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.