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TAKE THE GREEN LINE

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Apr 29, 2007

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

© All photos by Harvey Schwartz

TAKE THE GREEN LINE By HARVEY SCHWARTZ

The all-new 2007 Saturn VUE Green Line is GM's first foray into the booming hybrid powered segment of the auto industry. Dominated by Toyota and Honda, the Saturn entry is smartly styled with signature Saturn looks and body panels made from sheet molded plastic for durability and less weight. The interior is comfortable, well equipped, very versatile, and functional, like a regular gasoline engine sport utility vehicle. What the Saturn VUE Green Line has up its sleeve is a less expensive entry price, and a simpler operating hybrid system. This lower price will enable Saturn to offer the benefits of a hybrid power system to a wider group of consumers.

Fuel mileage specs are 27 miles per gallon in the city and 32 mpg on the highway - one of the highest ratings. Moreover, the Vue's hybrid system costs less than $2,000.00 over a base gasoline engine driven model, enabling the full vehicle price to start at less than $23,000.00. The Saturn VUE Green Line uses sophisticated controls and a unique electric motor/generator mated to a 2.4 liter VVT four-cylinder engine mated to a 4T65-E four-speed automatic transmission turning the front wheels. It is a simple and flexible hybrid design that provides additional power from the motor/generator during acceleration, and allows increased fuel economy up to 20 percent higher than the VUE's regular gasoline sport utility. VUE Green Line's innovative 2.4 liter hybrid powertrain is rated at 170 horsepower - a powerful increase from the 143 horsepower provided by the 2.2 liter engine in the gasoline driven model. This increase in power is needed when loaded and gives the VUE Green Line a sportier feel with brisker acceleration, equal to or better than many non-hybrid sport utility vehicles.

The VUE's hybrid system reduces fuel consumption by shutting off the engine when the vehicle is stopped (to minimize idling), restarts the engine immediately when the brake pedal is released, enables early fuel shut-off during vehicle deceleration and capturing the vehicle's kinetic energy to charge the advanced nickel metal hydride batteries, and performing intelligent battery charging when it is most efficient. Additionally, the system provides additional power from the electric motor/generator during launch, when required. At wide-open throttle, such as during a passing maneuver, the system improves acceleration feel by using the motor/generator to bolster the gasoline engine to achieve maximum power. You can monitor the system working in the tachometer which has a 'Stop' and Auto Stop' notch, which shows when the vehicle is turned off and when the engine stops during idle at a red lights or in heavy traffic. To the right is a gauge that shows when you are charging or when the electric motor is assisting with its power. The new hybrid system is also designed to automatically maintain full accessory functionality, including climate control, when the vehicle is stopped, so that hybrid operation is transparent to you and your passengers. The VUE hybrid allows an appropriate balance between fuel economy and comfort by providing a system with two driver-selectable operating modes. An economy mode favors fuel economy by limiting the affect of the AC, while the other mode favors maximum passenger comfort and defogging performance.

I liked this new 'Soft Hybrid' system from GM. This hybrid system is termed 'soft' because you never drive in full electric power like the system from Toyota, which is termed a full hybrid system. This is just as efficient returning much better fuel mileage in traffic and when cruising yet cost only about $2,000.00 more over the cost of a regular gasoline driven sport utility vehicle. Other than the engine, the new Green Line is the same outside and inside. The styling is signature Saturn cues including the weight saving and durable polymer front fenders, door panels, rear quarter panels, and bumpers. The only steel is found in the hood, roof and liftgate for collision protection. I enjoyed the ride thanks to the independent front and rear suspension that flattened the curves and took the bumps out of poorly paved roads. I was disappointed by the over-boosted, electric-power-assisted rack and pinion steering system. It was a little vague at higher speeds on the freeways. The power-assisted brakes stopped the VUE when needed, but I would still like to see steel disc brakes in the rear to replace the out-dated drums. Standard traction control and ABS did a good job of keeping me in control during hard braking and when driving over slick pavement. The 16X6.5 wheels and 215/70R16 all-season tires provided good traction and a smooth, quite ride.

The interior is roomy and comfortable as any small sport utility. The front bucket seats are generous for added comfort, the unique instrument cluster is easy to see and understand. The center stack nicely divides the front section and has easy to use switches, dials and buttons. All controls are within easy reach and fully illuminated. The rear seat is split 70/30 percent and the front seat back folds forward to increase the cargo carrying capability and function. Rear tie-down rings keep everything from moving around when on the road. It can tow up to 1,500 pounds. The all-new Saturn VUE Green Line comes well equipped with power windows/door locks, radio auxiliary jack, steering wheel audio and cruise control buttons, auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass direction and outside temperature readouts, dual map lamps, three 12-volt power plugs, foldaway rear cargo organizer and remote keyless entry. Standard safety features include dual front airbags, daytime running lights, front seat belt pretensioners/load limiters, front/rear crush zones, side door impact beams, child safety rear door locks, rear window defroster/wiper/washer, battery rundown protection, and a theft deterrent system. For the money, the new Hybrid VUE from Saturn is a great bargain. For just $22,370.00, you get a very nicely styled sport utility with better than expected power, a smooth ride, exceptional gas mileage, with the interior space and comfort that has made sport utility vehicles so popular for over 10-years.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT A money-saving hybrid from start to finish. For more information on Saturn products, go to www.saturn.com. More photos from Harvey Schwartz can be found at www.autofotos.com © Words and pictures by Harvey Schwartz

SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2007 Saturn Vue Green Line Hybrid Price: $22,370.00 Engine type: Hybrid System with a 2.4 liter all-aluminum, DOHC, inline 4-cylinder making 170 hp and 162 lb-ft. of torque, combined with a GM hybrid system consisting of a motor/generator with 115 hp and 156 lb-ft. of torque using a NiMH battery pack with 14.5 battery pack peak power (kW) EPA mileage: 27mpg/city, 32mpg/highway Drive configuration: front engine/front wheel drive Transmission type: GM Hydra-Matic 4T65 4-speed automatic transmission Front suspension: Independent, strut-type with coil springs, anti-roll bar Rear suspension: Independent, trailing arm with three lateral locating links, anti-roll bar and coil springs Wheels/tires: 16X6.5. machine aluminum wheels, P215/70R16 all-season radial tires Brakes: Front: 11.7-in. vented disc, twin-piston calipers Rear: 9.8-in. vented drum ABS and Brake Assist standard Overall length: 181.3 in. Overall width: 71.6 in. Overall height: 65.3 in. Curb weight: 3,474 lbs.

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