Innovative and eco-sensitive, Saturn revitalizes Vue hybrid with 2-Mode system
In the early 1990s, Saturn began approaching customer satisfaction by competing with the Japanese. Somewhere along the way, GM’s young division lost its way. Customers were satisfied, and the company kept embracing its buyers, but the cars lacked a forward-thinking approach.
Well, cut Saturn some slack. Because the company just made up for all of that lost time.
At the recent Detroit auto show, they rolled out three new models that will shake Saturn’s reputation. Having already earned green credentials with the Aura Green Line hybrid and Vue Green Line, Saturn is getting serious about new technology. Later this year, 2-Mode hybrid versions of the Vue will arrive in dealerships.
Unlike the current Vue Green Line which is a slightly dumbed-down version of the Toyota Prius the 2009 Vue 2-Mode hybrid sails higher than Japanese rivals. Like the 2008 Chevy Tahoe two-mode hybrid, the Vue will provide excellent fuel economy ratings, but it can also tow heavy loads as a real SUV should.
Saturn estimates 50 percent better fuel economy over non-hybrid V6 models, allowing the vehicle to travel over 500 miles on a tank of gas. It can tow up to 3,500 lbs., run 0-60 mph in 7.3 seconds, and do it all with almost zero emissions.
GM teamed with BMW and DaimlerChrysler to develop the two-mode hybrid, which also recently debuted on the Chrysler Aspen and Dodge Durango SUVs. In the case of the Vue, power is shifted from a sophisticated 3.6-liter direct injection engine (like the one in the new Cadillac CTS), a special automatic transmission, twin 55-kW motors, 300-volt battery pack and regenerative brakes, which trap energy normally lost during braking.
It can run on full power out of both the engine and batteries for towing or only batteries during lower power situations.
Imagine that Saturn took all of its hybrid technology and combined it with GM’s experience with pure electric vehicles like the infamous EV1. You would create a hybrid that could also be plugged in. General Motors powertrain chief, Tom Stephens, unveiled the Vue Plug-In Hybrid, which is expected to arrive in a year or so as a 2010 model.
In many driving situations, the Vue plug-in hybrid will be the most fuel-efficient production vehicle available. It could potentially provide a 100 percent fuel economy improvement over the Vue 2-mode hybrid, using high-tech lithium ion batteries (much larger versions of those used in laptops).
While you sleep, the batteries can be recharged with 110-volt household current in four to five hours. Batteries alone provide up to 10 miles of all-electric driving at slow-to-moderate speeds. As with other hybrids, the batteries are recharged on-the-go by the on-board gasoline engine and regenerative braking.
But for the ultimate expression of where Saturn technology is heading, consider the Flextreme Concept. Flextreme debuted last September as an Opel concept during the Frankfurt auto show. Underneath an aero-crossover body lies an enhanced version of last year’s Chevy Volt E-Flex powertrain. Most hybrids are essentially gasoline-powered vehicles with an electric assist, but E-Flex is an electric car with a gasoline, diesel or hydrogen back-up system. Flextreme can travel up to 34 miles on all-electric, at which time a 1.3-liter turbo-diesel engine steps in to recharge batteries. A similar system is used on the Cadillac Provoq concept, but uses a hydrogen fuel cell instead of diesel.
Clearly, General Motors has tapped Saturn to lead its charge against Japanese technology leaders like Toyota and Honda, just as it did against less advanced models during the ’90s. Toyota, which was very resistant to plug-in hybrids, is now planning a plug-in Prius in response to GM. From the Saturn Vue Green Line hybrid to the 2-mode hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and Flextreme with E-Flex, Saturn provides alternatives for today’s (and tomorrow’s) drivers.
MOTORCYCLE-CAFE SOCIETY IN UPTOWN
Two-wheeling just got trendier. Motopia recently opened in Uptown, and the buzz is brewing.
It’s the go-to place for bikers. Warm up with coffee before you get your motor running. The modern-appointed joint also serves soups, salads, sandwiches and breakfast. They even have a business center with free WiFi. And while you hang, they provide detailing services.
On Sunday, Jan. 20, they’re having a ride. Bikers leave at 9 a.m. and return by 1 p.m.
Motopia, 4123 N. Central Expressway. 214-443-8389. MotopiaCafe.com
Who: Chase Wade Superstar
Occupation: Makeup artist.
Why are you famous in the gay community? I’m a professional partier.
Current car: 2003 Dodge Neon.
Purchased from which dealer? Toyota of Lewisville.
Were you a tough negotiator? Yes. I told them I had to have a payment of $300 or less and insurance of $200 or less. No more than $500 total.
Insurance agent: State Farm.
Monthly insurance rate? $65.
Why this car? It was the only car that came in my favorite color, which is red.
Favorite feature:My broken windshield.
Keep anything interesting in your glove box? An unopened mini bottle of tequila.
Car nickname: Chili-pepper or Miss Chili-pepper, if you’re nasty.
Previous vehicles:A Miata and Geo Storm.
Average fuel expenses: Less than $20 a week: My Neon gets 32 mpg.
Have you ever been naked in your car? I have in other people’s cars.
How often do you wash your car? I take it to a detail shop, once every 4 to 6 months.
Worst intersection in Dallas: Hudnall at Maple Avenue.
Most ridiculous car repair: Once I did a do-it-myself spray-paint job to cover up a scrape on the body.
Thought that races through my head when I’m going through a yellow light? I don’t run yellow lights. They mean stop. Both my parents are volunteer EMTs in Kentucky they’ve told me about the perils of running lights.
Best car memory: Driving to Kentucky to visit my family. Just taking my little Neon across the country.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 25, 2008