Outlook brings new SUV spice to Saturn lineup

September 15, 2006|by MALCOLM GUNN / Wheelbase Communications

Variety has always been the spice of life, but that old adage takes on a whole new meaning now that the Outlook has been added to the Saturn fold.

This wagon/sport-utility-vehicle cross joins the German-based Aura sedan and sporty Sky roadster as the company's new kids on the block, providing a surge of choices for fans of this General Motors division.

The 2007 Outlook is actually one of a trio of wagon-like sport-utility vehicles from GM. It joins the similarly sized and featured '07 GMC Acadia and the Buick Enclave that's scheduled to appear next year. All share the same basic platform, all are available in front- or all-wheel drive and offer upscale looks and features, not to mention three-row seating.

The Outlook and its siblings point the way to a new and growing segment that combines the best features of sport-utility vehicles (including all-wheel-drive capability) with the passenger- and cargo-friendly roominess of traditional minivans.


Making the resulting shape more wagon-oriented seems to have inspired the designers to loftier heights of creativity. For example, the Outlook displays a lower roofline and more steeply raked windshield than you might see in most off-road-class vehicles. You'll also notice a lower body aero kit, sculpted fender flares and aggressive, yet wind-cheating (and fuel-saving) front fascia that convey a strong sense of power and agility, attributes not normally associated with minivans.

Another Outlook advantage is a relatively low center of gravity, which tends to make the vehicle feel more stable in tight turns, compared with taller vehicles or off-road models with greater ground clearance. To further enhance security, the Outlook is equipped with front side-impact and side-curtain air bags that deploy if the built-in sensors determine that a rollover appears imminent. If this happens, the curtains stay inflated a little longer than in a "normal" side impact since the first impact in a rollover might not be the last.

The Outlook's interior is also a best-of-both-worlds scenario, with room for up to eight passengers (seven if the optional second-row high-back bucket seats are selected instead of the three-passenger bench) as well as cargo space aplenty when the 60/40 split second- and third-row seats are folded flat.

A 263-horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 arrives with the base XE, while the better-equipped XR has four more horsepower due to a more efficient exhaust system. Both versions are connected to six-speed automatic transmissions.

The powerful motor will come in handy for those who use the Outlook for towing since it can be hitched to up to 4,500 pounds of trailer weight.

Both models arrive well-equipped, but items such as leather seats, backup sensor, power liftgate, 19-inch wheels and DVD entertainment and navigation systems are optional.

Saturn, however, does include a one-year subscription to its latest version of OnStar, GM's on-call travel advisor, which will, for 2007, provide turn-by-turn voice commands given by a real live human being who will help guide you to your destination.

With Saturn leading the way, General Motors appears to be on the leading edge of the latest personal transportation trend, one that delivers plenty of style, space and performance.

Spice of life? The Outlook beats bland, lukewarm leftovers any day.

Copyright 2006, Wheelbase Communications

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