, making it one of the more lively performers in its class. The 3.5 will also be available on non-Red Line models as an upgrade for the base 143-horsepower, 2.2-liter DOHC four-cylinder powerplant. As was the case last year, the four-cylinder is available with a five-speed manual transmission or optional continuously variable unit.

All models can be specified with two- or all-wheel drive.

Other '04 Vue upgrades consist of a larger fuel tank, extra sound-deadening material and three new available sound-system options, all with MP3-file compatibility.

A DVD player has also been added to the option sheet along with a seat comfort package that includes six-way power for the driver, heated front buckets and adjustable lumbar support.

Additionally, all AWD V-6 Vues get dark-tinted liftgate glass and 17-inch aluminum wheels.

For a more personalized machine, Saturn carries more than 40 dealer-installed custom accessories for the Vue, which means you won't have to hit all the aftermarket parts stores shopping for add-ons that make you stand out in a crowd.

The Red Line Vue will join a similarly branded Ion quad coupe (a 200-horsepower supercharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder will come in that version) later in the model year.

Both should make a huge difference in the public's perception of the Saturn and will certainly capture the full and undivided attention of the import-oriented "tuner" crowd as well as anyone searching for style and sizzle wrapped up in a practical package.




© 2003, Wheelbase Communications

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