SMALL SUVs WHO'S WHO
It's funny, this new Saturn Vue: Hit the gas pedal and engine revolutions shoot toward the 6,000 mark and stay there, but the vehicle doesn't react. Then, a second or so later, the power kicks in and the speedometer begins its slow and steady climb.
This pronounced lag comes courtesy of the Vue's continuously variable transmission, a fuel-saving technology that until recently was relegated to gutless micro-cars like the Subaru Justy. But recent improvements are giving the CVT a new lease on life. The transmission is available in the latest Audi A4, and the Vue becomes the first sport-utility vehicle to get one this spring.
The CVT is also the main reason we wanted to test the all-new Vue, Saturn's first foray into SUV land. It's a bold move for a company whose previous foray-into midsize-car land-has yielded marginal results. The small sport-utility category is dominated by mainstays like the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V, plus there's new (quality) competition from the likes of Jeep, Mazda, and Ford.
We decided to test the Vue against the two benchmark vehicles, the CR-V and RAV4. Our course: a big loop around northern Virginia that included highways, twisty two-laners, and separate off-road segments heavy on dirt, gravel, and mud.single page
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.