August 2007
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Saturn Outlook rising among midsized & large SUVs
GM's roomy new entry rates with the best we've tested

Ford Edge
Ford Edge
Photos by Tracey Kroll
The new Saturn Outlook
(available to subscribers)
 is the best American SUV we've tested, and ranks among the top vehicles in both our midsized and large SUV ratings. Its overall test score is behind only the Toyota Highlander Hybrid and Honda Pilot among midsized SUVs and the Mercedes-Benz GL450 among large SUVs.

The Outlook faced some worthy competition in this group, as three of the models--the new Hyundai Veracruz and Mazda CX-9, and the freshened Chrysler Pacifica--scored within five points of it. But the new Ford Edge (all models are available to ) is one of the lower-scoring SUVs we've tested, despite sharing a platform with the CX-9.

Prices for those SUVs, equipped with popular comfort and convenience options such as sunroofs and heated leather seats, ranged from $33,590 for the Edge to $36,799 for the Outlook. They provide much of the comfort and utility of last month's group of luxury SUVs for about $10,000 less. None of the new vehicles in this group are recommended because they are too new for us to have reliability data. The Pacifica hasn't been reliable enough for us to recommend it.

room to spare

As with the luxury SUVs  we tested recently, a major trend in this category is that more models are coming with third-row seats, boosting carrying capacity from five to seven or eight people. In this group, only the Edge lacked one. While third-row seats in SUVs are typically tight and best left for kids, it's one of the areas where the Outlook shines.

Almost a foot and a half longer than midsized SUVs such as the Toyota Highlander, the Outlook is the first car-based SUV that's big enough to be a viable alternative to large truck-based models such as the Ford Expedition and Chevrolet Tahoe. That's good news because car-based models tend to provide better handling, a more comfortable ride, and better fuel economy.

And even though the Outlook's footprint is one inch shorter and narrower than the Tahoe, it has more interior room, almost as much cargo space, and a third seat that's easier to access and roomy enough for adults. The Outlook is also less expensive than other large SUVs we've tested and provides the best overall fuel economy (16 mpg). Its gas mileage is about midpack compared with midsized SUVs we've tested.

Along with its corporate twins, the new Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia, the Outlook is among the best models from General Motors in years.

coming down the road

Our top-rated midsized SUVs, the Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot, are due to be replaced soon. A second-generation Highlander is due this summer, with a hybrid version coming in the fall. A new Pilot is expected in early 2008. Other SUV models expected in the near future are the freshened Ford Taurus X (formerly the Freestyle), a freshened Subaru Tribeca with a larger engine, and the new, roomy Ford Flex, coming in summer 2008.