The Saturn Outlook was one of the four "Lambda" crossover SUVs in GM's stable until the 2009 bankruptcy fiasco, when the Saturn brand met its end. Like the other Lambda vehicles, the Outlook packaged the eight-passenger seating, cavernous cargo capacity and carlike driving character of a minivan into the more fashionable shell of a full-size crossover SUV.
Compared to traditional body-on-frame full-size SUVs, the unibody Outlook provided advantages in terms of ride, handling and fuel economy. Its advantages continued inside, where an attractive interior boasted seating for up to eight passengers and more than 100 cubic feet of available cargo space.
The Outlook's large size limited its maneuverability and handling performance, though. As such, other three-row crossovers with slightly smaller dimensions proved more enjoyable to drive. But for families with large people-hauling or cargo-toting needs, the Outlook was one of the best crossover SUV choices, and it remains so as a used-car option.
Most Recent Saturn Outlook
Produced from 2007-'09, the Saturn Outlook was mechanically similar to the Buick Enclave, Chevy Traverse and GMC Acadia crossover SUV family. Aside from styling, it was primarily differentiated with a lower price and lesser quality interior materials.
There were two trims, XE and XR. Included on the XE were alloy wheels, heated mirrors, power accessories, cruise control, front and rear climate controls, a CD/MP3 player with satellite radio (2009 only) and GM's OnStar service. The XR added dual exhaust, a power driver seat, a trip computer, steering-wheel audio controls, Bluetooth (2009 only) and wood trim.
Standard safety features on both models included antilock brakes, stability control, front-seat side airbags and side curtain airbags protecting all three rows. Among the options were xenon headlights, rear parking sensors, a power liftgate, keyless engine start, a navigation system (which received real-time traffic for '09), a back-up camera (2008-'09), a rear-seat DVD player, Bose audio ('09 only), leather seats and second-row captain's chairs that reduced seating to seven passengers.
All Outlooks were powered by a 3.6-liter V6 that initially made 270 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque (275 and 251 with the XR's dual exhaust). When direct injection was added for '09, those numbers went up to 281 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque (288 hp and 270 lb-ft in the XR). A six-speed automatic was the sole transmission, and all-wheel drive could be ordered in place of front-wheel drive on either model.
On the road, our editors found the Saturn Outlook to be a pleasant drive. GM's modern V6 gave the Outlook decent acceleration and fuel mileage, while the Outlook's unibody construction and all-independent suspension gave it ride smoothness and handling ability superior to GM's previous SUVs and vans. The six-speed automatic transmission could have been more responsive, and the near-5,000-pound curb weight was hefty even for this segment, but the Outlook's overall driving sophistication was definitely up to class standards.
Unlike many competitors in the crossover SUV field, the Saturn Outlook could accommodate adults in all three rows. Granted, comfort was only adequate in the third row, but the fact that grandparents could sit back there at all was a feat in this class. In addition, the Outlook's "Smart Slide" second-row seat feature was advantageous, as with the pull of one obvious lever, either of the captain's chairs (or 64/40-split bench halves) easily tilted, slid and sandwiched up against the first-row seats to ease access to the third row.
The Outlook's size also enabled it to swallow up to 117 cubic feet of cargo while most others take around 90. Despite subtle hints of interior cheapness and some buttons that are either too small or hard to find, the Outlook's dashboard was also among the more attractive in this segment.
For families seeking a truly functional alternative to a minivan or full-size, truck-based SUV, a used Saturn Outlook merits serious consideration. Those who'd rather go the new route should check out the related Acadia, Enclave or Traverse.