Chevrolet Plans to Offer Vue-based SUV in 2004

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Last week General Motors confirmed rumors that Chevrolet will replace its aging Tracker SUV with a version of the Saturn Vue in 2004, as a 2005 model. The new SUV will be called the Equinox. Like the Vue, the Equinox will be a five-passenger sport-utility built on GM's Theta architecture. The Equinox will feature polymer body-side panels and will be the first Chevrolet sport-utility built on a car chassis. To date, all other Chevy SUVs use a heavier truck frame.

Despite their common platform, the Vue and Equinox will offer different V6 powertrain options. The entry-level Equinox will reportedly share its 2.2L 4-cylinder powerplant with the base Vue. However, the optional engine in the Equinox is believed to be one of GM's new generation V6 engines. The Detroit Free Press speculated two possibilities: a 3.6L or 2.8L. The 3.6L V6 would produce about 250 horsepower, while the 2.8L version would generate 200 horsepower. Beginning in with the 2004 model year, Saturn will offer a version of Honda�s 240-plus hp 3.5L V6 in uplevel Vues. The Equinox will be available in front- or all-wheel-drive models with 5-speed automatic and 5-speed manual transmissions. The CVT will be exclusive to Saturn, and not offered in the Equinox.

The Equinox will be assembled at CAMI Automotive in Ingersoll, Ontario. Saturn's Spring Hill manufacturing facility will be operating at full capacity with production of the Vue and Ion. CAMI is a joint venture of GM of Canada and Suzuki Motor Corporation of Japan. The CAMI plant currently builds the Chevrolet Tracker, Suzuki Vitara and Grand Vitara. It is not yet known at this time if Suzuki will build its own version of the Vue and Equinox.

According to Margaret Brooks, marketing director for the Equinox, the SUV will be "a core product for Chevrolet." It is believed that Chevrolet hopes to sell at least 100,000 units each year. Brooks said the Equinox will be priced below the TrailBlazer and marketed as part of Chevrolet's sport-utility lineup to offer a larger, more powerful and more upscale vehicle than competitors.

Source: Detroit Free Press, Automotive News, AutoWeek

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