2008 Saturn OUTLOOK
2008 Saturn OUTLOOK Expert Review:Autoblog
Click on the photo for a high res gallery of the Saturn Outlook
By coincidence it turned out Alex and I were both scheduled to spend some time with a new Saturn Outlook at about the same time. Alex is working on a full review, so I'll try and give a more succinct take for a change. The Outlook is the diametrical opposite of the original Saturn S-Series weighing in at 5,000 lbs in all-wheel drive form. The new full-size crossover shares it's full-sized Lambda platform with with the GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave.
Each one has it's own unique look and the Saturn has particularly attractive proportions. In photos it looks much smaller than it is, having the style of mid-sized station wagon. If the Outlook body was scaled down to fit on the mid-sized Aura platform it would make an excellent complement to the sedan. It's only when you walk up to the Outlook and it's siblings that you begin to realize that it's within an inch or two of the Tahoe/Yukon in all major dimensions.
Read more of my impressions of the Outlook after the jump
After spending a week with the Aura, stepping up to the Outlook was a bit of a shock. This thing is huge. While the Aura is fairly low slung, you sit up high in the Outlook. The Aura seat wraps around and holds you snugly in place while the Outlook seats are broad and flat. The leather covering the seats does feel good but if you were to corner aggressively you would be looking for something to brace yourself against. Fortunately this kind of behavior probably won't be an issue very often in this high riding crossover.
The interior is easy on the eye and controls fall easily to hand. There are plenty of storage spaces including a good sized bin in the middle of the dash above the center stack. The materials all look high quality, but like the Escape hybrid, only the surfaces you regularly touch such as the armrests are padded. Other surfaces like the dashboard are hard plastic, although they are textured. As with the Escape, it's there if you look for it, but since you don't commonly touch those surfaces it's a cost saver that doesn't have much real negative impact. Another contrast to the Aura is the too-skinny steering wheel although it's not really out of place in this type of vehicle.
Out back behind the third row, there is an extra plastic storage bin under the floor for stashing items you want to keep out of view, or wet towels and bathing suits after a day at the pool or beach. On the left side of the cargo area there was an ill-fitting panel that refused to stay in place throughout the test. The test unit was equipped with the convenience package that includes a power liftgate that also behaved erratically. It often took several presses of the button on the key fob to get the gate to open or close.
The riders in the back two rows get to take advantage of a rear seat DVD entertainment system. Since my twelve-year-old son will probably never get to experience a real drive-in theater, he popped up a bowl of popcorn, put in Little Miss Sunshine, climbed into the back row with the wireless headphones that are included and had a driveway drive-in experience. Another nice entertainment feature is audio/video inputs at the back of the center console that allow you plug in other devices like a video iPod.
As someone who doesn't particularly like trucks, driving the Outlook is not my preferred mode of transportation. It weighs two and a half tons and it feels like it. The ride quality from the four wheel independent suspension and stiff body is definitely more carlike than traditional body-on-frame trucks and it absorbs bumps without creaking or floating around but the steering feels kind of dead. Compared to driving either the Aura or the Escape hybrid the Outlook feels as large and heavy as it is.
All that weight has another price, a thirst for gasoline. If there is any vehicle in the GM lineup that needs the new two-mode hybrid system more than the Tahoe, it's the Outlook and it's siblings. In a week of mixed driving I racked up 420 miles and the truck drank gasoline at the rate of 16.9mpg. The hybrid drivetrain would be a good complement to the smooth, high revving 3.6 V-6 and would help to get the mileage up into the low twenties.
At a price of $39,105 as tested, the Outlook isn't cheap but it's good looking transport for up to eight. Having said that, the new Hyundai Veracruz is similarly powered with at least 600 lbs less mass to haul around, and a price tag that starts at just over $27,000. And Hyundai has an amazing warranty and great quality ratings. If you're looking for a crossover with three rows of seats there is certainly no shortage of options to choose from and plenty more coming in the next year or two.
New Car Test Drive
Comfortable crossover SUV seats eight.
The Saturn Outlook is a smooth-riding crossover SUV with a powerful 3.6-liter V6 engine and a smooth six-speed transmission. It seats up to eight. It comes standard with front-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive is available for more stability in foul weather.
Called a crossover because it straddles the line between car and truck, the Outlook offers the passenger and cargo capacity of a big SUV, but ride quality and fuel economy more like that of a car. While a Chevy Tahoe is built on a pickup truck platform, the Outlook is built with a unit-body chassis like that of a car. As a result, it offers a smoother ride and nimbler handling. And because its structure is much lighter than that of a truck (by about 800 pounds), it gets much better fuel economy.
Outlook is only one inch shorter than the Tahoe, but offers much more legroom in the third row, thanks to its front-wheel-drive layout, as well as its long wheelbase with short overhangs and wide track.
Outlook gets an EPA-rated 16/24 miles per gallon City/Highway with front-wheel drive and 16/22 mpg with all-wheel drive. That's significantly better than what many truck-based SUVs get.
We found the Outlook offers good acceleration performance, its transmission is smooth and its ride is solid and comfortable. The Outlook benefits from GM's latest 3.6-liter V6 engine with variable valve timing; it's rated at 270 horsepower in the XE and 275 horsepower in the XR, thanks to its dual exhaust. Its six-speed automatic transmission provides good flexibility for good fuel efficiency and responsive performance.
The interior shows attention to detail, and the standard cloth seats are of a high quality and look stylish even in gray or black.
All the latest safety bits come as standard equipment, including large curtain airbags that protect the outboard passengers in all three rows of seating.
For 2008, there are few changes. XM Satellite Radio is standard equipment and a 115-volt power outlet is available to provide house current for accessories. Also, a back-up camera is available that displays an image of what's behind the vehicle whenever the driver shifts into reverse, an excellent safety feature for its ability to help the driver spot small children.
The 2008 Saturn Outlook comes in two models, XE and XR. Front-wheel-drive comes standard, all-wheel drive is optional ($2000).
Outlook XE ($29,360) comes with cloth upholstery, air conditioning, eight-passenger seating, cruise control, power locks, power windows, keyless entry, OnStar for one year, driver information center, XM Satellite Radio for one year, AM/FM/CD/MP3 with six speakers, 18-inch painted alloy wheels.
Outlook XR ($31,770) upgrades with dual-zone automatic climate control, wood grain interior trim, power driver's seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass, universal garage door opener, 18-inch machined alloy wheels, foglights. Options include leather-trimmed seats for the first two rows with heated front seats ($1275), and a navigation system ($2145).
Options for both models include a 10-speaker sound system ($880), HID headlamps ($500), captain's chairs with center console for the second row ($495), Preferred Package ($505) including power adjustable driver's seat and chrome roof rails, Trailering Package ($425) including heavy-duty engine cooling system, harness and hitch, DVD entertainment system ($1295), sunroof ($1300), 19-inch chrome wheels ($2029), crossbars for the roof rails ($213), remote starter ($235). Also available: a power liftgate and rearview back-up camera.
Safety equipment on both models includes the dual-stage frontal airbags, side-impact airbags in front, full-length side curtain airbags, tire pressure monitor, ABS, and StabiliTrak electronic stability control. The optional rearview camera enhances safety when backing up. All-wheel drive improves safety in wintry conditions. The Outlook has earned a five-star crash rating from NHTSA.
Saturn calls the Outlook a mid-size SUV, but it's bigger than most mid-size SUVs and just slightly shorter than a Chevy Tahoe full-size SUV.
The Outlook looks sleek and modern, certainly by SUV standards, though it doesn't have the boldness of the Ford Edge.
The grille with a wide chrome bar and Saturn logo proudly announces itself, and stands out against a black background. The black air dam at the bottom slices a rigid horizontal line across the chin, and its contrast against the body color makes the fascia look like the edge of a cliff. Large trapezoidal openings for the foglamps look like wicked eyes a cartoonist might draw, and above them the similar-shaped headlamps fill the corners of the car; foglamps are unavailable on the XE, leaving big black holes there. A character groove down the center of the hood finishes it all off. In short, the Outlook presents a good-looking face.
From the side, the nose is conspicuously short and rounded. The styling invites the eye rearward, as the roof sweeps straight back and appears as a thin sliver at its trailing edge. The dark rear glass takes over, wrapping around about 40 percent of the vehicle, finally stopped by a wide sloping C-pillar. The fender flares are fat, and the six-spoke alloy wheels are clean and unpretentious, with six beefy lugs in the hub.
At the rear, the Outlook loses some of its style. The black dam matches the front, making the SUV look like it has super high ground clearance. The taillights are ordinary, and the chrome over the license plate doesn't add anything. We find the look of the XE with its body-colored trim cleaner than the XR with its chromed door handles and roof rails.
The Saturn Outlook features eight-passenger seating, and third-row seating is relatively generous. Measured against the Tahoe, a full-size SUV of similar length, the Outlook offers 33.2 inches of third-row legroom versus the Tahoe's skimpy 25.4 inches. The 2008 Honda Pilot has 30.2 inches. We put a 6-foot, 3-inch fellow in the Outlook's third row, and he said it was fine.
Second-row legroom is less generous: Outlook offers 36.9 inches while Tahoe has 39.0, and the 2008 Honda Pilot has 37.4.
The second-row seat slides rearward, however, providing more legroom when the third row is unoccupied or when kids in back are small enough that you can get away with squishing them a little.
So this legroom thing is a bit complicated. When we add the legroom of the second and third rows together, the Outlook wins with 70.1 inches, compared with Tahoe's 64.3 and Pilot's 67.6.
Getting into the Outlook is very easy, especially considering it doesn't have sliding doors. Access to the third row is much easier than in most vehicles, thanks to a design called Smart Slide. Using a massive lever on the either side of the 60/40 split seat, each side of the second row slides way forward on rails, and then the seatback tilts until it touches the back of the front seat. It's an easy one-handed operation, opening a wide path to the third row. Smart Slide is also a feature of the optional captain's chairs.
Cargo capacity with both rows folded is 116.9 cubic feet. With the third row in place it's 68.9 cubic feet, and behind the third row it's 19.7 cubic feet. Those are healthy numbers. The third row easily folds flat, from either the second row or through the liftgate.
The rest of the Outlook interior is aces. Our XR test model had the standard cloth interior, in black, and it was comfortable and classy. We really liked the XE cloth, though the leather-wrapped steering wheel in the XR is sweet. The wood trim in the XR is way prettier than that in GM's past, and the analog instruments are tidy. All the other things are present, and right. There are cup holders galore, a deep console compartment, DC and 115-volt AC outlets.
The center stack is attractive with nice climate controls. Separate HVAC controls are provided for the second row on the back of the console between the seats.
The Saturn Outlook offers a nice ride and it feels stable on the road. To gain interior space, the Outlook uses a long wheelbase with short overhangs as well as a wide track. Pushing the four wheels out to the corners like that also results in a better ride and more stability on the road. The overall weight of 4,700 pounds contributes to that smooth ride, though that weight pales in comparison to that of a 5500-pound Tahoe.
The 3.6-liter engine handles the weight, with 275 horsepower and 251 pound-feet of torque. That torque peaks at a conveniently low 3200 rpm, so the acceleration happens early. While never felt the need for more power. The acceleration was always there, and at 80 miles per hour it felt very smooth and extremely quiet.
Fuel economy compares easily beats that of traditional SUVs and compares well to smaller crossover SUVs. The Outlook's EPA-rated 16/24 mpg City/Highway (16/22 mpg with all-wheel drive) is comparable to that of the Ford Edge with its similar and comparable V6, but the Edge is smaller and only seats five.
Steering and handling is above averagefor a vehicle this size, a benefit of its car-like structure.
The six-speed automatic works well and usually left it in Drive. However, a button on the side of the shift knob can be pressed with your thumb for manual shifting when driving in changing terrain or in traffic. We enjoyed using the manual feature and liked the tight gear changes.
The all-wheel-drive system sends 60 percent of the power to the front wheels and 40 percent to the rear on dry pavement, and adjusts that ratio when the sensors detect slipping. That 60-40 split is more balanced than most; some systems are heavily balanced to the front, some as much as 95-5. The Outlook's system is better balanced than those.
It's not uncommon to detect a difference in the ride, between a front-wheel- drive and all-wheel-drive version of the same vehicle, and it's usually the front-wheel- drive that's smoother. In this case, we think the front suspension of the AWD model felt tighter and less jouncy, firmer and more comfortable at the same time. That contributed to the good handling.
The Saturn Outlook is an attractive and practical vehicles that seats eight people more comfortably than most. Its legroom and Smart Slide feature makes entry to the third row a snap. It gets much better fuel economy than a comparable truck-based SUV yet its V6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission deliver responsive acceleration performance.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Sam Moses filed this report from Southern California.
Saturn Outlook XE ($29,360); Outlook XR ($31,770).
Options As Tested
all-wheel drive ($2000).
Saturn Outlook XR AWD ($31,770).
*The data and content on this web site is subject to change without notice. Neither AOL nor any of its data or content providers shall be liable for errors in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.
FIND A GREAT USED CAR
Great Auto Loan Rates
Low Rates on New and Used AutosPowered By Apply In One Easy Step »