2004 VUE New Car Test Drive
The Saturn Vue has been greatly improved for the 2004 model year. More power, more refinement, and a dozen other improvements make this a far more compelling product. And there's a new performance-oriented Red Line model.
Headlining the changes is a new 3.5-liter V6 built by Honda. It's very smooth, an enormous improvement over the rough-sounding V6 used in last year's model. Saturn claims this year's 250-horsepower V6 is the most powerful engine in the compact SUV segment. The V6 comes with a very smooth five-speed automatic that adds up to a responsive new drivetrain. Base models with the 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine are quite slow, however.
The Vue's electronic power steering has been re-calibrated for 2004 to improve on-center feel and responsiveness. Gone are the annoying torque steer, vague on-center feel, and darty handling that plagued the 2003 model.
The 2004 Vue's interior looks richer and better finished than last year, with improved materials, textures, and colors. As if to show off the improved steering, a nice new steering wheel replaces last year's cheap-feeling wheel. New gauges and a cargo organizer have been added, while new dual-stage airbags enhance passenger safety.
While Saturn is best known for friendly sales and service, it's also known for engineering innovation. The Vue is fitted with Saturn's traditional polymer body panels, which resist dents and eliminate corrosion. The Vue is available with all-wheel drive for lousy weather capability, and four-cylinder models are available with a continuously variable transmission. The Vue's long wheelbase makes for a roomy interior, including a reclining second row and a useful third row. These features, combined with a competitive price, unique looks, and friendly dealerships, make the 2004 Saturn Vue a much more appealing product.
The 2004 Saturn Vue is available with a choice of four-cylinder or V6 engines and with front-wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD).
The base Vue ($16,775) comes with a 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine, a five-speed manual transmission and front-wheel drive. Windows, locks, and mirrors are manually operated. But the basic Vue does come with air conditioning, an adjustable steering column, a four-speaker AM/FM stereo, an engine-immobilizing anti-theft system, visor vanity mirrors and a cargo area organizer. The four-cylinder is also available as a FWD automatic ($18,560) and an AWD automatic ($20,010). Anti-lock brakes and traction control ($600) are optional on the FWD model; anti-lock brakes ($600) are available for AWD models (AWD doesn't need traction control). A Convenience Package ($1,385) for the four-cylinder model adds many of the amenities that are standard on the V6, including cruise control and power windows, locks, and mirrors.
V6 models ($21,960) come standard with a new 3.5-liter engine, a five-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. V6 models come with more standard equipment, including anti-lock brakes (ABS), cruise control, power locks with remote keyless entry, power windows and mirrors, a six-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo, automatic headlamps, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass, aluminum wheels, and an enhanced security system. A new leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel, leather shift knob, bright interior trim plates, and new seat fabric improve the V6 models for 2004. All-wheel drive ($23,610) is available.
Curtain airbags ($395) designed to provide head protection in a side impact or rollover are optional on all models. Other options include a power sunroof ($725), leather upholstery ($695-$755), the OnStar telecommunications system ($695), XM Satellite Radio ($325) and a rear-seat DVD system ($995).
The Red Line is a limited-edition Vue available with FWD ($23,955) and AWD ($25,605). The Red Line's stiffened suspension is lowered an inch and rides on aggressive 18-inch aluminum wheels with P245/50R18 Bridgestone Turanza performance touring tires. The V6 is standard and the Red Line's electric power steering is calibrated for a sporty feel. Unique front and rear fascias, with black air intakes and a chrome exhaust tip distinguish the Red Line Vue from other models.