2007 Saturn Outlook XR
2007 Saturn Outlook XR. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Haney Louka

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Photo Gallery: 2007 Saturn Outlook

Winnipeg, Manitoba – General Motors has offered a slew of truck-based SUVs with three rows of seats for quite some time: Yukon, Tahoe, Suburban, Yukon XL, et al. But those machines (which happen to be bread-and-butter models for GM) are more at home with buyers who enlist them for towing duty or drive them on truly punishing roads (or off of them). At the minivan end of the spectrum are the Uplander, Montana, and Terazza. But perhaps the best-executed family hauler to come out of the GM fray is the Cadillac SRX. However, at a starting price of $50K, it’s out of reach for many.

Now we’re looking at a new family of crossovers – sport utility vehicles with car-like unibody construction – the GMC Acadia, Buick Enclave, and the subject of this review, Saturn’s new Outlook. These three do-it-all haulers are built on GM’s new-for-’07 Lambda platform and truly mark a new era wherein General Motors offers consumers a trio of competent, great-looking, well-built machines that deserve due consideration by consumers.

And like it or not, the new Lambda vehicles could also be considered the best minivans GM has ever produced. They’re far superior to any front-drive sliding-door model to come before them, and they have a third row that can actually accommodate adults in relative comfort. The second row seats (a 60/40 split bench in eight-seat configuration or two buckets as in our seven-seat tester) slide fore and aft and allow easy access to the third row, provided there’s no child seat in place.

2007 Saturn Outlook XR
2007 Saturn Outlook XR
2007 Saturn Outlook XR
2007 Saturn Outlook XR. Click image to enlarge

I’d consider the seven-seater a must for those with small children, as it makes it possible to access the third row between the second row buckets even when a child seat is installed.

The Saturn member of the Lambda family has perhaps the most conservative styling of the three, but it’s quite attractive nonetheless. It has a clean and muscular shape with pronounced flares over the wheel arches and just the right amount of exterior brightwork. Large 18-inch wheels are standard, but the optional polished 19-inchers like those on our tester fill the space below the flares nicely and contribute to a broad stance.

Both the Acadia and Enclave look better to these eyes, but it’s nonetheless refreshing to see significant styling differences between GM’s brands rather than another simple badging exercise.

The Saturn’s cockpit is simple and attractive and contributes significantly to the overall feeling of quality that GM has built into the Lambda vehicles. Gauges are a simple white-on-black affair with amber markings. Steering wheel controls are comprehensive: cruise on the left and audio on the right with convenient fingertip buttons for the volume. The trip computer and vehicle service information is accessed through buttons on the dash just to the right of the wheel, with the display front-and-centre on the instrument panel.

2007 Saturn Outlook XR
2007 Saturn Outlook XR. Click image to enlarge

The centre stack design is clean and simple, but it’s the fake wood trim that I’m not crazy about, and I suspect many buyers will feel the same way. The only other bothersome detail was the dash-top covered storage bin. It’s similar in concept to the one in the Mazda6 and Subaru Forester, but opening it requires pushing down on a button in the lid, which prevents it from lifting. Go figure. Not surprisingly, the bin’s lid in our tester didn’t always open.

But that’s okay, because these are minor blemishes in an otherwise very complete package. The driving position is comfortable and all controls are within easy reach.

While piloting the Outlook, drivers will feel its immense girth. This isn’t a small vehicle, and it makes no attempt to hide it. At 2,141 kg (4,720 lb.) for the front-drive version and nearly another hundred in all-wheel-drive guise, it takes a lot to get this machine moving.

To start, all Lambda vehicles get the corporate 3.6-litre V6 with variable valve timing, producing 275 hp and 251 ft-lb of torque. This same engine makes the Cadillac CTS and Saturn Aura feel quite sprightly; however, in a vehicle this size the engine struggles. The six-speed automatic does its best managing the limited power reserves, and I found the manual mode useful when I knew (better than the car’s computer) which gear I wanted the transmission needed to be in.

2007 Saturn Outlook XR
2007 Saturn Outlook XR
2007 Saturn Outlook XR. Click image to enlarge

I did notice a quirk in both this Outlook and an Acadia I drove shortly after: the electronic throttle response has a mind of its own. It may be a bid to reduce fuel consumption, but during normal acceleration, I felt the throttle letting off more than my right foot was telling it to, resulting in slower than expected acceleration and a necessary stab at the throttle to keep the Outlook’s speedometer needle moving in the right direction. It’s just one more thing that made the Outlook’s power feel wanting.

Ride quality is stellar thanks to the vehicle’s unibody construction and fully independent suspension. It’s one of the big pluses that the Lambda derivatives enjoy over a full-size SUV such as the GMC Yukon – an example of the General’s latest GMT900 platform which has made great strides in ride quality over its predecessors, but a truck is still a truck and it still rides like one. This is where the Outlook’s van-ness makes itself apparent – and welcome.

My front-drive tester carries with it fuel consumption ratings of 13.0 L/100 km in the city and 8.3 on the highway. Not bad, but considering the mediocre performance from the V6 in this application, buyers will get neither great performance nor particularly frugal fuel consumption with the Outlook.

Our Outlook XR started life with a $38,315 price-tag (the base XE starts at $33,990). That sum buys traction and stability control, roof rails, four 12-volt power outlets (unfortunately no 115-volt three-prong outlet is included), dual-zone automatic climate control plus separate rear A/C controls, and a six-speaker audio system with MP3 capability and XM satellite radio.

2007 Saturn Outlook XR
2007 Saturn Outlook XR. Click image to enlarge

Saturn fitted my test example up with a multitude of options including seven-seat configuration ($675), two-panel sunroof ($1,685), cold weather package with factory-installed remote start ($375), power liftgate ($885), leather seats ($1,695), and Xenon headlights ($650). These plus a few other goodies jacked the price up to $47,175 plus destination and taxes.

That’s not an insignificant sum of money, and it puts the Saturn in the esteemed company of such rivals as the Honda Pilot, Hyundai Veracruz, Mazda CX-9, Subaru Tribeca, and Toyota Highlander. As for the Detroit Big Three, Ford’s Edge only comes as a five-passenger model and the Taurus X (formerly the Freestyle) is smaller and less expensive. The Chrysler Pacifica is a contender, but seats a maximum of six occupants in three rows.

I may be picking nits with my comments about throttle response and fake wood trim, but that’s just a sign that the General has produced a trio of family haulers that is thoroughly impressive: elegant styling, well constructed interiors, class-leading roominess.

This is a GM I would send my friends to check out. And that speaks volumes.

Pricing: 2007 Saturn Outlook XR FWD


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