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Vue counts on choice of engines, transmissions

GREENVILLE, S.C. - Saturn will stress choices when its Vue sport wagon goes on sale this month.

The Vue is Saturn's first truck, and it enters a booming segment dominated by the Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V. It is a segment that Saturn expects will expand 30 percent to 35 percent in the next four years, reaching nearly 1 million units.

Saturn benchmarked the CR-V when it developed the Vue.

"The CR-V was an interesting vehicle from an innovation standpoint," Jim Ulrich, vehicle line executive for the Vue, said at a press event here. "It created a new market segment with a lot of potential. We wanted to expand upon it by offering a lot more choices and versatility."

Production of the Vue began this month at Saturn's assembly plant in Spring Hill, Tenn., with a goal of 50,000 units for the 2002 model year. The base front-wheel drive model with manual transmission carries a $16,835 sticker price, including transportation.

The advertising campaign will begin in February.

The Vue is the first General Motors vehicle marketed in North America with a continuously variable transmission and electrically assisted power steering. Continuously variable transmissions shift constantly to optimize performance and fuel economy rather than shifting at fixed points, as do traditional transmissions. Vues with the CVT go into production in January.

The Vue is larger than all of the sport wagons in its segment except the Hyundai Santa Fe, which is 1.1 inches wider. The Vue is created from a welded space frame with bolt-on front and rear subframes. The doors and fenders are polymer panels.

The Vue will offer two engines and three transmissions. Most sport wagons offer only one engine.

Its base engine is a variant of GM's global Ecotec 16-valve, double overhead cam 2.2-liter engine. GM rates the engine at 143 hp at 5,400 rpm.

Optional is a 3.0-liter, 24-valve V-6 producing 181 hp at 6,000 rpm. The V-6 is available only with GM's five-speed automatic and all-wheel drive.

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