division's entry into the compact sport utility vehicle
market. The Saturn SUV
concept was first announced to the world in mid 2000, pre-production models were on disply in October of 2000 at the South Florida International Auto Show
, and in November of 2000, the new SUV
had a name, the VUE. Better late than never, the VUE has finally been released in Q1 of 2002, well after its original launch date of November 2001.
The VUE shares many features with its older siblings, the Saturn S-Series and the Saturn L-Series. It is constructed of a steel Spaceframe surrounded by dent-resistant polymer body panels. The VUE is available for 2002 in three configurations: The FWD4 (Front Wheel Drive with the Saturn 2.2l 4-cylinder engine), The AWD4 (In-demand All Wheel Drive 2.2l 4-cylinder engine), and the AWD V6 (In-demand All Wheel Drive 3.0l V-6 engine).
The AWD system in the VUE is primarily used for in-demand traction control. The AWD is not a driver controllable function. To make up for the lack of AWD in the FWD4, Saturn has a traction control option that is installed with the purchase of anti-lock brakes. All models are available with ABS, but only the FWD4 has the non-AWD traction control system.
The VUE will be available with a rather unique option that most car buyers will have never heard of. Saturn calls this option the VTi, the Variable Transmission. This type of transmission is very different from most all transmissions used in motor vehicles today. The VTi is a type of Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). Rather than having a set of gears with fixed ratios, the VTi uses a complex system of belts and pulleys to constantly adjust the gear ratio for optimum performance. No matter the driving condition, the VTi will operate very efficiently, ridding the VUE of a transmission that "hunts" for the appropriate gear by upshifting and downshifting.
The FWD4 comes standard with a 5-speed manual transmission and is available with the VTi. The AWD4 comes standard with the VTi. The AWD V6 is only available with a 5-speed automatic transmission.
The two available powerplants for the VUE have been available in the Saturn L-Series sedans and wagons for some time. The 2.2l 4-cylinder is a 16 Valve, Dual Overhead Cam engine. It produces 143 Horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 152 ftlbs of Torque at 4,000 rpm. The 3.0l V-6 is a 24 Valve, Dual Overhead Cam engine. It produces 181 Horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 195 ftlbs of Torque at 4,000 rpm.
Saturn's VUE also uses a different type of steering mechanism to aide in the act of steering. The system, known as Electric-power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering, uses a network of electric motors and speed sensors to determine the amount of steering assist required. At low speeds, the mechanism assists steering more so than it does at high speeds. Saturn decided to use this system because traditional steering assist systems relied on using power from mechanical pumps powered by the engine. Using an electrically assisted system allows more engine power to be sent to the drivetrain.
The VUE is built on General Motors' new Theta platform. This platform is slated to be used by Chevrolet for the 2004 Chevy Tracker. It is rumored that the Theta platform will also be used to introduce a light truck or a minivan touting the Saturn logo.