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With the panic of Y2K over, automakers focused on a new type of vehicle that would eventually take over the market; the crossover SUV. This new vehicle class was gaining popularity, but no clear blueprint was given to guide automakers. In an effort to garner attention, GM created some impressive performance SUVs that could have been something special.

What caused the GM performance SUVs to fail?

2008 Chevy Equinox Sport posed
2008 Chevy Equinox Sport | Chevrolet

Before the end of the 2000s, the automotive world faced the greatest global economic crash in history. With GM declaring bankruptcy, the belts tightened, some brands were deleted, and the auto giant had to focus on volume models instead of products that only garnered small sales figures.

Had this not happened, we might have discovered just how popular the Saturn Vue Red Line, Chevrolet Equinox Sport, and Pontiac Torrent GXP could have been. These GM performance SUVs had their brief turn in the spotlight. GM hasn’t attempted a true performance SUV under the Chevy name until recently. The new Chevy Blazer SS EV will carry that mantle, but what might have been if not for the economic crisis?

Saturn Vue Red Line

Red 2008 Saturn Vue Red Line parked and posed
2008 Saturn Vue Red Line | GM

The Saturn Vue was the most popular SUV for this fledgling brand. Unfortunately, even as the Red Line model was being delivered in 2004, the writing was on the wall for this brand name. Still, this GM performance SUV was powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine. This engine was borrowed from Honda to deliver 250 horsepower and 242 lb-ft of torque. That might now sound like a lot, but it was an incredible jump from the base four-cylinder’s 143 ponies.

The Red Line trim gave the Vue a lowered suspension, racy body panels, a set of 18-inch wheels, the option of AWD, and a sprint time to 60 mph of only 6.6 seconds. This was a pretty cool little SUV.

Pontiac Torrent GXP and Chevy Equinox Sport

Black Pontiac Torrent GXP parked in front of a brick building
Pontiac Torrent GXP | Wikimedia Commons

Rather than use the Honda engine in the performance version of the Torrent and Equinox, GM added the LY7 engine to the GXP and Sport trims. MotorTrend tells us this engine is a 3.6-liter V6 that offered 264 horsepower. This power was routed through the six-speed automatic transmission. This transmission was more effective than the five-speed automatic used in other SUV models.

Because all three of these GM performance SUVs rode on the same platform, the performance features were identical. By 2008, the Saturn Vue Red Line turned away from the Honda engine. It began using the same V6 as the Pontiac Torrent GXP and Chevy Equinox Sport.

The only survivor was no longer a GM performance SUV

Red 2012 Chevy Equinox Parked in front of a shop
2012 Chevy Equinox | Chevrolet

Once the recession broke, the only model of these three left standing was the Chevy Equinox Sport. The power of the LY7 V6 was gone with a smaller, more efficient V6 engine in its place. Since then, GM performance SUVs have been all but nonexistent; but that’s begun to change.

Next, check out the high-performance 2023 Cadillac Escalade-V, or learn about the upcoming Chevy Blazer SS EV in this video below:


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