Now in its third year, the Saturn Outlook continues to be one of the better choices for a large family in need of transportation. Thanks to its spacious dimensions and class-leading cargo space, the Outlook can easily serve as a respectable minivan replacement. And the Outlook's all-wheel drive and respectable towing capacity ensures SUV-like versatility.
This year, Saturn has updated the Outlook's V6 with direct fuel-injection technology, which provides a bit more horsepower and torque as compared to last year. The rest of the powertrain remains the same, although Saturn's made sure to keep the rest of the Outlook up to date with its entertainment and convenience features by adding Bluetooth phone capability and some new, upgraded Bose audio systems.
The Outlook is one of four vehicles based on General Motors' "Lambda" platform -- the others are the Buick Enclave, the all-new Chevrolet Traverse and the GMC Acadia. Previous to this, the Saturn was the least expensive of the original three, yet it was the slowest selling by a considerable margin. Now there's the Traverse, which is priced similarly yet is more distinctively styled and has more available features.
Meanwhile, the Honda Pilot, Mazda CX-9 and Toyota Highlander are all comparable in size and price. Even the new Ford Flex is worth considering, as it offers agile carlike handling combined with a modern, sleek design. But considering its overall capabilities, the 2009 Saturn Outlook remains a great choice for families in need of space and utility.
The 2009 Saturn Outlook is a large crossover SUV with seating for up to eight passengers. There are two trim lines: XE and XR. The base XE features 18-inch wheels, full power accessories, heated exterior mirrors, cruise control, air-conditioning with rear controls, OnStar, an MP3/CD player and satellite radio. The XR adds roof rails, foglights, variable-effort power steering, a power driver seat, leather seating, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with remote audio controls, wood-grain interior trim, dual-zone climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and Bluetooth.
Options, depending on the trim level, include xenon headlights, a dual-pane sunroof, a power liftgate, remote engine start, rear parking sensors, premium audio systems, a rear DVD entertainment system and a navigation system with a back-up camera and real-time traffic updates. Other options include front seat heaters, a power passenger seat and driver memory positioning. If you order second-row captain's chairs, seating capacity drops to seven but you gain an optional center console between the seats. In addition, many of the XR's standard features can be added to the base model. A variety of wheel choices and sizes are also available, including optional 20-inch wheels on XR trims.
The Outlook's cabin is both functional and pleasing to the eye. The faux wood in XR models is convincing enough, and the overall quality of interior materials is impressive. However, many of the buttons on the dashboard are a bit too small and similar-looking, making them hard to find and operate.
The first- and second-row seats are comfortable and can easily fit children or adults. The third row might not feel as roomy as a minivan, but it still offers more space than the average crossover SUV. Access to rear seating is easy thanks to the second row's "Smart Slide" feature, which flips the cushions up as the seatback slides forward, creating a wide path of entry. Cargo capacity is 24 cubic feet with all seats up, and a class-leading 117 cubic feet with all rear seats down.
The Outlook XE has a 3.6-liter V6 rated at 281 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque. The XR model's dual exhaust boosts those numbers to 288 hp and 270 lb-ft. Power is sent through a standard six-speed automatic transmission, and both trims are available as either front-wheel or all-wheel drive. Properly equipped, the Outlook is capable of towing up to 4,500 pounds. The front-drive 2009 Outlook rates 17 mpg city/24 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined. The AWD version checks in at just 1 mpg less.
While the 2009 Saturn Outlook doesn't have the sporty character of, say, the Mazda CX-9, it's easy and pleasant to drive, especially considering the vehicle's size and hefty 4,700-pound curb weight. The ride quality is smooth and forgiving without being overly soft. And although the fuel economy-minded six-speed automatic transmission can be sluggish with downshifts, the new V6's additional power should be enough to pull the Outlook through during demanding driving.
Standard safety features include antilock brakes, rollover-sensing stability control, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and GM's OnStar service. In crash tests, the 2009 Saturn Outlook scored an optimal five out of five stars in both front- and side-impact evaluations conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The 2009 Saturn Outlook gets a bump in power and torque thanks to direct-injection technology for the 3.6-liter V6. Bluetooth is now optional on the base XE trim levels and standard on the upgraded XR trims. There are also two new optional Bose audio systems, real-time traffic capability for the navigation system and optional 20-inch wheels for the XR trim level.