Performance is not the Vue's strong suit, although it does provide a comfortable ride around town with enough pep for most urban situations. The hybrid system's electric motor does what it can to help out on the freeway, but this is one car that won't spend much time in the left-hand lane. Our principal concern with the Vue Green Line is its fuel-economy shortcomings: our observed mileage was a long way off the EPA's estimates.
On the outside, the Vue Green Line adopts some of the upscale accents found on the V-6 gasoline Vue models, including a rear spoiler, alloy wheels, and color-coded door handles and bumper fascias. From the cockpit, drivers are greeted with a good view of the road and an even better view of the Vue's large steering wheel, which boasts controls for the stereo and cruise control, as well as a voice-command button linked to the car's standard OnStar telematics system.
Autostop and go green
The Vue Green Line's instrument cluster contains four clear and bright dials, two of which give clues to its hybrid identity. Instead of beginning at 0rpm, the tachometer has a setting called Autostop (found on a number of other parallel hybrids such as Honda's Civic and Accord hybrids) which shuts off the engine when the car is stationary. Autostop on the Green Line works only when the car is in Drive with the brake pedal depressed and the air conditioning set to either economy mode or off. Releasing the brake or turning the A/C on when in Autostop causes the engine to restart with a quiet shudder. The Vue's other hybrid-centric gauge is its charge/assist meter, which lets the driver know when the car's hybrid system is being either charged (by regenerative braking or deceleration), or discharged in response to increased engine load-demand. (For more on how this works in theory and in practice, see below.)
An upgraded 6-disc, in-dash stereo is available for an extra $650, and XM satellite radio prewiring is available as part of the Vue's Comfortably Safe package, which also includes a 6-way power driver's seat, heated front seats, and head-curtain side airbags--all for an extra $1,225. Also on the options sheet is a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, which comes at the expense of the (optional) power sunroof and adds $1,140 to the sticker price. Hands-free calling is available in the Green Line as part of the subscription-based OnStar program, and requires an active OnStar service contract and either a prepaid-minute package or enrollment in OnStar Shared Minutes Plan. According to GM, however, OnStar-based turn-by-turn navigation is not available on the 2007 Vue Green Line.
Our test car came with the leather-appointed seat and leather-wrapped steering wheel option ($755), which lent the interior some style, although, even with the leather upgrade, our photographer was less than impressed with the level of comfort in the rear seats. The Vue Green Line comes with over 30 cubic feet of storage space, and includes a "rear-cargo organizer"--a unique, plastic fold-out crate in the cargo area that can be snapped into place to prevent grocery bags from spilling over when driving out of the mall parking lot. Seat comfort notwithstanding, there is plenty of legroom in the rear seats for adults, and the front passenger and rear seats fold flat to maximize interior space.
Unlike "full hybrids" that can run entirely in electric mode, GM's first hybrid SUV features a simpler hybrid technology known as Belt Alternator Starter (BAS), which is a low-cost approach to getting a coveted "hybrid" badge on its model line. The BAS concept works by replacing the belt-driven alternator and starter motor with an electric motor that serves as a generator and a motor.