• Oct 24, 2008

Saturn VUE 2 Mode Hybrid – Click above for high-res image gallery

We attended the New York-area "GM Collection" event this week, which is basically an opportunity for journalists to drive a variety of 2009 models up at Bear Mountain, an hour or so outside Manhattan. What we didn't know going in was that GM would bring along three production-spec examples of the '09 Saturn Vue 2 Mode Hybrid, and that this would be the first opportunity to take the new gas-electric 'ute for a spin. Bear in mind that this impression is based on about 25 minutes of shared time with the car (we buddied up with Jalopnik's Wes Siler). The official full-dog-and-pony-show media launch event is set to take place in December, and we'll be on hand for that as well. For now though, follow the jump to see some initial impressions of the new Saturn hybrid.



All Photos Copyright © 2008 Alex Núñez / Weblogs, Inc.

The Vue 2 Mode Hybrid is pretty self-explanatory: it's a Saturn Vue, and it's the first non-GMT900 ride to get the 2 Mode hybrid setup. It'll slot above the existing Saturn Vue "light" hybrid (née Green Line) in the lineup, targeting drivers who desire fuel economy on par with the four-cylinder hybrid, but want more power and/or towing capacity. The 2 Mode Vue's gas engine is a direct-injected version of the widely-used 3.6L "high feature" powerplant. In this case, it makes 262 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque and only front-wheel-drive is available. (The AWD Vue Red Line we reviewed last year, by comparison, made 257 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque with the non-DI version of this engine. Its EPA rating was 16 city/22 hwy.)



It works in concert with the hybrid sysyem, which incorporates a pair of 55 kW electric motors, a 300V battery, regenerative braking and the 2 Mode transmission, which sports two electronically variable modes and four fixed mechanical gear ratios to optimize efficiency at both lower, around-town speeds and highway velocity. Unlike the light hybrid system in the other Vue Hybrid, the 2 Mode can run in EV-only mode at low speeds, in addition to doing all the other stuff you expect, such as killing the engine when stopped. The result is a projected fuel economy rating of 28 mpg city and 31 mpg highway. This, with a 3,500-pound tow capacity and a projected sticker price of around $33,000.



Appearance-wise, it looks just like a Vue XR. Only the Vue XR doesn't have three hybrid badges (one on each fender and one on the tailgate) and four hybrid decals (one on the windshield, one on the rear window, and the gigunda things that span the lower door panels). Short of getting a full "HYBRID" bus wrap on the thing, you can't really announce your greenie status any more unless you head to the Toyota store.



If you've driven a conventionally-powered 3.6L Vue, you're not really in for anything earth-shatteringly different. When you twist the key, the car powers on, but the engine doesn't fire (a green car icon in the instrument cluster tells you the car's good to go), and at low speed it'll stay in battery mode if you keep a light enough foot on the gas pedal. Punch it, and the Vue pulls strongly and accelerates at a reasonable clip, either under engine power alone or while getting an assist from the electric motor as well. Like we said, it feels basically like the gas-only XR. At 4,265 pounds, it's almost 200 pounds heavier, though.



Interior? The tach's replaced by an "efficiency gauge" that shows you how you're using the powertrain (battery on one extreme, engine on the other) and also incorporates a separate gauge that indicates the battery's level of charge. If you opt for the nav system, then you get an animated powertrain graphic on that screen, as well. The rest is no different than its sister vehicles. The battery is stored under the rear cargo floor and does not intrude into the cabin space at all. There's no spare tire as a result – the Vue 2 Mode just comes with a compressor kit.



So, first impression? Nice ride. It does all the hybrid stuff you want/expect it to, and it performs well when called upon. The projected mileage numbers are good, but the FWD Escape Hybrid does better; it's less muscular, though, and only tows 1,000 pounds. If you're really set on a Vue and don't need the towing capacity that the 2 Mode setup affords, the light hybrid Vue costs almost $5,000 less and delivers very similar fuel economy at 25 city/32 highway, according to the EPA. One thing's certain: you've got some choices now, which is certainly not a bad thing.

We'll come back with more detailed impressions after Sam gets a longer look at the car in December.



All Photos Copyright © 2008 Alex Núñez / Weblogs, Inc.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 20 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      GM, why hath you foresaken the AWD???

      This would be the #1 SUV on my list if it had AWD. Without it, it isn't even on the radar.

      FWD = no bueno for eastern Washington in the winter.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Is that AWD really necessary? A good set of winter tires will be sufficient for these 10+ days out of the year when there is a lot of snow to plow through.
        • 6 Years Ago
        @piCASSO-

        I live on the Palouse, not a flat piece of land for 100 miles in any direction.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Please. I drove an RWD Roadmaster in Wisconsin's winters. Snowtires an 200lbs of sand was all I needed. AWD isn't 4WD either. It won't get you unstuck, etc.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I'd like to see the 2.0 turbo I4 engine (250hp 222ft-lbs) coupled to the 6t45 transmission replace the 3.5 pushrod and 3.6 non direct injection.

      • 6 Years Ago
      Maybe GM can pocket some more cash by dialing back on the Hybrid logos. After all, Toyota seems to be moving a decent number without putting one on every face and corner of the car.

      On a more serious note, I'm also not crazy about the removal of the tachometer because it helps me map an powertrain's habits. But I suppose between the intended audience and the automatic transmission that this isn't a particularly severe omission.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Forget about the VUE... put that V6 hybrid in the Acadia or Traverse. Then you can move 8 people at better than 24MPG.
      • 6 Years Ago
      With my CX9 piming an awesome 17mpg around town this looks like a nice alternative.

      • 6 Years Ago

      If GM buys Chrysler perhaps they could put this hybrid engine in the Caravan and Town & Country minivans. That would be a great combination.
      • 6 Years Ago
      My we all have short memories, when regular gas was approaching $ 4.00 a gallon, everyone said that the American Car companies were doing nothing; now GM offers a mild and full hybrid, and most criticize them for doing it.

      You cant have it both ways, as the many said, if you dont like, dont buy it ! I have a 2008 VUE single mode systmem, it gets 26+ in the city, and 31+ on the highway, significantly better than my 2002 Subura Outback, with a lot more room for my grandkids.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Why must GM continue to plaster HYBRID on the side of their vehicles?
        • 6 Years Ago
        Besides the ugly cars (initially), that has got to be my least favorite thing about the whole Hybrid trend. Anyone ever see the South Park episode where one of the kid's dad buys a Hybrid then proceeds to move to San Francisco and loves to smell his own farts? I'd have to think that's the reason why Hyrbid is plastered all over these things, so people can get all self-righteous on the rest of us fossil fuel users.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I saw one of the full-size GM hybrid SUVs. It's not as bad as you make it out to be. If you don't like it, the dealer will remove it for free.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Simple, hybrid drivers like to be recognized. This is one of the reasons why the Prius outsold the Civic Hybrid, which could barely be distinguished from a regular Civic.

        Since GM doesn't have the cash Toyota has, its opted to simply build hybrids out of existing models. To make up for the lack of distinctly different design, they slap Hybrid everywhere, so the driver can still wear his Green Badge proudly or smugly depending upon your view.
        • 6 Years Ago
        So everyone who sees you driving knows you are saving the baby seals!
      • 6 Years Ago
      If those fuel economy estimates are accurate, that's very impressive technology. City mpg increases by 65%, while highway mpg increases by 30%.

      A front-drive RX400h gets 27/25 mpg, compared to this VUE's 28/31 mpg, and the Lexus weighs less, too.

      Usually hybrids don't see as much a gain in highway fuel economy. The two-mode system has four fixed gear ratios, in addition to the CVT, which gives electric power from the battery a direct mechanical path at highway speeds.
        • 6 Years Ago
        There is no CVT in the 2 Mode Hybrid system, nor there is one in hybrid Lexus cars. eCVT used by Lexus has no CVT in it (with belt and pulleys). Lexus eCVT is the same system with the one used in Prius, that is a transmission with just one gear (top gear) and helped by 2 electric motors for additional torque.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Hybrids are not very economical and produce more CO2 in the long run than a Chevy suburban . Why is Gm wasting money on stupid hybrids ? Please don't respond or give this comment a tumbs down because that would just show how stupid you are
      http://www.spike.com/blog/five-reasons-why/66839

      http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/driving/used_car_reviews/article3552994.ece
        • 6 Years Ago
        I never really liked you 'hatchbacks are cool'.

        And now everyone knows why.
        HotRodzNKustoms
        • 6 Years Ago
        GM is building hybrids because Toyota has convinced people if they buy a hybrid they have saved the polar bears and penguins. So if you don't buy a hybrid you must hate the cute polar bears and penguins.

        But seriously if there is a demand for a product you build it.
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