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GREENLINING

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 Thu, Oct 2, 2008

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

THE VUE IN MALIBU By Tommy Grafman

I took a couple of days off from my normal everyday life and decided to hang out with my old publisher and close friend Barry, who lives in Malibu. I just happened to be driving the 2008 Saturn Vue hybrid (part of the Saturn Green line, including the Aura). Being green is a big part of the Malibu community. The Vue has a striking look. It combines stylish compact SUV looks, with some mean and aggressive lines. Driving this car a couple of days in Malibu is a great test to see how it fits in this high-rent, high-class city on the beach.

When I show up at Barry's home at the top of Latigo Canyon, he greets me with compliments about the design of the new Vue (mind you, Barry owns a Mercedes S500 Grand Edition and a Maserati Quattroporte Executive GT). The high style extends to the interior of the Vue, but it's designed for simplistically and ease at your fingertips. The audio and cruise controls on the steering wheel, the thumb-controlled manual gear switch, and the easy-to-read and visually pleasing instrument cluster all contribute to the sense of ease. The seats are not plush (they appear to be constructed with durability in mind), but still they feel better than most other compact SUVs in the same class. The car is spacious and comfortable, not cramped. We both note how easy it is to get in and out of the Vue. Driving up and down Latigo Canyon is not for the faint or weak-hearted. With twisted winding roads and steep inclines on the mountain sides, both driver and car have to be in control. The Vue handles the downhill perfectly, with no braking or stability issues. Going back up is another matter. The Vue Hybrid is built for fuel economy, not power. Hence, heading up a mountain with steep angles and curves proves that the Vue needs a bit more brawn to match its brains.

Driving onto the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) with "Malibu" Barry, the Vue is a star of the road. Looking around, we see people noticing and admiring the car (either that, or they were admiring me). We like the view looking out from the interior as much as we like the exterior looking in. We finally make it to the market in the Malibu Colony, and the Vue reveals itself to have a superb turning radius - great for slipping into tight parking slots. We slot into a space between a BMW and an Audi - and the Saturn's style seems to fit right in. It's hard to imagine, but yes, a Saturn. With our carts full, we proceed back to the car. There's an elderly gentleman looking closely at the Vue. Barry and I start to load the bags in the back of the Vue with more than enough room. The gentleman finally gets the nerve to inquire about the car. "It's a Saturn Vue hybrid." He's shocked. "A Saturn?" He keeps admiring the car. Closing up the car, Barry and I had to put the carts back. As I look over my shoulder, the gentleman is still admiring the car. "Would you like to have a seat inside and check the Vue out" He response like a kid in a candy store.

The gentleman started asking my questions about the Vue. "What mileage does it get?" (25 in the city and 32 on the highway.) How's it drive and handle?" (Amazing!) Then he asked me "how much?" (About twenty-five thousand.) His eyes went wide with surprise, followed by apparent anger. It turns out he spent more than ten thousand dollars more on his Toyota Highlander Hybrid, and that the Vue was much better looking, and he wouldn't feel so guilty having this and his Maserati. It was then Barry says, "Oh, you own a Maserati too?" They proceed to talk endlessly about their Maseratis, completely ignoring me until I yell, "Does everyone in Malibu Own a Maserati? Or just really old guys?" Onward up the canyon we check out the local scenery. Evidently, some of the locals have more custom work done on their bodies than the cars in the lot - and cost twice as much. Over the course of the weekend, we drive the Vue all over Malibu. It feels great to pass the gas stations, and just keep on going. Adding to the pleasure, the Vue Hybrid has an "Eco light" on the gage cluster to let you optimize the operation for maximum fuel efficiency. In summary, the Saturn Vue Hybrid blends great looks with great gas mileage. It's just about the most stylish compact SUV on the market. Hip enough to fit in Malibu and fuel efficient enough to get a nod from the green people. Hybrid technology is always changing and improving, and this second-generation Green Line Hybrid impresses. I can't wait to see what's next from Saturn.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT The Saturn Vue Green Line Hybrid proves that your car doesn't have to look like a space ship to get great gas mileage and help save the earth. For more information about Saturn products, go to www.saturn.com. SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2008 Saturn Vue Green Line Hybrid Price: $26,955 EPA mileage: 25 mpg/city, 32 mpg/highway Engine type: The Vue Green Line models are equipped with the 2.4L Ecotec with variable valve timing that produces an estimated 172 horsepower (126 kW)* and 161 lb.-ft. of torque (218 Nm), combined with a GM hybrid system consisting of a motor/generator using a NiMH battery pack with 14.5 battery pack peak power Transmission: Hydra-Matic 4T45, four-speed, electronically controlled transaxle. Drive configuration: front engine/front wheel drive Front suspension: Independent strut suspension with stabilizer bar and coil springs, Rear suspension: Independent trailing arm suspension with stabilizer bar and coil springs Brakes: Four-wheel disc with ABS, electronic traction control via ABS & engine management Overall length: 180.1 inches Overall width: 72.8 inches Overall height: 67.0 inches Curb weight: 4,325 pounds

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