Saturn Aura – Photo Gallery: It’s been some time in coming, but now, Saturn is looking to recapture its squandered brand aura. During the next few years, a flood of new models are arriving in showrooms equipped with stylish European design, sporty driving dynamics, and value-laden price tags in an effort to get Saturn put on shopping lists with key competitors from Japan. The new 2007 Saturn AURA is a step in the right direction.
Saturn Aura – Model Mix
Saturn offers the Aura in two trim levels at launch, with a hybrid model expected to debut after the first of the year. On sale now and starting at just $20,595 including the $650 destination charge, the Saturn Aura XE is the base model and includes a long list of standard features. For another $4,000, the Saturn Aura XR adds additional creature comforts and upgraded hardware.
Saturn Aura – XE Trim
Included in the Saturn Aura XE’s base price are a 3.5-liter V6 engine and four-speed automatic transmission, 17-inch wheels and tires, antilock brakes, and traction control. The Aura XE also has power windows, power mirrors, power door locks, cruise control, and a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel. The driver’s seat has a power height adjuster, and the Aura XE is equipped with an automatic single-zone climate control system, a driver information center, a programmable universal remote, and a six-speaker stereo with a CD/MP3 player and an auxiliary input jack.
Saturn Aura – XR Trim
For another $4,000, the Saturn Aura XR adds a more sophisticated 3.6-liter V6 engine with a six-speed automatic transmission, 18-inch alloy wheels, projector beam fog lights, and chrome door handle trim. Inside, the front seats are heated, and the driver gets eight-way power adjustment. The Aura XR is also equipped with a remote vehicle start system for hot days and cold nights, heated side mirrors, remote keyless entry, a Saturn Advanced Audio system with eight speakers and a 240-watt amplifier, and rear audio controls with a set of wireless headphones.
Saturn Aura – Safety Equipment
In terms of safety equipment, every Saturn Aura comes equipped with dual-stage front airbags with a passenger sensing system, dual front side-impact airbags, and side curtain airbags. OnStar is also standard, equipped with a free year of Safe & Sound service which includes airbag deployment notification that will get rescue personnel to your location faster in the event of an accident. Other safety features include a tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights. Stability control is standard and available only on the uplevel Saturn XR.
Saturn Aura – Options
Options for the Saturn Aura include the XE Preferred Package (8-way power driver’s seat, heated outside mirrors, steering wheel controls for the stereo), the XE Convenience Package (heated front seats, remote vehicle starting, universal remote, auto-dimming inside mirror with compass), the Enhanced Convenience Package (6-way power front passenger’s seat, power adjustable pedals), and the Premium Trim Package (leather for the seats, steering wheel, and shift knob). The Aura can also be decked out with premium floor mats, a power sunroof, a panoramic roof, 17-inch alloy wheels, chrome wheel covers, XM satellite radio, and an engine block heater. Exclusive to the Saturn Aura XR is a Morocco Brown leather scheme.
Saturn Aura – XE and XR Powertrains
The Saturn Aura XE comes with a 224-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 attached to a four-speed automatic that the EPA says it will get 20 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. Upgrade to the Saturn Aura XR and you’ll get a 3.6-liter V6 with a six-speed automatic and paddle shifters. This more sophisticated and stronger powerplant makes 252 horsepower on regular unleaded, and gets a rating of 20 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. During our first drive of the Aura XR, we achieved 20.3 mpg on a good mix of roads.
Saturn Aura – Exterior Design
If you like the way the Aura looks, you’ll like how all future Saturn will be designed. Taking its cues from GM’s Opel division in Europe, the Aura is crisp, clean, and balanced. New brand highlights include a chrome grille bar with the red Saturn logo embedded front and center, distinctive upswept headlights, and LED taillights with silver trim. Nine colors are available: Berry Red, Black Onyx, Bronzed Pewter, Cream White, Golden Cashmere, Midnight Blue, Ocean Mist, Silver Pearl, and Techno Gray.
Saturn Aura – Interior Design
According to company spokespeople, the Aura’s interior “sets a new standard for the Saturn brand.” Designers aimed to deliver premium low-gloss materials, tight gap tolerances, and excellent fit and finish to ensure that the Aura would be perceived as upscale. To that end, amber LED gauge and ambient lighting intends to convey a premium ambience, along with the Morocco Brown leather option on the Aura XR. The dash is trimmed in fake wood or silver plastic, chrome accents add flair, the headliner is a plush woven mesh, and the pillars are covered in cloth instead of plastic.
Saturn Aura – Comfort
Pop for the option packages that include power front seats, and you’ll be much happier with the 2007 Saturn Aura. In our well-equipped test samples, we found both multi-adjustable front seats to be comfortable during a lengthy drive, offering a good blend of comfort on the highway and support on twisty roads. The tilt and telescopic steering wheel and optional power adjustable pedals help the driver find an optimal position, and we couldn’t complain about resting an elbow on the soft upper portion of the driver’s door panel.
Saturn Aura – Acceleration
The Saturn Aura XR’s 3.6-liter V6 is strong, delivering good power throughout the rev range, and the six-speed automatic is responsive to manual input through the paddle shifters and always shifts unobtrusively. Like any real sporting sedan, the Aura’s transmission won’t automatically upshift for you when you’re in manual mode, which is selected by sliding the gear shifter all the way to the bottom of the pattern. Under hard acceleration, there is a hint of torque steer, but it’s certainly better than the previous generation Nissan Altima 3.5SE.
Saturn Aura – Performance
When it comes time to stop, or turn, the Saturn Aura isn’t quite as impressive. Around town, the brake pedal feels too stiff and doesn’t offer enough range of travel, but when we hammered the car on back roads, we appreciated the quick response to input and confident bite for tight curves. Likewise, the steering felt better and more natural when driving in a spirited fashion, featuring lively response, good road feel, and steadiness in fast sweepers. On the highway, we thought there was too much play on center, and when cruising around town assist levels were a bit too light.
Saturn Aura – Ride and Handling
The Saturn Aura’s suspension tuning is exceptional, doing a wonderful job of masking the inherent tendency of a front-drive car to feel nose heavy and ponderous in curves. Saturn has deftly blended enough ride compliance to keep occupants comfortable with enough stiffness to control body motions and create an engaging, entertaining driving character. Adding to the Aura’s driving pleasure is a quiet cabin into which minor levels of wind and tire noise intrude.
Saturn Aura – Worth a Test Drive
Based on the same platform from which the Chevrolet Malibu, Pontiac G6, and Saab 9-3 spring, the Saturn Aura is our favorite of this quartet of GM sedans. It looks good, it drives great, it’s comfortable, and it’s quiet. Perhaps best of all, when equipped with every possible option, it costs about what the average transaction price for a new car is today – less than $28,000. Better yet, the Aura is one of the first of several new models that should rapidly change the general public’s perception of Saturn.
Photos courtesy of Saturn