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For years, the Saturn line of automobiles was generally accepted by RVers as the ideal choice for dinghy towing behind a motorhome.
Though other vehicles offered manual transmission models that could be towed with all four wheels on the ground, Saturn was one of the few manufacturers that offered both manual and automatic versions that could be transported in this fashion.
That changed in 2002, when Saturn introduced its new small SUV, the VUE, along with the VTi Consistently Variable Transmission (CVT). This transmission design employed two variable pulleys and a steel drive belt to provide an infinite number of gear ratios and no perceptible shift feel.
In addition to a smoother ride, the idea behind the transmission was greater efficiency and improved fuel economy. However, the bad news for RVers was that the Vues equipped with the VTi transmission were not towable, leaving the two-wheel-drive, manual transmission VUE as the only plausible dinghy choice.
That trend continued through the 2004 model introduction as Saturn pared down the number of automatic-equipped cars that could be towed to just two models.
For 2005, however, Saturn is returning to its tow-friendly roots, although the change had little to do with catering to the RV sector. The underlying reason is the same one that caused its departure – the VTi CVT.
After a couple of years in production, some concerns over the transmission’s reliability and longevity had surfaced, prompting Saturn to remove the VTi from production, along with the nontowable Aisen five-speed automatic. The replacement for these transmissions is the tried and true 4T45E automatic.
“The 4T45E is a dependable, reliable four-speed automatic that is a perfect match for the Ecotec 2.2-liter engines,” commented Brian Brockman of Saturn corporate communications. “Though the RV segment was not the No.1 reason for the switch, Saturn is aware that flat-towing is important to those customers. Certainly, that factor weighed in when the decision was made to go back to the 4T45E.”
Four cylinder versions of the VUE will also use the 4T45E, while six-cylinder-equipped models will continue to use the towable Honda-built five-speed automatic.
The ION, for example, has undergone numerous changes besides to these mechanical revisions, Sedan and coupe models benefit from new front fascias and grilles, interior updates and improvements to noise, vibration and harshness levels promise to make these models smoother and more refined than in previous years.
The return of the 4T45E four-speed automatic transmission means that every automatic-equipped model in Saturn’s lineup for 2005 is towable, except for the 2005 Relay “crossover sport van.”