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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.



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.

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.

A Useful, Comfortable Third Row
The Acadia, Outlook, and Enclave offer a third row and cargo area that functions well, an area GM has not been particularly successful with in the past. Also, kudos to GM for sharing where it is smart to share and differentiating where it matters. All three use the same second- and third-row setup and tricks, but the forward areas are different. Each has a distinct interior design well matched to the specific brand while all offer the same smart solutions.




Captain’s chairs are standard in the second row (bench optional on Acadia and Outlook), comfortable seats are available for at least seven. And we mean comfortable. Adults can sit in the third row without having their knees to their noses, and the seats even have side bolsters. These bolsters deflate when the third-row seat is folded, for a flat profile. One could easily take seven adults to dinner in these products, as infrequently as that actually happens. The only drawback to the system is that the seats aren’t as thick and comfortable as, say, a GMC Yukon Denali. Side bolsters in the front seats could be more supportive as well.

With Smart Slide, third-row passengers are not held captive by the second-row seats. The second row is folded and raised with one hand, and that handle can be reached and operated easily by both third-row passengers and someone standing outside the vehicle. Push the lever forward, and the second-row seatback slides forward and forces the seat bottom to fold up, all with minimal effort. Floor mats in the second row roll forward with the action, so they don’t jam up the works or get in the way. The handle used to slide the seats is the same that second-row passengers use to recline their seats, which also slide fore and aft.


The third row folds just as easily as the second row, though a power-fold option is not available. There is a mechanical lever, simply pull and drop. A nice touch making it easier to get the seats back up is the canvas strap to help raise the seats; the strap even has a bit of Velcro on the back to keep in in place. Without it, it can be a stretch to reach the pull and raise the seats. Behind the third row, there is room for luggage or a trip to the grocery store; a benefit of the large overall length and wheelbase. The underfloor covered storage space in the cargo area has hinges that keep it up. The overall cargo area is carpeted, but the covered storage area is plastic for wet or messy items. The headrests are self-storing.


Second and third rows fold fully flat, with less of an upward angle than the competition. The third row is a sixty/forty split, as is the bench second row. The result is the ability to configure the interior for a variety of people- or cargo-hauling needs. Seat belts are as out of the way as possible when not needed, and at the ready when they are, including a pocket tether for the third-row belt.


Life Happens Inside Your Car
GM has found that particularly true for families, usually buyers of mid-size SUVs and minivans. GM gave their new crossovers many thoughtful touches that improve the quality of life inside the car. A panoramic dual sunroof option gets you a front power sunroof and a second fixed-glass roof large enough to light for all three rows. The power shades covering them are controlled by the driver, and ordering the sunroof doesn’t mean you have to go without the optional rear-seat DVD entertainment package. There are individual roof-mounted lights for all three rows, plus the cargo area, as well as a small LED near the rearview mirror that gives off a subtle light for night driving. The dead pedal in the driver’s footwell has a small space below that is just perfect for a woman’s high-heel shoe, improving driving comfort and seating position. A power liftgate is optional, but without power, it closes easily with one pull.
The steering wheel gets standard tilt/telescoping (though the action could be smoother and adjust to a larger degree), the center armrest slides forward and has storage underneath, and the a cell phone pocket in the center console is angled upward to stop your phone from flying out at every sharp stop. There are power outlets inside and at the back of the front center console, with a cord cutout in the extra deep front center console.
There are 24 personal storage spaces and 12 cupholders. Just one of those storage areas is in the center of the top of the dash; while cubbies have been popping there for several years, this one is deeper, lined, and the cover opens and closes with a nicely damped action.
Comfort and convenience options are up-to-date. Front-drive is standard, AWD optional. OnStar equipment is standard, as is one year of turn-by-turn navigation, though DVD navigation is available. HID headlights are optional, as are rear parking sensors and remote start. For these vehicles, dual-zone climate control means independent controls for front and second-row passengers; tri-zone adds front passenger climate controls. Air conditioning for the third row is standard. Heated seats are available as well as leather seating. Some options serve as differentiators, as the Enclave launches with optional adaptive headlights and rear-view camera, but not the Saturn or GMC.

Competitive Interior Package
It is a joy to report that GM has finally created a competitive interior for its utilities. Seats fold easily, though not into the floor like a minivan, and there are many small touches that families will find enhance their use of the vehicle.

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