It’s true, due to an agreement in 1999 some GM made Saturn Vue SUV’s came with Honda V6 engines between 2004-2007.
Cars and what they have in terms of chassis, engine, and technology combos succinctly reflects the time period and who owned what at the time and that’s the case when it came to 2004-2007 Saturn Vue’s equipped with V6 engines. Due to an engine swap agreement between GM/Isuzu and Honda in 1999, at an undisclosed time in the near future, Isuzu would use a Honda engine and Honda would gain an Isuzu engine.
For GM, in 2004, that gave birth to the Saturn Vue with a Honda J-series and transmission.
By 1999 both Isuzu and Honda were already strange bedfellows when it came to vehicle partnerships. Six years prior, a vehicle exchange program between Isuzu and Honda gave us badge-swapped cars like the Honda Passport/Isuzu Rodeo, Acura SLX/ Isuzu Trooper, Honda Odyssey/Isuzu Oasis and the obscure Honda Domani /Isuzu Aska.
GM also increased its stake in Isuzu from 34% to 49%.
Around that time, GM and Honda disclosed to its shareholders that GM and Honda would work together on a handful of projects, no relation to the increased ownership in Isuzu. According to AutoNews in their report at the time
GM would use a Honda engine in a future vehicle, and Honda would use diesel engines from GM partner Isuzu Motors Ltd.
We now know that Saturn in GM got a Honda V6 and Honda got the right to use diesel engines, primarily for the European market, for its smaller cars.
Honda J35S1/GM L66
The J-series engine is a Honda design that goes way back to 1996 with the basic block architecture of this J35 engine still doing work in current Honda’s like the new Passport and Acura in the RLX.
Engine Code GM L66, this Honda J-series put out an advertised 248 HP at 5,800 RPM and 242 lb-ft at 4,500 RPM.
That was also paired to a Honda 5-speed automatic.
Here are a couple of brochure shots thanks to Auto-Brochures.com that shows Saturn advertising this Honda engine. I find the “innovation to pass service stations” quote a bit cheeky because the only innovation Saturn did was shoehorn a Honda into their Vue.
A bargain value?
At the time, the cheapest Honda you could get this engine is the MSRP $27,590 Honda Pilot LX. If you were willing to look past the build quality and ride (which I’ll get to later) between the Pilot and this Saturn Vue, you could get this Saturn Vue V6 for $24,185, a significant discount compared to the Pilot.
When Car and Driver gave it the beans, they could hit 60 MPH in seven seconds and go through the quarter-mile in 15.5 seconds at 89 MPH, significant improvements over the old GM supplied V6 from Vue’s past.
In fact, here are a couple of videos that I assume you’ll look up to further drive his Honda/Saturn mash-up home. It sounds a lot like a Honda.
As previous owners have said, while the Honda V6 was clearly the highlight of these Saturn Vues, that’s about it. When you pair a gem of an engine with a poor GM engineered suspension that’s often described as “boat-like handling” you get a one-trick pony.
The Saturn Vue V6 is a rocket off the line but don’t expect to carve canyons with one if you find yourself on the PCH.
Contrast that to the same engine in the Honda Pilot with a far more superior suspension and it’s easy to see why, even though it cost less, far more people flocked to Honda than their local Saturn dealership.
If you find one used, for cheap, they’d probably make great long-drive vehicles. If you’re going to use a Vue for more than that, I’d pass these Saturns.