Review: 2007 Saturn Aura
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
The new Aura midsize sedan from Saturn gives this General Motors division a good shot at capturing many new buyers, which financially troubled GM desperately needs.
One has been tempted in recent years to begin a review of a new Saturn model with the words "it's about time." That's because the automaker has introduced precious few significantly new or revamped vehicles since it began selling "import-fighter" cars in 1990.
About the best things one could say about Saturn, which sold a seemingly endless stream of mediocre autos, was that it developed a good "down-home American" image with its Tennessee-built cars—and that its dealers did a good job developing customer loyalty with such things as "no-haggle" pricing and good customer service.
But it's a new ball game now, with the need to develop genuinely competitive vehicles, especially because of stronger Japanese and South Korean competition.
That's not to say that Saturn's user-friendly dealer reputation won't hurt it. But few really give a darn anymore where cars are made—especially the younger buyers to which Saturn pitches most models.
In fact, the Aura comes from GM's highly rated Fairfax plant in Kansas City, Kansas, and the Aura even lacks Saturn's traditional dent-resistant, rust-proof plastic body panels.
A Top GM Car
Saturns always lacked the refinement to match Toyota or Honda models, but the Aura in upscale $23,945 XR trim drives much like an upscale foreign sports sedan, despite its front-wheel-drive layout. It has such features as a potent 252-horsepower dual overhead camshaft V6, supple ride and polished handling with a sport suspension.
The base $19,945 XE Aura doesn't match the XR because it has an old-style 224-horsepower pushrod V6, fewer features and small 17-inch (vs. the XR's 18-inch) wheels. But the XE is pretty good and is loaded with equipment.
Let's put it this way: The smoother, more responsive and faster XR is outstanding in many respects, and the XE is a very nice car that should satisfy most average drivers.
Both Aura engines have nearly the same estimated fuel economy: 20 mpg in the city and 29 on highways with the lower-horsepower V6 and 20 and 28 with the stronger V6. Only regular-grade fuel is required.
The Aura shares some 60 percent of its parts with the decent Pontiac G6 and Chevrolet Malibu Maxx. However, its attractive mainstream styling, stylish cockpit and driving dynamics separate it from those cars.
The XE has good handling, but the XR is more responsive. Some may go for the XE's slightly softer ride. But the XR's tauter suspension isn't uncomfortable, even on poorly paved roads. The anti-lock all-disc brakes felt good, with a progressive pedal action for smooth stops.
The quiet, roomy interior contains fairly supportive front seats, although the rear seat has a high, hard center area. Large, legible gauges can be quickly read, and controls are easy to reach and use. The ignition switch is on the dashboard, not out of sight on the steering column. But wide windshield posts partially block visibility when turning corners.
The XE has an old-fashioned 4-speed automatic transmission, while the XR features a modern, responsive 6-speed automatic, although its steering-wheel-paddles for manual shifting are superfluous for most driving. An anti-skid system is standard for the XR, but unavailable for the XE. Both trim levels have traction control.
Sensible Option Packages
Every driver isn't the same size, so it's nice that a $425 package contains power-adjustable pedals for various leg and torso lengths, along with a power adjustable passenger seat.
A power sunroof costs $800 and a power panoramic sunroof is $1,5,00. Satellite radio also is available.
Saturn says the Aura is a European-influenced import fighter for "import intenders" who have a "progressive mindset." Presumably, it's referring to folks who don't have an anti-Detroit prejudice. The new Saturn certainly deserves to be given a good look by anyone in the market for a midsize sedan.