Saturn Outlook:

2009 Ford Flex vs. 2008 Buick Enclave – On the Road Comparison

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We have now driven all three General Motors Lambda Crossover SUVs on the market and the all-new Ford Flex Crossover SUV. While we have had a week apiece in the Saturn Outlook, GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave, we’ll use the Enclave as the comparison vehicle because it is most recent.

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Chevrolet Traverse: A Modern Large SUV For America's Family Brand

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Editor’s Note: Traverse may be the most significant new vehicle at the Chicago Auto Show. The highest volume of the four General Motors Lambda Large Crossover SUVs, Traverse pickups the positive styling cues of the Enclave’s haunches and adds Chevrolet’s front end styling. GM design definitely did not dumb down the styling of the Traverse. With the Buick so fully-featured and having loads of special enhancements to handle noise vibration and harshness, hopefully Traverse gets more than its fair share.

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Chevrolet‘s 2008 Chicago auto show star, the Traverse, is the brand’s answer to changing consumer demands, as buyers gravitate toward car-based SUVs and more and more prioritize fuel efficiency over SUV image. If you need the towing or off-road capability of a traditional truck-based SUV, Chevy will still offer Tahoe, Suburban, and Avalanche. If you need a comfortable, stylish, and relatively efficient non-minivan family car, Chevy will offer the Traverse late in 2008. The Traverse Vehicle Line Executive enlisted the help of her four kids and husband in introducing the vehicle, proving the people and stuff-hauling benefits of Traverse. Chevrolet will eventually give up on the mid-size, truck-based TrailBlazer, as buyers are already doing.
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Based on the same platform as the Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia, and Saturn Outlook, the Traverse is quite large. It offers a longer wheelbase than the latest Tahoe and is wider and nearly as long. The size pays off in plenty of space, but it feels small on the road, offers more in terms of family comfort, and is cheaper to fuel than TrailBlazer or Tahoe. Though GM never quite got competitive with minivans, Traverse will be a satisfying family product. The Traverse and its siblings are the right products at the right time. Still, while giving up the TrailBlazer for the Traverse was a bold move when the decision was taken, by time the Traverse arrives on market, Chevy doesn’t look so much brave as keeping up.
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No matter how it got here, Chevrolet is adding a good-looking product. The Traverse sports a clearly Chevrolet face and a profile more like the Enclave than Acadia and Outlook, to Chevrolet’s benefit. As a follow-up to the latest Malibu, Chevrolet is proving they are going to provide us with more stylish, as well as affordable and practical, family transportation going forward. With recent introductions of the Tahoe and Silverado hybrids, Corvette ZR1, and upcoming Camaro, there’s also no doubt Chevrolet will remain a full-line make and more dedicated to getting products right than ever before.


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2008 Buick Enclave – Top Line GM Lambda Crossover SUV

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General Motors has now completed the launch of its Lambda platform Large Crossover SUVs. The Lambda platform includes vehicles from Saturn – the Outlook, GMC – the Acadia (not ARcadia) and Buick – the Enclave). Eventually, a Chevrolet version will be added as well.
These are the landmark vehicles that represent the end of the classic body-on-frame V8 powered SUV. They are that good.
I just returned from a driving event for the recently introduced Buick Enclave in St. Louis, Missouri. When I got into the office there was a Saturn Outlook in the parking lot for the AutoPacific and VehicleVoice staff to evaluate. Great opportunity for a back to back comparison of two Lambda crossovers. This story will concentrate on the Enclave – a future story will showcase the Outlook.

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Buick Enclave – First Drive
First, lets talk about the Buick. This is a vehicle that I have been waiting to drive for two years now. I think I have been to three events where Enclave was a featured subject, but this was the first opportunity I have had to drive it. Why was I looking forward to the Enclave? From my perspective it is a good size, has expressive styling inside and out, and is an example of the latest General Motors platform architecture.
Was it what I was expecting? Yeah, I guess so. First, I had to calibrate myself to the fact that the Enclave is a BUICK and what General Motors was attempting to achieve when they developed the vehicle. They wanted a vehicle with Buick ambiance – expressive, upscale styling inside and out. They wanted a spacious crossover capable of seating seven or eight passengers in three rows of seats. It was to have excellent ergonomics and be very pleasant to drive. It was to be very quiet. Check the boxes and the Lambda design and development team appears to have achieved their objectives.
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2007 Saturn Outlook – Lambda Crossover SUV

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The Saturn Outlook is a large Crossover SUV based on the General Motors’ Lambda platform. The Lambda platform is shared with the Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia and also with an upcoming Chevrolet large Crossover.

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Has GM Nailed Crossover SUV Execution?
First, you might be asking “what is a Crossover SUV”? For years, we at VehicleVoice have been avoiding using the “crossover” word because, frankly, our research shows that consumers are not yet using the term widely. In our eyes, an SUV is an SUV is an SUV. Our chief industry oracle, Jim Hall, always referred to Crossovers as “mongrelhalfbreedbastards”. But, with vehicles like the Outlook hitting the market we’ve decided to use the Crossover moniker.
Basically, a Crossover SUV takes the basic SUV theme and civilizes it. SUV drivers have for decades been asking for more maneuverable, more economical, more easy to live with SUVs. Crossover SUVs are the answer and the GM Lambda vehicles are the latest examples of Crossover SUV design and execution. We think GM has pretty well nailed it.
Pricing Makes Outlook a Persuasive Proposition
The Saturn Outlook XR that we evaluated is a mid-priced model listing at about $33,250. When you check the boxes you really want – like all wheel drive and a navigation system the price slips over $41,000. When you check ALL the boxes and add a moonroof and rear seat entertainment system you can touch $45,000. For a Saturn!
While you might think that is a high price, the base, base, base price of the FWD Outlook XE (the lower model) is about $28,000 including destination. This puts it mid-way between the base price of a Ford Explorer and Expedition. Given that Outlook is about the size of a Chevrolet Tahoe – priced about $4,000 more with a V8, the Saturn looks like a good deal.


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2007 Chicago Auto Show: Saturn Astra

General Motors’ German Division Helps Out Their Domestic Import-Fighter
Saturn has been working with Opel to develop its latest products. This collaboration is helping to revive the Saturn brand with fresh styling and provide products with a strong, sophisticated personality. The Vue Crossover SUV, which was introduced at the 2007 Detroit show, is an Opel Antara wearing a Saturn badge. And Saturn’s replacement for the much-maligned Ion is an Opel Astra with a Saturn badge. Saturn’s Astra takes different front and rear bumpers, to meet North American bumper standards, but there is little else different between the two cars.
Partly because of this collaboration and the launch of the large Saturn Crossover SUV the Outlook, Saturn has one of the strongest growth prospects among “American” brands for the latter half of the decade.

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The Saturn Astra launches late in 2007, by which time the oldest vehicle in Saturn’s lineup will be the Sky. In a mere twenty months, Saturn will have revamped its entire range, all for the better. The division that had long been starved for product finally has a competitive, modern stable.
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Saturn is taking a bit of a risk with Astra, however, in that it is offered in only three- and five-door hatchback versions. There will be no sedan or quad coupe this time around, but as U.S. consumers have become more accepting of hatchbacks over the past couple of years the danger is less than it would have been earlier this century. The five-door will be offered in two trim levels, XE and XR, with the three-door only in XR trim and geared toward a more “enthusiastic” driver. Astra’s launch powertrain is a 140HP 1.8L four-cylinder, which gets a standard five-speed manual transmission and optional four-speed automatic. This powertrain is nothing special, but should hold its own among other compact cars.
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The Astra gets a terrific interior to go along with its stylish exterior. We got the chance to quickly get in and check out the car immediately after the reveal, and the feel and finish of the switchgear is very satisfying and a clear cut above Astra’s segment. As we’ve noted in other reviews, GM’s interior work and development is finally reaching customers. Saturn’s Astra looks, from our view, poised to be a star.
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First Drive: 2007 GMC Acadia

As anyone reading this VehicleVoice news section knows, GMC has an all-new crossover SUV. With Acadia, and its Saturn Outlook sibling, GM’s approach for innovative people-moving solutions still relies on a large basic vehicle. The package is well done, but the extra length GM had to work with versus true mid-size competitors helped make it possible. Acadia has the overall length of a Yukon or a long-wheelbase Chrysler Town & Country, about ten inches longer than the Envoy. With Acadia, GMC is targeting mid-size and crossover SUVs. In reality, they will pull buyers from the minivan set and full-size SUVs right along with buyers of the Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer, or Toyota Highlander.

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GMC invited VehicleVoice and AutoPacific along as they showed off their new baby to journalists along a four-hour drive from Palo Alto to Hollister, California, with a stop at Leal Vineyards (minus a wine tasting), and back again. The weather was spectacular, the roads varied and challenging, and the Acadia a comfortable and willing steed. We’ve also had the opportunity to drive the Saturn Outlook around our town, where it performed about the same as the Acadia around Palo Alto, but roads more challenging were added to the Acadia experience.
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The Acadia and Outlook are powered by the same 275HP 3.6L DOHC 24v V6 mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, with a self-shift feature operated by an up/down switch on the gearlever. There isn’t much difference between Acadia and Outlook suspensions. The engine was tuned for optimum torque and power response geared toward stronger low-end acceleration, enabling the 4720-pound front-drive (4925-pound AWD) Acadia the power to satisfy in its primarily urban jungle environment.


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A Three-Row Triple From GM: 2007 Saturn Outlook, 2007 GMC Acadia, 2008 Buick Enclave

General Motors is rolling out three new crossover SUVs that share an all-new, purpose-built platform. GM has called this platform Lambda for internal purposes. The Saturn Outlook and GMC Acadia are on sale now and the Buick Enclave arrives in summer 2007 as a 2008MY vehicle. These crossover SUVs are taking on not only traditional and crossover mid-size SUVs but also full-size SUVs and minivans due to their large size and dimensions (they are nearly as large as the Chevrolet Tahoe). They do not have the towing capability of truck-based SUVs, but do have the other attributes for which buyers go to SUVs, or minivans. They have high seating positions, available AWD, and interiors big enough to hold seven passengers or lots of stuff.
Following the roll-out of the Lambda crossover SUVs, General Motors will kill their conventional minivans (similar to Ford’s strategy of killing the Monterey and Freestar minivans). The Pontiac Montana SV6 is already history and its demise will be followed by the Chevrolet Uplander, Saturn Relay and Buick Terraza. Oh, yeah, Chevrolet will get a Lambda Crossover SUV in the next year or so as well.
AutoPacific and VehicleVoice analysts have been included in the reviews of these critically important General Motors vehicles.

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General Motors describes their current state as an interior renaissance, and these products are examples of smart interior thinking. They include a level of interior detail not before seen from the General. As these products were developed with a clean slate, new platform, new interiors, new powertrain, GM took the opportunity to make sure they will be easy to live with.
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The second- and third-row folding operations are simple and easy to use and the overall package is terrific. One could buy any one of these vehicles and spend the life of the vehicle discovering all the little things that will add up to a product that enhances and eases daily life. It’s taken GM a very long time to get to such a solid package design, but they have finally succeeded.


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GMC Acadia: The First Full-Size Crossover

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Back in April the Saturn Outlook was introduced at the 2006 New York Auto Show, and VehicleVoice contributors and AutoPacific staff brought you up to speed quickly (click here). Now we’ve got the chance to bring you the first look at its sibling, the GMC Acadia.

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Unveiled this week, the 2007 Acadia arrives at dealers later this year. Though GM could be said in some ways to be bringing a me-too car-based SUV to the market, as it arrives after the Chrysler Pacifica, Ford Freestyle, Mercedes-Benz R-Class, and Audi Q7, to name a few, the Acadia and Outlook offer seating for eight and a tow rating of 4500 pounds. Though the Acadia may be perceived as a mid-size SUV product, it in fact throws a shadow more near a full-size SUV like the GMC Yukon than a mid-size SUV like the GMC Envoy or the Pacifica. As Jim Hall, AutoPacific’s Vice President of Industry Analysis points out, the Acadia, and its Outlook sibling, is the first full-size crossover SUV.
While Acadia can’t tow as much as the truck-based GMC Yukon or Ford Expedition (both updated for 2007), it can carry more stuff and presumably will give a more comfortable riding experience. Perhaps most important for the real world, Acadia has more space even with the third row up than either car- or truck-based SUV competition. At 19.7 cubic feet behind the third row, Acadia has room for eight (depending on seating configuration) and room for their luggage. (Click here for by-the-numbers comparison of Acadia, Yukon, Expedition, R-Class, Pacifica, and Audi Q7.)
Acadia will be offered in front- or all-wheel-drive versions, with only one powertrain to choose. This is a 267HP 3.6L DOHC 24v V6 mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Though 267HP sounds good, the Acadia is large and heavy, with AWD models weighing in about 4900 pounds.


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Saturn Hopes Outlook Will Brighten Sales Outlook

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Saturn is Focused on Product
The 2007MY Outlook is an SUV/crossover vehicle that is one of the three new entries for the brand this model year. Clearly, Saturn is a major focus of General Motors’ product development efforts for 2007. The Saturn brand had become stagnant with mediocre products like the Ion, Vue and what was the name of that easily forgotten mid-size car. Even Saturn’s renowned sales experience could not make the brand desirable. Now, new products are on tap to save Saturn.
Though its name was confirmed in late 2005, Saturn’s new crossover was first unveiled at the 2006 New York auto show. Sales begin late in 2006, after a fourth-quarter production start. Buick showed its version as a concept ahead of the Saturn or the GMC Acadia, but the Buick Enclave will be the last to arrive. The Saturn and the GMC arrive for the 2007MY. These are the first examples of General Motors’ new Lambda architecture and promise to be a much needed success.

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With the Outlook and other new products on tap for the brand, Saturn has the opportunity to revive its image with an expanded lineup featuring some, if not all, exciting and aggressively (for Saturn) styled vehicles. Saturn is finally getting the products it needs, expanding its line up by three for the 2007MY with the Outlook, Sky convertible, and Aura sedan. The Sky is already on sale, though the 260HP Red Line version is new at New York. AutoPacific and VehicleVoice correspondents are here in New York to catch the reveal of these new Saturn products in person.
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Buick Shows Off its Enclave

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In this case, the Enclave is not really a country lying within the boundaries of the Buick, but the company’s preview of a vehicle to replace the Rendezvous crossover SUV (and Rainier?). Buick’s replacement for the Rendezvous moves to a new platform (the Lambda platform) and will carry the new Enclave name. The choice of “Enclave” demontrates how tough it is for any car company to identify catchy names for its vehicles.
The Enclave is due in early 2007 as a 2008 model-year vehicle and was shown at GM’s first press conference at the 2006 North American International Auto Show in January. VehicleVoice and AutoPacific correspondents were there to get the scoop. And while getting the scoop several agreed that the Enclave may, indeed, be the first Buick they would actually consider and that this Buick may actually appeal to other than geriatric buyers.
2006 Concept: The New Vision of Buick Style
The 2006 Enclave concept closely previews the vehicle, though it still offers a significant amount of concept eyewash. Unless there is too much confusion and laughter, Enclave is the name the product is due to wear in production. The Enclave concept focuses on furthering Buick’s luxury position, with a highly sculpted and detailed design. Buick describes the Enclave name as evoking images of style, luxury, and the privacy of a quiet, protected space. The style and luxury association with the word Enclave seems a bit of a stretch when compared with the definition of the word, but the Buick concept does succeed with demonstrating images of style and luxury.

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While the concept of the Enclave may be suspiciously similar to the Chrysler Pacifica, the Enclave styling is much more upscale and serious looking. Additionally, there is likely little risk that Enclave will be confused with a Minivan or station wagon.
The interpretation of the Buick grille is nicely proportioned to the rest of the nose, and moving the portholes from the fender to the hood gives them the appearance of being functional, whether they are or not. The chrome accents are nicely done and not overdone. Among the styling elements that are more concept than production is the way the front and rear fascias completely hug the twenty-one-inch wheels. More bumper would be needed for production, and it is unlikely twenty-one-inch wheels would be offered. The jewel-like headlights incorporate GM’s version of cornering headlights, and those will be included on the production car.
Note: All Enclaves will have portholes (Cadillac calls them “gills”). Six-cylinder vehicles will have three portholes per side while eight-cylinder vehicles will have four per side.


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