Interstate Blogging in the Outlook

Scouring the web for the latest Saturn news, reviews, and rumors every day in the evening after work - while administering the SaturnFans Forums - usually keeps me pretty busy. So busy, unfortunately, that I don't spend as much time as I'd like posting my own personal Saturn-related stories and experiences. It's a little embarrassing to think that I started working on my 5,000 mile "road report" documenting our '08 Outlook ownership experience more than 7,000 miles ago. I still don't have it posted and we now have almost 13,000 miles clocked on our pearl white Saturn crossover.

It was with that in mind that I thought I'd try to make better use of my time this weekend as we traveled back and forth to the Midwest for my brother's wedding. When my wife and I swapped seating positions midway through our trip back to the east coast, I decided to take advantage of some of my downtime in the passenger seat by trying to write this story about our long weekend adventure by typing it out on my phone. In a little while, I'll test out Verizon's EVDO wireless coverage when I attempt to upload the story to the front page of SaturnFans.com.

The story really begins when we packed the Outlook last Thursday morning for the 11 hour (one-way) journey. The trip started with a jump... a jump-start that is, provided courtesy of our 2005 Vue Red Line. I had left the rear hatch of the Outlook open for about 6 hours while we packed the car. I don't remember any of the interior lights staying on, but even if they did, I thought the Outlook had battery run-down protection to prevent the battery from going completely dead. We found out the hard way that either the Outlook doesn't have rundown protection, or that maybe I inadvertently changed a setting in the "driver information center" (DIC) that turned it off. Nonetheless, we were thankful that the battery had been drained while the Outlook was sitting in our garage, instead of halfway across the country. Repositioning the Vue in the driveway so that my jumper cables could reach both cars was all that was needed to get the Outlook's engine started. With that done, we were on our way.

The Outlook did an outstanding job transporting us comfortably and in style. The Outlook looks good - especially when it's shiny and clean! We averaged just under 20 miles per gallon (MPG) on our way out, and with about 150 miles until we get home, the DIC is reading just over 21 MPG. That's not too bad considering the interstate highway we're following crosses the eastern continental divide, along with some pretty steep mountains in Maryland and West Virginia. The Outlook's 3.6L V6 had no problem navigating around tractor-trailer trucks struggling to keep pace. Even more reassuring was that the Outlook was able to charge up the steepest hills with plenty of oomph to spare.

One of my responsibilities as the "best man" in the wedding was to collect the wedding rings from the ring bearer during the ceremony. My three-and-a-half year old nephew, who is infatuated with toy cars, was tasked with carrying the rings down the aisle. He was excited about his job, but we were concerned that he can sometimes be easily distracted. We were afraid he might not either make it all the way to the front of the church, or get side-tracked before he made it back to his seat after the rings were delivered. I learned at my sister's wedding last June that exchanging the rings for a Hot Wheels car could not only discretely keep his attention while the rings were untied, but it also got him to head straight back over to his Mom (my other sister) to show her his new toy.

I brought a bright blue metallic Ion quad coupe Hot Wheels car with me to the church, and hoped for the same result. It worked! He didn't expect to receive a car when he delivered the rings, and he spent much of the rest of the weekend showing everyone his new "Saturn race car." I'd like to think that maybe we now have a budding Saturn fan in the family.

Instead of driving straight home after the last of the weekend wedding festivities ended yesterday, we stopped in Columbus, Ohio last night to break-up the drive, unwind, and relax a bit. We stayed at a hotel right down the street from Saturn/West in Hilliard. It was a homecoming of sorts for the Outlook, because we bought the Outlook last January from our good friend, fellow Saturn fan, and Saturn sales consultant Al Clapsaddle at the Saturn/West store. I was happy to be able to meet up with Al for breakfast this morning before he went to work and we got back on the road. We had a good discussion about the new 2009 Saturns, our Outlook, and his newly-modified Aura midsize sedan.

Before I left the store, Al let me take a 2009 Aura XE equipped with the 2.4L 4-cylinder engine and 6-speed automatic transmission out for a quick spin around town. That particular powertrain combination, which is new for '09 and offered in both XE and XR models, is supposed to yield a class-leading EPA estimated 33 MPG on the highway. I was afraid that the vehicle's performance might take a hit in order to achieve such impressive economy, but I was really happy to find that 4-cylinder Aura actually feels quicker than last year's model with the 4-speed auto. Saturn and GM seem to have done their homework with this powertrain, and I hope they advertise how good it really is.

Over the years Al has enjoyed personalizing all of his Saturns, and his '08 Aura is no different. Just like his other cars, he did a good job customizing this one too. Al added a rear decklid spoiler, front billet grill, fog lamps, new alloy wheels, and chrome trim around the Aura's windows and on the doors. Tinted windows and carbon fiber trim throughout the interior added to the sedan's sporty look. He's not completely done with the transformation, but the execution of his vision thus far gives a really good idea of what a Red Line Aura could look like. It's a sweet ride! Saturn/West also had a customized "Ohio State" themed Vue for sale on the lot. I'll post pictures of both after we get home, get unpacked, and get some sleep.

Speaking of home, we're almost there now, so I'm going to wrap things up. Traveling is a joy in the Outlook. The vehicle's roominess comes in really handy when you're traveling with pets and lots of cargo. The amenities inside, like the automatic climate control and navigation system, always keep us comfortable and on the right path. There's really only one only improvement I think think of right now that I'd like to see Saturn change: it would be really useful if you could enter or search for points of interests on the navigation map without having to pull over and stop the car. The "lock-down" feature is safety related (which I can understand if you are driving by yourself), but if the passenger seat air bag sensor detects that someone is sitting in the seat, that person should be able to utilize all of the features of the system. The GM nav unit is really a great tool, so its ashame that it can only be used to its fullest extent when you're standing still. In the grand scheme of things, though, it's a minor issue that really doesn't detract from the overall Outlook ownership experience.

This typing-while-traveling-but-not-driving idea seems to have worked out pretty well. Hopefully I'll get my 5,000 mile 15,000 mile Outlook "road report" online when the vehicle actually hits 15k miles, otherwise we might have to go on another long road trip...

Are you up for another drive, Honey?

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