2007 Saturn Outlook XR FWD Review


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2007 Saturn Outlook

SEE ALSO:Saturn Buyers Guide

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

Saturn has a new Outlook on life... ok, the pun is obvious and inescapable, and Outlook, capitalized, in this case refers to the GM division's new large crossover vehicle. But, looking at Saturn products in the past year or two, the company really does have a new outlook, and a new style. Both are epitomized in the Outlook.

It's not quite the largest Saturn ever, as the Relay long-nose minivan, for which the Outlook could be considered a replacement, was a bit longer, if slightly less bulky. Where the Relay was a minivan that wanted to be a crossover SUV, the Outlook is a crossover that combines the best features of a car, minivan, and SUV into one package.

Based on GM's Lambda platform, the Outlook is a generation or two ahead of GM's late and mostly unlamented minivans. Like a minivan, its car-like unibody chassis allows more interior room and less weight for a given size than traditional truck-SUV body-on-frame construction, and if its fully-independent suspension is not up to the off-road rigors of a truck's solid axles, the vast majority of SUV buyers never venture further off road than a stadium or shopping mall parking lot anyway. Power is from GM's newest 3.6-liter twincam alloy V6, as also found in the Saturn Aura XR. With a single exhaust in the base-model XE it's good for 270 horsepower; the less-restrictive twin-exhaust manifold in the XR ups that to 275. The transmission is GM's latest six-speed automatic, with a manual-shift mode. A transverse front-engine, front-wheel drive drivetrain layout is standard, with all-wheel drive available in both models.

The Outlook is significantly larger than the Vue, and comes in a three-row configuration. With a second-row bench, it will hold eight; with captain's chairs, seven. With the third row in passenger mode, there is more luggage space than in some full-size SUVs. And, while crossovers are not known for their towing prowess, the Outlook can tow 2,000 pounds of trailer in standard trim, or 4.500 pounds with the optional towing package.

Standard equipment levels are high. The XE has a full suite of passive and active safety equipment and interior comfort and convenience features. The XR adds upscale amenities like the dual exhaust, dual-zone climate control, and fancier interior and exterior trim. I've just finished a week with a well-equipped XR, and found it to be comfortable, surprisingly quiet and refined inside, and easily capable of dealing with my needs to transport people, a bicycle or two, and even a 10-foot length of PVC pipe. It's a large vehicle, but not too big for easy parking-lot maneuverability. With new vehicles like the Outlook, the Aura, and the Sky, the outlook for Saturn is good, indeed.

APPEARANCE: The new face at Saturn? Angular lines, a bold chrome crossbar in the grille, and bright, multiple-element headlights. The Outlook exemplifies this well in a large size. It looks larger in person than in photos, and its proportions emphasize the passenger cabin. It's a definite two-box shape, but the base of the windshield is nearly to the front axle line. Large fender flares and sculpting, not cladding, on the lower doors add muscle, and the wheels and tires fill the wheel arches. At the rear, hidden D-pillars give the illusion of wraparound glass and large chrome-trimmed taillights establish the new Saturn identity.

COMFORT: Words to describe the Outlook's interior? How about "spacious", "comfortable", and "versatile"? These are all required attributes for crossover shoppers, and the Outlook scores high on all. It's a Saturn, so it's not overly fancified, and the "woodgrain" trim in the XR hasn't been wood since maybe the Carboniferous Era, but the effect is pleasing. Standard synthetic velour upholstery (leather is available) and moderately firm seat padding provide good comfort and support for all passengers. A dark-over-light motif, backlit instruments and controls, and easy-to-use audio and trip computer systems are positive points, as is the XR's tilt-and telescope-adjustable leather-wrapped steering wheel. The driver's seat is power-adjustable, with manual adjustment for the front passenger. Fore-and-aft adjustability of the standard 60/40 split second-row bench - or the optional captain's chairs - means that second-row legroom ranges from good to excellent. Both configurations have the "Smart Slide" feature - when the seatback is flopped forward for third-row access, the cushion flips up and the entire seat section moves far forward on its tracks for easy access to the third row. The third row is a little tighter than the second, but will hold small adults or children comfortably. A flat floor, cupholders and storage spaces, and climate controls and vents add to rear passenger comfort and convenience. Folding the second or third rows is easy, and doesn't require much strength. My test car had the "Convenience Package", which includes a power rear liftgate, 115 VAC power outlet at the rear of the console, heated wiper fluid, and ultrasonic parking assist, all very convenient features.

SAFETY: Active safety features of the Outlook include four-wheel vented antilock disc brakes, traction control, and the StabiliTrak electronic stability control system. Its unibody structure is designed for occupant protection, and its wide track and low center of gravity improve its ride and handling characteristics and lessen the possibility of a rollover. If worse comes to worse, safety-cage construction and dual-stage front, front seat-mounted side, and full-length side curtain airbags provide protection. The rollover protection system deploys the airbags for longer than normal if the vehicle rolls, for additional occupant support.

RIDE AND HANDLING: It's a car, not a truck. If the Outlook is similar in size and interior space to a Chevy Tahoe, the similarity ends with size and space. Although it is not a small vehicle, it feels smaller than it is on the road. The ride quality is pure car, with no truck feel at any time, thanks to the well-tuned fully-independent front strut, rear multilink suspension. The Outlook's mass is apparent when maneuvering, but body motion is well-controlled at all speeds and its road manners are good for its near-5000 pound weight.

PERFORMANCE: The 3.6-liter aluminum alloy twincam V6, with continuously-variable cam phasing on both intake and exhaust cams, is the same as is found under the hood of the Saturn Aura XR. Its 275 horsepower (at 6600 rpm) and 251 lb-ft of torque (at 3200 rpm) are matched to a six-speed automatic transmission, as in the Aura. But, with a 4700-pound curb weight in front-wheel drive trim, the Outlook is considerably heavier. That weight shows, both in acceleration and fuel economy. You can't argue with physics. Still, crossover buyers are not generally looking for sports car acceleration, and with a 0-60 time in the 8.0-second bracket the Outlook has no problem keeping up with normal traffic. EPA fuel economy is 18 mpg city, 26 highway. I saw 18 in mostly city and secondary road driving, with some highway use.

CONCLUSIONS: The Saturn Outlook provides space, comfort, and style.

2007 Saturn Outlook XR FWD SPECIFICATIONS
Base Price			$ 29,555
Price As Tested			$ 31,929
Engine Type			dual overhead cam aluminum alloy
				 V6 with variable cam phasing
Engine Size			3.6 liters / 217 cu. in.
Horsepower			275 @ 6600 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			251 @ 3200 rpm
Transmission			6-speed automatic with manual shift mode
Wheelbase / Length		118.9 in. / 201.1 in.
Curb Weight			4700 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		17.1
Fuel Capacity			22.0 gal.
Fuel Requirement		87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires				P235/65 SR18 Goodyear Fortera
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / vented disc, ABS standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent strut /
				  independent multilink
Ground clearance		7.4 inches
Drivetrain			transverse front engine,
				 front-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		18 / 26 / 18
0 to 60 mph				est 8.0  sec
Towing capacity			2000 lbs. standard, 4500 opt.

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Convenience Package - includes:
  power liftgate, ultrasomic rear park assist, remote start,
  heated windshield wiper fluid, 115VAC power outlet	$ 1,045
Premium paint (Red Jewel Tintcoat)			$   395
XM Satellite Radio (w/ 3 months free service)		$   199
Destination charge					$   735

Complete specifications on the 2007 Saturn OUTLOOK XR FWD and other vehicles are available at the New Car Buyers Guide!

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