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Saturn keeps Red Line performance, changes look

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Alex Law
DETROIT, MI: Speaking for myself, I don't care who or what the front end of the Saturn Red Line looks like, inside or out. As long as it runs the way it's run from the very beginning, I love it without reserve.

Then, as now, it is the only sport-cute on the market bombs around like a sportscar on a backpacking trip.

(Photo: Saturn)
So it can resemble the 2007 Sky roadster and the upcoming Aura sedan concept if that's what Saturn executives want, and apparently they do.

The Red Line version not a complete change of the regular 2006 Saturn Vue compact SUV (which itself looks like it did last year), since the cosmetic work was restricted to the front end. The chrome bar and integrated and jeweled Saturn badge are "hallmarks of the brand's new design direction," and the "distinctive grille is matched by the new fascias and body-colored 360-degree ground effects for a sleek, streamlined look."

When I think about this change, I realize that I'm not that crazy about it, since it will alert cops all over North America who read this website to the fact that the Vue Red Line comes from the pepper end of the performance spectrum, rather than the vanilla end along with all those RAV4s and its clones.

But before we get to that, more details about the revised Red Line for 2006. It gets a unique interior, featuring ebony leather-appointed seats with suede fabric inserts, ebony carpet and safety belts, a six-way power driver seat adjuster, and a unique instrument cluster faceplate and metallic foot pedals.

(Photo: Saturn)
Another unique touch for the Vue Red Line is ambient lower lighting for the front and rear foot well areas that can be changed from "Cool Blue" to "Warm Amber" with a switch located on the center stack. Not sure what the benefit of this is, but I appreciate that giving people choice is always a smart thing for a company to do.

Along with those unique changes, the Red Line also benefits from other interior enhancements to the entire Vue line for 2006, including a more appealing center stack, a new center storage console, a steering wheel with audio controls, and a new family of upgraded radios.

As a bonus in the U.S., the revised Red Line also gets a lower price. Don't know what's going to happen to the sticker in Canada, though it's not likely to get much higher.

Whatever the new Vue Red Line costs, it will be well worth it for the consumer who needs or wants a compact SUV that will do something other than carry four people and their stuff in comfort while looking sensible.

Indeed, thanks to its 3.5-litre V-6 and a supporting cast of go-fast technologies, the Saturn Vue Red Line is by far the hottest sport-cute on the market and one of the most entertaining vehicles of any type to drive in the real world. That means that while it may not be great on a track owing to its high-hat body shape, in the real world where acceleration and nimble, non-radical handling are what counts, the Vue Red Line is extremely competent.

This performance aptitude is mostly the result of an engine that puts out 242 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm, thereby delivering the type of launch that often causes one to chortle with delight. It's also nice that the V-6 delivers 250 hp at 5,800 rpm, but that's more of a top-speed thing that doesn't come into play much in North America.
Alex Law
Alex Law
Automotive expert