There's little doubt that General Motors turned its eyes to Saturn for this show, as evidenced by production introductions of the 2007 Outlook, Aura, and Sky Red Line.
If not in sales, perhaps the most significant move by GM is the dawning of the 8-passenger Outlook, which places the ringed marque into a new segment (and likely a new high-water MSRP). Twinned with the upcoming GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave on the General's new Lambda platform, if nothing else, Outlook impresses with its size inside and out.
With a large chrome grille packing the biggest Saturn emblem to date, the front end of the Outlook is certainly aggressive, both in photographs and in person. While not exactly 'pretty,' it doesn't want for presence. If anything, the nose looks like a more accomplished Relay, had Saturn had the financial wherewithal to start with a clean sheet. In fact, the advent of the Outlook itself calls into question the need for the Relay minivan, though the final verdict will need to wait until pricing is announced. Bookending the sizeable grille are clear-lensed dual element projector beams (high-intensity discharge lamps will be available).
Hit the jump for more impressions and photographs inside-and-out
For the moment, at least, the sole powerplant for the Outlook is GM's 3.6-liter V6 VVT. Employing variable valve timing, the uprated XR model (signified by a dual exhaust) puts out 267 hp and 247 lb.-ft. of twist. The lesser single-piped XE is close behind, with 265 hp and 244 lb.-ft. of torque. Regardless of trim spec, powerplants will be yoked to a new Hydra-Matic 6T75 six-speed automatic, and will be available in front and all-wheel drive.
Arguably the best part of the new Outlook is what's inside. The interior itself appears well laid-out and built from reasonable materials and switchgear, though the IP's design itself is on the unadventurous side, and the fake wood is unlikely to fool anyone. Despite the straightforward execution, there are well-resolved details: the center armrest slides back and forth with a smooth, cultivated action, and the glovebox descends about as slowly as anything we've seen. The plain-looking steering wheel at least feels good in the hands, and the buttons thereon fall easily to hand.
We sat in all three rows (doing the industry standard sit-behind-yourself test), and head and legroom was commendably accommodating in all three rows. While passengers in the way back will have to clamber a bit to get back to the third row, entry and exit is easily more dignified than in vehicles like the Ford Freestyle and Jeep Commander (both of which are likely cross-shops, despite their markedly different executions). Likewise, the Outlook's available lebensraum is far superior, with a pair of 6' gentlemen journalists telling us they had enough head and leg room. Admittedly, the second row can slide back and forth to divvy up available space, but it's still quite impressive packaging, particularly given that there remains room in the cargo hold for more than a couple of grocery bags when all three rows are in use.
All in all, at first blush it's a pretty impressive package... we just can't figure out why it isn't wearing a Bowtie on the grille, or how it draws the Saturn's mission into focus.