Review: Test Drive Saturn Vue Greenline

Discussion in 'GM' started by Pravus Prime, Jul 25, 2006.

  1. Pravus Prime

    Pravus Prime Banned

    At Hybridfest, Saturn not only gave away nice T-shirts, and other assorted stuff, but also allowed us ordinary mortals to drive their new hybrid. This review is rather rant like, and incredibly biased. In their defense, I understand that they want to promote their hybrid, and I won't fault anyone too much for buying one, they are affordable and it is a hybrid. (Or rather an imitation hybrid.)

    Of course, to test drive, first you got told about what a great hybrid it was. Literally, I got a lecture/presentation on it. It's the most affordable SUV hybrid (For a reason), gets great highway MPGs (Duh), and whatnot.

    Then, you get paired up with an employee, who takes you out, tells you more about how it works, then you firedrill switch and you get to drive it. At the time, there was a delay, and I ended up "sharing" my drive with another person. Who had already bought a hybrid Vue, and was awaiting delivery.

    Due to this, I kept my mouth very much shut.

    First of all, there was a big deal made over the Eco-lame (Thanks Sledge for that!), and that Pavlov's Dogs were going to teach you how to drive this vehicle. (I doubt Pavlov's dogs could teach at all, Pavlovian methods may, but his dogs don't.) Since when the Eco-light is on, that's when you're "doing good!", or achieving EPA or better FE. I wanted very desperately to ask how you can tell when you're merely meeting EPA or blowing it away, and how it registers when you're doing this, since there's no display or record of the MPGs, and why it can't tell you over the period of tank rather than instantly only. Instead, I allowed the buyer to ask his questions.

    Yes, you see, the vehicle doesn't have "reds", that is, climate settings that will keep the ICE going. Instead, there's an extra green button. When it's on, "reds" don't function. When it's off, "reds" keep the ICE on. This concept seemed like the work of God, if you were to use the employee and buyers take on this. Why the consumer isn't smart enough to just not use those settings when they want ICE off, I don't know. All the other hybrid manufacturers seem to think that a "red" is enough.

    Well, then the time came for me to drive.

    First of all, let me say, I'm rather spoiled, I'm used to HSD systems. I'm used to all the neat stuff about the FEH. In fact, as I drove it, I had my right hand on the gearshift, intending to switch gears as needed. However, I constantly reminded myself not to do that, and kept it in D only. The Vue is more like an IMA system, and a bad one at that. There is no idle-off, there is no slow off. Allow me to explain. ICE-off only occurs when your foot is on the brake, and you're at a complete stop. There is no off as you slow down, there is no off when you're moving your foot to the pedal to drift forward. In addition, the lack of any kind of display prohibits you from working out any kind of effective hypermiling techniques. Or EPA meeting techniques. Or really, any techniques at all. It wasn't all that challenging outside of an uphill to keep the eco light on, at least for me, but not knowing anything about my FE was like an itch that I couldn't reach as I drove about. There is no electric drive, and nothing to indicate an electric assist.

    Then, there are all the design quirks that just seemed odd to me. The chair works literally like a barbers chair. You pump it to move it about with a lever. There are no switches on the doors, door lock control, window control, etc. are all on the center console. The instrument display, besides being terribly uninformative, is actually just a mirror of the FEH's, minus the message centers. (As I recall, there was an charge/assist type display, but for charge only, but I may be wrong.) The lack of Nav, FE, or any sort of useful display is really unnerving to me. (Yes, I mentioned it more than once, it really bugs me.)

    After switching again, the buyer drove, and returned to the parking lot at hybridfest. One thing that stuck out like a sore thumb, is that he stopped, put it in park, and took his foot off the gas, which turned the engine back on, then turned the key to turn it off. Yeah, real nice design there.

    While the people were nice, the shirt was nice, and for those who only buy GM products, it's nice to have a hybrid out, I can't strongly enough encourage spending the extra 6-8K and getting a FEH. (Told you I'm biased.) What an underwhelming vehicle. Your mileage may vary.
  2. Chuck

    Chuck just the messenger


    The review would be pretty dispassionate :D
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 30, 2007
  3. philmcneal

    philmcneal Has it been 10 years? Wow

    i will be in gm defense for fun

    the engine probably waited for the last moment to shut the engine off due to reasons of simplicity. It wants to predict ahead when you might need to move again (aka stopping for a 4-way stop sign). Besides with your foot off the gas the engine is not consuming fuel even if it were to spin since it probably needs all the lubrication it can get before being shut off completely.

    BAH!, **** man you should have shifted into N and see what affect it hadded. If GM was any smart that engine would drop dead.

    From your review it looks doubtful.... nOooOOo!!!

    should have paid more attention to the Charge/Assist meters, I have to assume it being in the very middle is coasting :p
  4. xcel

    xcel PZEV, there's nothing like it :) Staff Member

    Hi Phil:

    ___There are no Charge/Assist meters or anything else giving feedback in the Saturn VUE Greenline and that is just one of the many issues surrounding it :(

    ___Good Luck

  5. Chuck

    Chuck just the messenger

    Some people diet without scales, or live on a budget without crunching the numbers on their checkbook - was that what GM was thinking? :confused:
  6. psyshack

    psyshack He who posts articles

    Its GM,, enough said...
  7. Chuck

    Chuck just the messenger

    ...Wait until you see the video of the EV1 driving out in a day or so.... :D
  8. tarabell

    tarabell Well-Known Member

    My husband has an '88 Coupe DeVille we've been trying to get rid of for over a year. Unbelieveably, GM put an instant-only FE display on this car also. Talk about mis-applied technology....

    That's how the HCH-II works also, unfortunately. I shut the car off while in gear and auto-stop, then put it in park.
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2006
  9. xcel

    xcel PZEV, there's nothing like it :) Staff Member

    Hi Tarabell:

    ___The AH works just like that as well along with having an Eco-Lame … At least it has a decent i and aFCD and they are in the proper place.

    ___Good Luck

  10. XerEagle

    XerEagle Member

    I also keep my foot on the brake and then turn the car off so that the engine doesn’t re-start again. Just a technique…:)

    With that said I’m new to the Hybrid world and sometimes watching meters is annoying. I give Honda a thumbs up for allowing you to switch between the iFCD and the temperature coolant display. When test driving the Prius the center console was cool, but the FE feedback display seemed to shout; Hea, watch the birdie, but what about the road, but a thumbs up for allowing you to turn the display off, or switching screens.:rolleyes:

    I want to drive to my next destination, not watch meters etc. I purchased the HCH so that I could improve my FE without having to resort to putting the car in neutral or accelerating slower that a turtle or feathering the pedal while traveling down the highway, etc.

    Now, after a time in my new HCH II, I guess that I may want to improve my FE more and after reading some of the techniques on this site, I will be able to that.:D

    So, how did the Vue ride, handle, and accelerate other then having no FE displays.
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2006
  11. xcel

    xcel PZEV, there's nothing like it :) Staff Member

    Hi XerEagle:

    ___A bit OT …

    ___Without the feedback of an i and/or aFCD, it is very hard to improve upon ones older and less fuel efficient driving habits. After a few months, the entire array of feedback is no longer needed if one chooses not to view it but for those pushing higher or even maintaining higher FE segments and tanks, they are still necessary. You don’t have to FAS (a very advanced technique) or slowly accelerate (1,900 vs. 2,100 or 2,300 RPM in an HCH-II is not that different) for higher FE but you will have to change something or your FE will be what most of the general public might consider sub-par. This is an area that press grabs onto and destroys the hybrid all the while those that own them are saving millions of BBl’s of crude every year vs. what and the way everybody else drives. Because many here own hybrids, their FE is held to a higher standard if they like it or not. The general public simply does not know how badly there own FE is. A well designed FCD package is the only way I know of to improve how you are performing segment over segment or tank over tank. Waiting until its time to fill her up is way to late imho.

    ___Another analogy. If you take a college course without doing any homework, taking a test, or receiving the grade, did you learn as much as those that did do the homework, took the tests, and received the grade? Taking a course without the work or feedback is not nearly the same as taking the course while going through the work for most.

    ___When I or others post an article or speak of a result, that does not mean you are required to use every tool discussed. And yet another analogy … I believe it was Tom who told me just this past weekend that high FE - driving is like eating at a buffet. If you want to try some of this, it is there for the taking. If you do not want to try some of that, you don’t have to. For the maximum, you can gorge on the entire spread (I do that most of the time ;)) but to just beat the EPA, you only need the basics and drive a little smarter is all.

    ___With that, I cannot wait to see how your tanks improve over time. As Tarabell stated in the past, you paid a healthy $ for the instrumentation, why not use it? This is where some of us (many in the hypermiling community) see the VUE Greenline as having major shortcomings. More then half of those driving one will not change a thing and if they are lucky, receive 25 mpg. If it had even the most basic of instrumentation, many that purchased one would have 40 + available to them with just a few small changes! Your fuel consumption is possibly more important to me then it is to you because in the end, we are all tapping off a finite supply and what you or I consume today is what will not be available for our children or children’s children as we transition to something else … If there is something else?

    ___Good Luck

  12. TonyPSchaefer

    TonyPSchaefer Well-Known Member

    I had an Education instructor who referred to that technique as "shooting free throws in the dark." In his analogy, you are standing in a pitch-black gymnasium shooting free throws and you are told only when you make it or when you miss. Of course, when you make one, you try to duplicate your results. But when you miss, you don't know if you were long or short, if you were to the left or to the right. And with my luck, I'd be shooting towards the center-line.

    But it's true that the detailed feedback and historical data is key in "training" the driver how to drive the car more efficiently - if the driver is so inclined.

    I'm now almost glad I didn't test drive any vehicles at Hfest. In fact, I spoke with very few vendors there. Shoot, I get dissapointed when my wife's Regal doesn't stop the engine as we coast; I would hate to think what I would have said when the Saturn didn't.
  13. philmcneal

    philmcneal Has it been 10 years? Wow

    hmmmmmmmm i remember seeing pics of the VUE having charge and assist meters even if it is an analog display (needle moving left and right). I had to assume if one were to take their foot off the gas, fuel injection will cease and regen will kick in so the needle would move towards the right (for chargining), by applying throttle i'm hoping the needle would vier its way to the middle to indicate the motor is not assisting or chargining and fuel injection is still off.

    If it doesn't even have that feature, garbage! Who is going to pay a 4 grand premium (in canada vue is 28000 bucks!) if you can't even coast in it....

    all i can pray is, with that tiny 48 volt battery it won't be able to hold much charge. So evenually when the driver takes his/her foot off the gas, the car should be able to coast well....

    hm..... i honestly had some sort of faith for this cheap hybrid.... it really shows gm knows squat about FE...

    well.... if the VUE can FAS... i'm sure I can forgive her...:p
  14. Pravus Prime

    Pravus Prime Banned

    When I sat in the greenline VUE at the NAIAS, it had a charge/assist, as I pointed out, it's instrumentation, gas tank guage, spedometer, tachometer, charge/assist was nearly a perfect mirror of the FEH display. The produced one I drove at hybridfest seemed different, as memory serves.
  15. Chuck

    Chuck just the messenger

  16. DebbieKatz

    DebbieKatz ФЕХ Царйца

    I had wanted to get a chance to test-drive the Greenline VUE, just out of curiosity, while we were at Hybridfest, but never got a chance. So thank you, Pravus Prime for your review :)

    *SIGH* & this is the vehicle that got me all excited about hybrids in the first place :(

    When my husband became a professional handyman, his van became the "Traveling Toolbox" (at the time I had a Saturn SL1). Despite the fact that he had a significant investment riding around in the back of the van, when we went places together, that's what we rode in, because he's 6'2", & when he got in my Saturn, he practically had to sit with his chin on his knees. So when we replaced my car, it was going to have to be with something bigger.

    But I'd never owned a car that didn't get at least 30 mpg (or at least that was what they were supposed to get - knowing what I know now about my FEH's FE, I *may* not have been getting that much :eek: ). I had already decided I liked the VUE (did I mention that I married into a GM family?), & so when I came across a little blurb in Parade magazine in our Sunday paper, that said a hybrid version was "on the horizon", I emailed to ask about it. A nice customer-service person responded that yes, they were indeed working on a hybrid system for the VUE. I believe the plan was to have 2 electric motors, & increase FE in the VUE by 50% - & was scheduled to be available by the fall quarter of 2005. I emailed back that their timing was perfect, as we had to build a new garage (to replace our 1-car with a 2-car) before I was willing to buy a new vehicle.

    Those messages were exchanged in 2003. I don't remember exactly when I heard a rumor that GM was shelving the hybrid VUE, but I remember seeing a press-release that said that, with gas prices at $2.50/gal., GM didn't believe customers in the VUE's price-range would be willing to pay the extra $$ for the hybrid system. GM's decision was to put the hybrid technology on their bigger vehicles - the Yukon Denali & the Silverado - because buyers in that price-range wouldn't mind coming up with a little extra $$. Again, I emailed, saying "please tell me this isn't so!", but I got a response that instead sang the praises of a Vue hybrid that would shut off when you stopped, & save a whopping 12% in gasoline :( & it would be available in spring of 2006. My last communication with them was to tell them that I was one of those "little people" who would have paid for the wonderful vehicle they promised me back in 2003, but now I was going shopping for a FEH.

    Now, I won't accuse anyone else, but I freely admit that I'm a full-hybrid snob ;) & I am *more* than happy with my FEH, to which the Greenline VUE does *not* measure up. Still even *that* effort is a start & I'm not suggesting it should stop there, but if every vehicle that came off the assembly line had even that little bit of "hybridism", we could sure save a lot of fuel & emissions, yes?
  17. XerEagle

    XerEagle Member

    Some times the Hybrid vehicle is only worth the long term savings in terms of gas, after paying for the vehicle and gas over a period of years. Not everybody buys a hybrid to save the earth or the oil supply, it helps though. If a car purchase can save money over time, and if the individual is looking for that type of savings over the long haul, then cost comparisons can be a wise decision.

    I don’t want to get into semantics about possible inflated gas mpgs and since there isn’t data on the Saturn VUE hybrid at this time, let’s stay with the EPA numbers. (The EPA numbers are better then the posted numbers for the Highlander and Escape Hybrids on

    Toyota Highlander Hybrid: $33,030 and 33/28mpg
    Ford Escape Hybrid: $25,600 and 36/31mpg
    Saturn VUE Hybrid $22,370 and 27/32mpg
    Numbers based on info from

    Having the gauges, meters etc. can help in saving fuel (I’ve started to use some of the gauges and techniques published at this site to get better FE) and hopefully GM will consider more than the charge/assist gauge in the future.:D
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2006
  18. AshenGrey

    AshenGrey Well-Known Member

    I resemble that remark, ha ha!

    Yeah, that's pretty much how I would have written it.
  19. Chuck

    Chuck just the messenger

    On the Eco-light: It could be on over 90% of the time, but just a few seconds of heavy acceleration could put your entire trip with a sub-EPA economy run. :( It's really important to see how far your FE dives on the acceleration to know how well you are really doing.
  20. Sledge

    Sledge I like owls with captions

    You're welcome :D

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