I feel it’s high time I talked about the other car in my life, my dearly missed 2004 Saturn Vue, my automotive rock. I sold it away casting my old friend off dismissively as I took to my then new-to-me dream Jeep; looking back, it seems shallow.
And it was, I didn’t need the Jeep, the Vue was perfectly fine and an excellent daily. It was efficient, cheap, already there, and possessed a hard to find quality I didn’t yet even understand.
But enough regret, it only festers and rots what is now.
Anyway, this Vue stood by me as I took my first job, waited in the parking lot for me after school, was a quiet, leather-lined refuge from the hustle and bustle of the world. It took care of me far more than I took care of it. I remember leaning back the driver seat and closing my eyes, listening to my favorite Pink Floyd CD, floating down the highway at dusk, cruising through the woods in the cooling air and stretching shadows. My first on-my-own road trip, blasting the heat on frigid days…. The times its ABS saved my ass, the way that V6 pulled, how the headlights shone in welcome when I unlocked it.
My dad purchased the Vue, coined “The Couch”, in 2005 alongside a brand new Ion sedan for my mom. I only vaguely remember climbing around the Vue pushed to the corner of the lot, enamored by the big, sorta jeep-like SUV far more than the plain burgundy sedan. It took me to first grade at my first and second elementary schools, on many a road trip to grandparents, to soccer practices with my dad, and to parks where he would fly his radio control planes. He would pack the Vue with his Aerobirds, Cubs, and Strikers (not camera laden drones, thank you), and pop open his hatch flying around before we would trek back home in the closing light.
I watched movies in the back, eating a crap-ton of Pringles, fries, drinking sweating, ice diluted sodas, letting my Hotwheels roll through the seams of the leather seats while the dog drooled all over my hands.
When I was 16, I had my driver’s license and some half-hearted plans to begin attending community college. My parents bought a Nissan Frontier and shuffled my dad to my moms Kia while my mom took the new truck leaving me with the Vue. Unfortunately, I fucked up and didn’t do paperwork like I was supposed to, leaving college boy with a college car yet he wasn’t actually in college yet. Oops.
Lesson learned, I needed a job, which in the end I feel like has taught me a lot more about life than that first semester would – I was too soft for college then anyway. I worked at a chicken place – it sucked and thats all I need to say about that. Luckily I moved to a better, easier job at a grocery store where the Vue got me to my interview, follow ups and finally found its place in the parking lot.
The Vue took me to it all, not skipping a beat as they say. I kept my hands clean and nails pretty with this car, leaving me with a rude awakening to the sharp, greasy cruelties of DIY repair (story for another day).
It really spoiled me- surely this Saturn, this allegedly crappy car, the scum scorned by CR, was the bottom of the auto-verse.
Those magazines are dumb, Internet forums are full of shit. You want a car like this.
I didn’t yet know the sting of a scratch, the pain of seeing light pool into a freshly dimpled sheet metal thanks to the Saturn’s dent resistant plastic doors, fenders, and bumpers. Panel gaps, you say? You won’t notice them when your crying over that new ding you just knocked in your precious steel.
But I want a car that talks to me, some engine noise, I want to feel it.
No you don’t, you want this.
A silken 3.5 liter J35A Honda V6.
Oh yeah, VTEC, yo. This sweet power plant contributed the most to why I liked the Saturn, even when I didn’t fully appreciate it. At idle, it was so quiet all you could hear were clicking injectors and the high frequency whine of the fuel pump, but when you opened up all 250 hp it would rev to a bellowing redline, responding at the slightest twitch of your foot - I was the king of traffic, slayer of CR-Vs, scourge of speed limits…
Ok, maybe not, but it was nothing to sneeze at.
Though the Saturn Vue was hardly a pretty car, this particular one being a color so blah I can’t be bothered to describe it, would clean up so nice, look so fresh even after so many miles and age.
I drove this car to work and school and school and work and work and school and work, it got me there every time and did so for about three years, but after the second year it was beginning to give me crap, expected at over 170k. It never broke down, but in the torturous downtown traffic the oil pressure light would blink – I dismissed it as probably a sender, which I bought but never installed. Over Christmas break 2017 I dropped it off with a mechanic to have it looked over, I had the time so why not?
Diagnosis: 9 psi of oil pressure. Damn. Call me impressed, I still don’t think even my Jeep 4.0 has anything on the Honda 3.5.
So in went a new oil pump for an amount of money I am embarrassed to admit; that was an ordeal in itself as I was told GM kept sending the wrong part for my Saturn Pilot, Honda Vue mutt. Two or three weeks later, my dad went and picked up the long silently suffering Vue and we switched cars at my work. I was so excited to have my Saturn back; I climbed in, still warm, and floored it out into the road in quaking excitement.
Not too many weeks later I noticed the frame rail, and of course I use that term loosely, absolutely coated in dripping, fresh oil. Back to the shop and another diagnosis. Busted cam seal, 400 some odd dollars.
Did I want to pour my hard-earned cash, the money I suffered dickheads all day for, into a car I didn’t even like that much, a squeaky, clunky, ugly hand-me-down Saturn costing as much as it was worth in repairs?
Would buying a new car cost more? Obviously, and if I fixed the Saturn it would be good to go for years to come, it was a perfectly good car.
But there was this certain blue time capsule, a tantalizing lure hanging for months on Craigsist, being dropped lower and lower in price, a true unicorn of a car I had yearned for, fantasized about my entire life. Would I continue to let this Vue continue to leech off my savings, would I funnel more money into this dying, Tupperware turd while some else got their hands on my dream?
Well no, you all know how it ends up; my handle is 99XJSport after all...
The Vue got dusted in pollen and pine needles while learned the ways of the clutch and stick in the blissful daze of my perfect new-old jeep. I finally sold it for 1500 bucks and that was that, the end of my Saturn saga, the last I would ever have any interaction with a Vue besides seeing them on the road. Until recently I never thought about how much and for how long that car was a part of my life, and, as my caffeine surge wanes, it’s hard to express how much I miss my Saturn, a companion unobtrusive in the truest sense. Maybe I’ll have another, but likely not, I’ll probably just try to continue to block out the craigslist ads, the ones passing by.
Thanks Vue, here’s to all the good times.