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2008 Saturn Vue

Redesigned just before the end of the Saturn line Add to ...

In 2008, when Saturn did a major redesign on the Vue, one of its more popular models, the end for the brand was just around the corner.

The Vue shared a platform with the Pontiac Torrent and Chevrolet Equinox and it came in two basic versions: XE and XR. There was also a Greenline hybrid version and a high-performance Red Line model.

Four drivetrains were offered. On the base XE front-drive model, you could get either GM's widely utilized Ecotec 2.4-litre cylinder or a 3.5-litre V-6. The XR, meanwhile, came with just one engine choice: a 3.6-litre V-6, and the Hybrid model featured a 2.4-litre four-cylinder with an electric motor.

You could see how buyers got confused. The 3.5-litre V-6 powerplant, for example, was used for years throughout GM's lineup and had 30 less horsepower than the 3.6-litre V-6, which had twin overhead camshafts and was more sophisticated and arguably one of GM's better engines. All things considered, used car buyers are advised to choose the larger of the two V-6 engines.

The Vue could be had with front-drive or all-wheel-drive and there were two transmission choices: four-speed and six-speed automatic. The former came with the base XE only and all other models were equipped with the six-speed. The AWD system featured a front-drive bias, but could redirect up to 80 per cent of engine torque to the appropriate wheels. This setup was not a down-and-dirty, off-road system, but more of a traction enhancer for adverse driving conditions.

Standard equipment level was comparatively high; 60/40-folding back seat, tilt steering, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, cruise control, power windows/door locks, air conditioning, engine block heater, four-wheel-disc brakes with ABS, electronic stability control system, tire pressure monitor, XM radio and on and on.

For those who wanted the full treatment, there was also a so-called Premium package, which included power heated seats, climate control system and heated mirrors.

The Vue wasn't the kind of vehicle that'd make your heart pound, but it was practical. Fold down the second row of seats and 1,540 litres of cargo volume was revealed, and the seats themselves laid down to form an almost perfectly flat rear deck. By way of comparison, this vintage of the Ford Escape had 1,877 litres and the Honda CRV 2,064 litres.

One other item of interest for this generation of Vue: it was all sheet-metal. Gone were the plastic body panels, in other words. According to some, that alone was a big improvement over its predecessors.

Two safety recalls to report from Transport Canada; one involves exterior door handles that may stick or bind, thus preventing the doors from closing properly, and the other has to do with a possibly leaky power steering pump, which, if not attended to, could lead to an engine fire.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also has a recall for a possibly flawed transmission casing in the six-speed automatic gearboxes. This could prevent the vehicle from staying in Park.

A hefty 49 technical service bulletins are on file with NHTSA for this vintage of the Vue. They range from low oil pressure issues, to reduced engine power, to incorrect information from the tire pressure monitoring system, to water collecting in the driver and passenger foot-well areas. The hybrid version of the Vue also has its share of separate TSBs and these involve various electrical gremlins, leaky alloy wheels and oil leaks.

As you might expect, Consumer Reports is less than thrilled with the 2008 Vue. It gives this edition a failing grade for predicted reliability, singling out the electrical and suspension systems as particularly troublesome. However, owners seem to be all over the map in terms of their driving experiences. "Can't figure out why Consumer Reports slams this vehicle," wonders one; "four cylinder has no pep," complains another, and "front seats not very comfortable," says another. Poor fuel economy seems to be a common complaint.

Market research firm J.D. Power, meanwhile, is on the fence. It gives the '08 Vue an average grade for predicted reliability, yet many areas of the vehicle get failing grades. Overall design quality, for example, appears to be inferior, as does overall mechanical quality, initial quality and overall performance. No real high points from this organization and no area of the Vue surpasses the "about average" mark.

These days, a three-year-old Vue goes for anywhere from the low teens to the low $20,000 range. The disparity between Black and Red Book value is striking, with the latter valuing a 2008 Vue at less than a third of what it cost new. The Hybrid version is substantially pricier than the base front-drive XE.

globedrive@globeandmail.com

2008 Saturn Vue

Original Base Price: $26,990; Black Book Value: $14,050-$22,850; Red Book Value: $8,150-$11,550

Engine: 3.6-litre V-6/3.5-litre V-6/2.4-litre four-cylinder/2.4-litre four-cylinder with electric motor

Horsepower/Torque: 252 hp/241 lb-ft (3.6-litre V-6)

Transmission: Four- and six-speed automatic

Drive: Front- and all-wheel

Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 12.7 city/8.6 highway (3.6-litre V-6 FWD); regular gas

Alternatives: Ford Escape, Mazda Tribute, Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Nissan X-Trail, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento

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