Saturn Vue Goes Green Summer '06
Budget-priced Saturn will carry a price premium of $1,500 to $2,000, putting a hybrid SUV within reach of buyers who have about $21,500 to spend.
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But that's not the customer General Motors is going after.
The Vue Green Line is the first budget hybrid. It will carry a price premium of $1,500 to $2,000, putting a hybrid SUV within reach of buyers who have about $21,500 to spend. Price premiums on other hybrids range from $3,000 to $5,000.
Production is scheduled to begin July 1 at the Saturn plant in Spring Hill, Tenn. Sales are expected to start in August, according to GM officials who let journalists drive the vehicle here last month.
GM engineers have developed a simple but effective hybrid powertrain for the Vue. It delivers a 20 percent gain in fuel economy compared with the standard four-cylinder engine with an automatic transmission.
GM is taking the wraps off the production version of the Vue Green Line on Sunday, Jan. 8, at the Detroit auto show.
27 mpg in city
The Vue Green Line is expected to earn an EPA rating of 27 mpg in the city and 32 on the highway -- and come close to meeting those figures in real-world driving for most customers, said Larry Nitz, executive director of GM's global hybrid powertrains.
GM hired an independent testing company that drove a fleet of five Vue Green Lines in city traffic. The vehicles delivered 31.9 mpg, GM says.
The standard Vue, with a four-cylinder engine and automatic transmission, is EPA rated at 22 mpg city and 27 mpg highway. The Vue Green Line's major competitor is the Ford Escape Hybrid, a full hybrid, which starts at $27,515 including shipping.
The Escape Hybrid is EPA rated at 36 mpg city and 31 mpg highway.
The Vue Green Line is a mild hybrid. It drives much like the first-generation Honda Civic hybrid. That is, the electric motor doesn't propel the vehicle by itself. Instead the motor provides a boost to the 2.4-liter gasoline engine when the vehicle is accelerating.
At stoplights, the gasoline engine turns off and the electric motor quickly restarts it when the driver takes his or her foot off the brake pedal.
And there's another key difference between the Vue and other mild hybrids: The electric-drive motor is combined with the alternator. It is housed in the usual place in front of the engine.
That's important because GM didn't have to redesign the powertrain completely to fit the electric motor between the engine and the transmission, as Honda did.
That layout enabled GM engineers to avoid costly modifications to the Vue's body. The battery pack, housed in a long slender case in the spare tire well, also fits in the Vue without major modifications. Nitz said Saturn will build the Vue on the same production line as the gasoline-powered model.
The Vue Green Line is GM's third hybrid vehicle. GM makes full hybrid city buses and mild hybrid versions of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups.
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