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The new Saturn Outlook is big. No, not big, but BIG. So BIG, in fact, that I couldn’t fit it into my small city garage. I found that out the hard way.

It wasn’t too wide and almost wasn’t too tall. It was the antennae sticking up off the top that did me in. As I was slowly backing into the garage, I heard a telltale creak that told me something was bumping somewhere. So, I hopped out immediately and saw it was the antennae. I’m sure it would have bent and thwapped back into place after backing in fully, but I didn’t want to take the chance. So, the Outlook lived on the street during the test week.

Not having children, I have a hard time seeing the use for such a vehicle on a day-to-day basis. But I have recommended it for my parents, since they still have a full house at the holidays. But I also recommended they upsize their house for us even though they’re just hitting retirement age.

But I digress.

The Outlook is one of those vehicles that begs for a family with kids … and their friends. It comes standard with eight-passenger seating, and the third row actually has easy access and is large enough to fit an average-sized adult. Putting down the third-row seats to fit some extra cargo is also relatively simple. It has an easily reached release button and then long straps to pull them back into place. It did require a little extra torque from this petite driver, but it wasn’t impossible.

The Outlook is big, and it definitely felt big while driving. But it had some nice optional features that saved it from being unmanageable. The test vehicle had the Convenience Package ($1,045), which included the power liftgate. This was key for me personally because I couldn’t quite reach the down button on the rear hatch or grab the handhold without a jump. Additionally, the package came with rear park assist. Since the Outlook lived on the street, I was constantly parallel parking, and this came in quite handy.

The Outlook was smooth over potholes and railroad tracks, and with the 3.6-liter V-6, it had excellent acceleration. I didn’t carry any people or cargo items during the test week, so I can’t speak to acceleration when weighted down, but alone, I didn’t feel the vehicle was at all underpowered with 270 horses under the hood.

Though the V-6 is very well-powered, the trade off is gas mileage. The Outlook test vehicle, an all-wheel drive XR model, weighed 4,955 pounds , so this is not one of the 30-plus mpg General Motors vehicles. It does, however, get 24 mpg on the highway, which isn’t bad considering. City estimates ring in at 17 mpg. The 4,700-pound front-wheel drive XE model does get slightly better city/highway estimates of 18/26 mpg.

The XR with AWD is the top-of-the-line model, and has a base price of $32,290. The test vehicle with all the options had a final price of $34, 809, which I think is excellent for everything you get. Key standard features on the XR model include: head curtain side airbags, stability control, roof rails, power heated outside mirrors, eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, universal garage door opener and steering wheel audio controls.

The interior fit and finish is really good for a Saturn. And I mean that in the nicest possible way. The optional Premium Trim Package ($1,275) brought leather seats in the first and second rows and heated front seats. I got a very good driving position with the power seats and adjustable steering wheel, and I felt completely comfortable driving the 201.1-inch-long vehicle.

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One thing that is to be expected from a vehicle of this size is the right-side blind spots. Glancing over my right shoulder afforded a minimal view of the road out the side windows. I can only imagine this would get worse with wiggly kids in the back. Luckily the side mirrors were huge and gave a great view of vehicles that might pop up in the blind spot. I still felt compelled to check and double check before switching lanes.

Saturn has come a long way in terms of interior and exterior styling since their first vehicles hit the road in the early ’90s. From the attractive taillights to the sleek lines, the Outlook may be BIG, but it hits the mark in terms of the new face of Saturn.

I honestly have no need for such a behemoth of a vehicle. I mean, really, eight passengers? Yeesh. But for those of you in the market for a vehicle on the large side of the spectrum, the Outlook is definitely worth checking out. It drives well and looks great, and for such a large vehicle it’s actually comfortable to drive and to sit in.

So, failing the bigger house thing with my parents, if they did upsize to the Outlook, I guess I could always sleep in the car.

Source: [url]http://searchchicago.suntimes.com/autos/research/ciminillo/364194,srch-auto-JC050207.article#[/url]
 
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