The plastic body panels on today’s Nice Price or No Dice Saturn are the model’s most innovative feature, although the Honda V6 under its hood is probably the most surprising. Let’s see what this hot cross-brand crossover can command in today’s dollars.
Chrysler’s K-car is arguably the most important platform in the company’s history. That being said, it doesn’t get much respect around these parts. The 1986 Chrysler Laser XT Turbo we looked at yesterday was a prime example. Many of you commented that the car wasn’t worth anything near its $8,995 asking despite its present rarity, impressively low miles and extremely decent presentation. Hell, it even had louvers! That wasn’t enough, though, and the Laser went out in a 78 percent No Dice loss.
Hot versions of cheap cars have been around ever since there have been cheap cars to hop up. Performance, or at the minimum, its implication, has long been a way to add a little sizzle to your steak, even when that steak is actually ground chuck. I’m looking at you, Salisbury “steak.”
In the case of today’s 2005 Saturn Vue Red Line, that process involved first fitting the small crossover with a fairly hot engine. That engine came to the car from, of all places, the Honda Motor Company. The history of the deal between General Motors and Honda that resulted in the 250 horsepower J35S1 V6 being slotted into the Vue’s engine bay is a bit murky. The official line from GM at the time was that it was part of an engine swap that saw the company free up a number of diesel engines from subsidiary Isuzu for Honda’s European operations in exchange for a boatload or two of Honda’s 3.5-liter V6 and associated five-speed automatic transmission. Other stories claim the engine deal was a precursor to Honda adopting GM’s OnStar concierge service. That was a thing GM was pushing back before everyone was given a cellphone at birth.
Whatever the reason, GM found itself in the possession of Honda’s slinky drivetrain combo and decided to use it in the best place they could find — under the hood of their import-fighting brand’s top-selling crossover.
The Honda V6 could be had in the standard Vue, however the one to have was the Red Line. That accentuated the potent Honda drivetrain with a suspension that was massaged and lowered for improved handling and a body kit that made the Vue look far less like something you’d store the dinner leftovers in.
This one is painted Pacific Blue and rolls on 20-inch aftermarket wheels. Nicely, those are wrapped in tires with a good bit of tread left. Other updates include a battery and the brakes, and a timing belt that was done at 119,000 miles. The car now has 137,000 miles on the clock.
There are a number of other mods here, some of which may be of questionable value. Those include a cold air intake and a “custom muffler-delete exhaust,” both of which probably have the seller’s neighbors cheering for the Vue’s impending departure.
The bodywork is clean and seemingly without issue. The Vue shared the same Theta platform as the Chevy Equinox but offered the Saturn schtick of plastic body panels on all the vertical surfaces. That required wider panel gaps due to the higher heat expansion properties of the polymer panels compared with that of steel.
Opening a door reveals an interior awash in leather and…well, plastic. Lots of plastic. I don’t know what you’d expect from a Saturn, but at least this one seems to have held up pretty well. There is some wear evident on the center console around the switchgear, but the rest of the cabin appears to be tidy and without major issue. Adding a bit of bling, there is a shift handle that appears to be out of the accessory aisle at Pep Boys and a fat cover on the steering wheel. A double DIN head unit and aftermarket amp provide the tunes.
The seller says that the title is clean and that everything on board works as it should. The asking price is $4,950. What do you think, should anyone pay that much for this Honda-powered Saturn? Or, is that a mashup that should never have happened at a price that isn’t any more palatable today?
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