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GM offers CVT in Vue; other models to follow

GREENVILLE, S.C. — General Motors will offer its new continuously variable transmission in a wide range of compact vehicles, beginning this month with the 2002 Saturn Vue sport wagon and next fall with the replacement for the Saturn S series.

The transmission has fewer parts and is less costly to produce than a conventional four-speed automatic. It also offers gasoline fuel economy nearly equivalent to a five-speed manual transmission.

Although the fuel economy numbers have not been completed, the four-cylinder front-wheel-drive Vue equipped with a CVT is expected to be rated at 21 mpg city and 28 mpg highway.

The CVT will play a prominent role in many of GM’s four-cylinder compact cars and sport wagons.

Saturn expects to sell 50,000 Vues in the 2002 model year, with about 45 percent of them having CVTs.

Ion to get CVT

The CVT also is offered on the 1.4-liter Opel Corsa that went on sale this fall. Next fall the 2003 Saturn Ion, the replacement for the Saturn S series, will be available with the CVT.

While GM has not released a list of the vehicles slated to receive the CVT, nearly any vehicle equipped with the automaker’s L850 engine is a candidate, said Mohammad Wazir, assistant vehicle line executive for the Vue. He was interviewed last month at a Vue press event in Greenville.

The L850 engine is marketed in North America as the Ecotec 2.2-liter inline four-cylinder engine.

Among the vehicles offering that engine are the 2002 Chevrolet Cavalier; 2002 Pontiac Sunfire and Grand Am; and in Europe, the Opel Astra, Vectra, Speedster and Zafira. The CVT, if selected, would bow when those vehicles are replaced or redesigned, Wazir said.

Applications for CVTs are limited by the amount of torque produced by the engine.

Until recently, such transmissions have been used mostly on economy cars sold in Asia and Europe, because high-torque engines tended to snap the CVT’s drive belts.

But improvements in the drive belt have made the transmission available to a wider range of vehicles.

Cautious beginning

GM is being cautious with the transmission’s ramp up. The goal is 22,500 Vues for the 2002 model year. Higher volumes are expected for the 2003-2005 model years.

“We don’t want to take a huge bite,” said Wazir. “We’ll take a smaller bite and learn from it, refine the controls, refine the pump technology, make sure that everything holds in real life. We have to manage the torque,” which is near the limits of the transmission.

The Vue’s Ecotec 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine produces 143 hp at 5,400 rpm and 152 pounds-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. The CVT is available with front- and all-wheel-drive applications.

The transaxle is assembled at an Adam Opel plant in Szentgotthard, Hungary, and shipped to the Saturn assembly plant in Spring Hill, Tenn.

Job 1 for the Vue is slated for today, Nov. 5.

Tags: Vue CVT

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