New Outlook Leads Us to Saturn Number Three

2008 Outlook XR

There's something new in the family garage: a brand-new 2008 Saturn Outlook XR. My wife and I picked up the crossover a week-and-a-half ago in Columbus, Ohio at Saturn/West. The Outlook is our third Saturn and it takes the place of our first: a 2002 L300 midsize sedan that we bought in the fall of '01 to replace my wife's Mazda 626 that she had been driving since college.

We have been fans of the Outlook ever since we watched it's unveiling at the New York International Auto Show two years ago. Back then we hadn't decided whether our next new car would be a midsize sedan or crossover SUV, but over time we found ourselves drawn closer to the Outlook. Since its debut we've spent a lot of time climbing in and out of different Outlooks. Every time we came away impressed with its looks, interior packaging, EPA fuel economy figures, crash test ratings, and how well it drove. The competition, notably from Honda, Toyota, and Ford, couldn't match the Outlook's spaciousness, power, price, or aesthetics. We preferred the Outlook's styling cues and interior design over the similar GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave models that share the Outlook's Lambda architecture. The Outlook not only gives us room to grow into, but it also has more than enough space for our two guinea pigs and a dog who loves to go for rides.

My wife and I had been talking about replacing our L300 for several months, but when we started having a lot of problems with the car this past November, we decided to get serious about finding a replacement vehicle. The L300 was a fun-to-drive and nearly trouble-free car for the first 70,000 miles of its life, but in its last 5,000 miles with us we spent a lot of money on repairs.

If that wasn't enough to get us thinking about a new car, a discount coupon and loyalty promotion gave us extra motivation. The coupon arrived in the mail during second week of January. It offered an additional $500 on top of our accrued GM Extended Family credit card earnings. A few days later, Saturn announced a $1000 owner loyalty discount offer which made things even more enticing. There was a catch, though, because we needed to find an Outlook equipped the way we wanted before the close of business on January 31st when the incentives expired.

Armed with this information, I headed to the Saturn's website to build several different Outlooks with varying levels of content that ranged from a basic XR with "must have" options, to our "dream" Outlook with some extra features. I had a general idea of what we wanted in the vehicle, but I was curious to see how the price changed with different combinations of optional equipment. The only options we absolutely didn't want were all-wheel-drive, rear DVD entertainment system, and engine block heater. Saturn's in-dash voice-controlled navigation system with backup camera was a definite, as was the trailer towing and touring packages.

After spending a week driving an all-wheel-drive Outlook last summer, we decided that we really wanted the ultrasonic park assist and power rear liftgate that were included in the convenience package. The park assist is a big help when backing up into tight spaces. The enhanced convenience package with its memory seats and power folding mirrors was a nice-to-have option, but it wasn't necessarily required. We also liked the second row captain's chairs, HID lights, and power sunroof with rear skylight, but those were also optional options for us.

The color was one subject that we both agreed on right away: it had to be white diamond tricoat. I have wanted a pearl white Saturn ever since the company offered their limited-edition 1994 SL2 Homecoming sedan. Fortunately, my wife liked the color as much as I did. We think the Outlook looks especially upscale and sophisticated in the pearlescent white hue with the polished 19” wheels.

With a stack of vehicle configurations in hand, we headed to our local Saturn store to see which Outlooks they had in stock. Unfortunately our excitement was dampened a bit when a regional search turned up no vehicles in the Washington area equipped the way we wanted. We were advised that our best course of action would be to order our preferred Outlook, unless we wanted to opt for a different color, accept an option or two that we didn't want, or make do without some of the options we did. Ordering an Outlook was a last resort, because the 8-to-10 week process would have not only put us well beyond the expiration date of the aforementioned incentives, but it would've possibly jeopardized the $500 cash allowance on the Outlook that was set to expire in the beginning of March.

With $2000 at stake and the clock ticking, I called my good friend, fellow Saturn fan, and sales consultant Al Clapsaddle in Ohio to see if there were any Outlooks in his market area that met our criteria. We had purchased our Vue Red Line from Al in 2004, and we were hopeful that since things weren't working out locally, he might be able to help. Columbus is almost 7 hours from home for us, but at this point in our search the "service engine soon" light had come on again in the L300, and we really wanted an Outlook!

If you don't know Al, he's an import-car-buyer turned Saturn enthusiast who loved the cars and company so much that when he retired from a career in the telecommunications industry, he found a job selling cars at his local retailer. He's been a fan since he purchased his first Saturn in 1994. In less than 15 years since then, his family has purchased more than 40 Saturns, most of which were bought before he started selling them in 2001.

You won't find a better, more knowledgeable Saturn sales consultant than Al. If you talk to those who know him, you'll learn that he has a bit of a legendary reputation in the Saturn community. He works very hard and is dedicated to not only making his customers happy, but to doing business the "Saturn" way. He treats people with respect and honesty, and as a result, he has many repeat customers several times over. We knew if anyone could find an Outlook that met our needs before the end of the month, Al could do it.

Soon after my initial call, Al replied with news that he had found seven Outlooks within a 400 mile radius of his store that met our minimum criteria. None of them were exact matches, but about half were close enough to garner a second look. Buying a new car with several hundred "unknown" miles on the odometer wasn't something we wanted to do, so we quickly narrowed down the list based on equipped options and distance from his store. We ended up selecting the closest model which was located only about 100 miles from Columbus. That particular vehicle had 14 miles on the odometer before it was transported to Saturn/West – the seats were even still wrapped in plastic! It was our "dream" Outlook, loaded with every option except the three we didn't want. It had two options (dual sunroofs and second row captain's chairs) that we probably wouldn't have chosen had we ordered the vehicle, but both features were on our "wish" list. The $2000 we were saving helped offset the higher cost and kept the vehicle within our budget.

Delivery day arrived quickly as the end of the month was rapidly approaching. Al pulled out all the stops when we bought our Vue, and while we really appreciated his efforts to make us feel special, this time we asked him to keep it low-key. With the exception of two notable surprises, he gave us exactly what we wanted: a classic Saturn vehicle delivery.

As we walked into the store, we saw our Outlook hidden under a car cover in the launch area of the facility. The folks at Saturn/West welcomed and congratulated us, cheered and clapped, and snapped photos as the car was uncovered and we took the keys. Al meticulously and thoroughly talked us through the buying process, highlighted some important points in the owners' manual, and gave us a detailed overview of the vehicle. The team at Saturn of Columbus is always so nice to us. Afterwards they treated us to a delicious dinner at a fancy steak restaurant.

One very special surprise during our delivery was when Saturn's general manager, Jill Lajdziak, called us at the store to offer well wishes and personally thank us for buying an Outlook. As a testament to her remarkable attention to detail, she reassured us that our new dog would enjoy all the space in the back of the Outlook! I was so impressed that Jill had remembered from a previous conversation that we had recently adopted a German Shepherd puppy. Her thoughtfulness nearly brought my wife to tears.

It's been just over a week since we picked up our Outlook, and we couldn't be happier. We especially appreciate everything done by everyone who had a hand in making our third Saturn purchase so extraordinary. To say we are "completely satisfied" is an understatement. We're ecstatic!

Check the gallery for photos of our 2008 Saturn Outlook.

Random Article from the Archives

On the Auction Block: The Last Saturn Vue

On the Auction Block: The Last Saturn Vue

This stock 2007 Saturn Vue sport-utility - the last Vue built in Saturn's former manufacturing facility in Spring Hill, Tennessee - will be auctioned in Palm Beach later this week by Barrett-Jackson. This particular Vue is powered by a 2.2 Liter Ecotec engine with automatic transmission, features power windows and locks, and rides on Bridgestone Dueler H/T tires.