A Worthy Choice: Saturns First Midsize Suv

By: Evander Klum

The crossover segment has become hot recently and the automakers have outed several new models to keep up with the pace. Since there is a wide variety of models and makes to choose from, sometimes consumers now find themselves quite confused on which model to buy. Some models coming up include the 2007 Saturn Outlook and its close rival and near clone, the GMC Acadia. Along with the 2008 Buick Enclave (which arrived in the spring) and an upcoming Chevrolet version, the Saturn and GMC models will be replacing GM's entire lineup of conventional truck-based midsize SUVs, including Chevy TrailBlazer, GMC Envoy and Buick Rainier.

Last year was the first time that the sales on crossovers were able to outsell those of the truck-based SUVs. And, the vehicles among the segment rapidly gained the interest of the customers from both urban and suburban American community. Auto makers foresee that this trend will continue to flourish this year; that's why they are now setting aside plans for the likes of the Ford Explorer, the Dodge Durango and other GM models.

Customers are shifting to crossovers because it offers better fuel economy much more than the truck-based SUVs. Fuel economy has become a priority for custmers what with the soaring and unstable gasoline prices.

The Saturn Outlook and Vue, of which basically focused on the Saturn Outlook XR front-wheel-drive version and priced $29,555 plus $735 freight, provided the Saturn dealers their first midsize SUV. Setting the crossover as a priority more than the aging TrailBlazer platform, Saturn is said to be far more looking to the future.

As with the Outlook and Acadia, these models are closely compared since they are made on the same architecture and assembly line. However, they have their own uniqueness when it comes to styling cues and interior packages and it is where they are differentiated. Both the models are equipped with GM's 3.6 L V6 engine with variable valve timing. Such engine has been designed to provide optimum fuel economy as well as low emissions and "exceptional smoothness".

For the Outlook, two configurations of its engine are held available: "The entry-level XE model (base price &27,255 plus freight) comes with a single exhaust outlet," as what has been mentioned in seattlepi.com. Such engine could produce 263 hp and 244 ft-lb of torque.

When the XR was tested, the engine ratings climbed to 267 hp and 247 ft-lb of torque as a second exhaust outlet has been added. This makes the model same as with the Acadia. And, both have an engine that connects to a six-speed automatic transmission and both also offer either front- or all-wheel drive.

The XR version of the Outlook model has a starting price of $31,555, about $2,000 greater than the XE model with all-wheel drive.

Enhanced stability has been provided for the Outlook and Acadia as both have a long wheelbase with wide tracks. Both also come with a front suspension, including MacPherson struts, a stabilizer bar and aluminum steering knuckles. And, on the rear, a compact, linked "H" suspension design is significant.

Aside from being equipped with premium , the standard features provided for the Outlook and Acadia include power rack-and-pinion steering, GM's StabiliTrak electronic stability control system with anti-rollover technology, traction control, four-wheel anti-lock brakes, and OnStar navigation/communications system.

Safety features have also been provided. It includes tire-pressure monitoring system and six standard air bags (two dual-stage frontal air bags, two seat-mounted side-impact air bags in the first row and two roof rail air bags covering all three rows of seating).

Both Outlook and Acadia can tow trailers weighing a maximum of 4,500 lbs, when optionally equipped with towing package.

On the inside, adjustable seats have been provided along with the roomy space for the convenience of passengers together with children for the third row. They make a total of 177 cubic feet cabin space.

A convenience package is offered for XR model which provides additional standard items such as power tailgate, rear park assist, remote start, heated wiper fluid and a 155-volt power outlet.

All characteristics hold the GM models highly competitive as a rival for the Toyota Highlander and the Honda Pilot.

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