Sky, Solstice battle for roadster buyers
IntroductionWe found the 2007 Saturn Sky to be a roadster that will delight most everyone who drives it, while at the same time leaving them wanting for more: more leg room, more power, and ultimately, more of the look and the verve that makes up the 2007 Saturn Sky. Available now at your friendly local Saturn “retailer,” the Sky is well-equipped and competitively priced, though the 2.4-liter, 170-horsepower engine left us hungry for more. That’s coming, in the guise of the turbocharged, 260-horsepower 2007 Sky Red Line, but for now we’re left with the normally-aspirated Sky. From outside and in, however, the Sky is sure to serve as a perfect bookend to its corporate sibling, the Pontiac Solstice.
Built more for touring than hair-on-fire driving, the 2007 Saturn Sky comes across as a roadster built first for comfort and style, and then for sport. The theory, according to Saturn, is that those who place a premium on sport driving will be quite happy to wait for the Saturn Sky Red Line, due out later this year with a 260-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine.
The 2007 Saturn Sky takes its style from the Vauxhall VX Lightning concept, and has a twin in the export-only Opel GT announced at this year’s Geneva Motor Show. From our side of the pond, sharing Opel vehicle design and parts with Saturn seems to be a brilliant strategy: give us Yanks upscale, trendy cars based on vehicles we don’t see on every Avis lot, and, in the process, save some cash in the development of an all-new and much-improved Saturn lineup. The one-two punch of stylish and well-appointed cars, with Saturn’s reputation for excellent customer service, is a combination that will surely make car buyers pay close attention.
With one trim, two transmission choices and few options available, the 2007 Saturn Sky is pretty much an out-of-the-box kind of car. It’s meant to be, as a point of difference between this GM roadster and that other, slightly more famous two-seater, the Pontiac Solstice, which starts thousands of dollars lower than the Sky.
It’s inaccurate to portray the regular Sky as sedate, as its 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is capable but a little whiny, working up 170 horsepower at 6,600 rpm and 162 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,800 rpm. The base transmission, a five-speed manual with crisp short throws and a very workable clutch, makes the most of the engine. The optional five-speed automatic transmission is, uh, not really an option you should be considering at all. Maneuvering the rear-drive Sky is accomplished with rack-and-pinion steering, stopping is handled by 11.7-inch ventilated front discs and 10.9-inch solid rear discs with standard ABS.
The climate controls are built into a strip of piano black trim, which adds a touch of class to a simple design of three large and nicely weighted knobs that make for a nice tactile feel and easy adjustment. Radio controls share the GM corporate setup, which is intuitive and easy to use. Chrome trim rings the shifter and the gauges to bring some bling to the interior, but about those gauges: they’re large and easy to read, even with the top down, but it’s curious why Saturn decided not to place a temperature gauge in the cluster along with the speedometer, tachometer and fuel gauge.
Optional two-tone leather inserts in the seats, door panels and on the steering wheel finish off the interior with a sporty, comforting flair.
Equipped with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 170 horsepower and a five-speed manual transmission, the 2007 Saturn Sky has a sticker price of $23,690 including the $575 destination charge. Add another $850 to the price of your Sky and drive off with a five-speed automatic transmission. Either way, you get a roadster full of standard features like air conditioning, a CD player with six-speaker stereo, cruise control, a driver’s side visor vanity mirror, a glass rear window, a leather-wrapped manual shifter, power door locks and windows, power mirrors, a rear window defroster, reclining cloth bucket seats, remote keyless entry, 18-inch alloy wheels adorned with Goodyear P245/45R18 tires, and a polished aluminum exhaust tip.
New Face for Saturn
The Sky is the perfect new face for a suddenly energized Saturn. The General Motors brand, known for lousy cars and great customer service, is poised to deliver greatness on both counts starting with this convertible, and the excitement among business managers and product people is palpable. It all starts with the Sky, followed closely by the new Aura sedan, an eight-passenger crossover vehicle called Outlook, a hybrid Vue Green Line sport utility vehicle, and stylish replacements for the Ion and the Vue. In fact, serious money is betting that a derivative of the fun Opel Astra will replace the Ion, a dud of an econocar that you might not recommend to your worst enemy. That would follow form, as Saturn is basing its revitalized lineup on Opel vehicles, or, for you Brits, Vauxhalls.
On the inside, the Saturn Sky offers an upscale design, while the Solstice is more driver-centric. Differences include the center stack of controls, air vents, instrument panel, and the design and placement of environmental controls. One of our bugaboos about the Solstice, in fact, is that the controls are isolated in a sea of plastic, and the result is a bit cheap looking. The Sky avoids this downmarket look by segmenting the dash into sections, and doing it nicely. Instead of two round vents awash in a plastic wave, as in the Solstice, the Sky’s two center vents are squared off and placed above the three main environmental controls, which are finished with a hard black compound.
2006 Pontiac Solstice, 2007 Saturn Sky
Sporting types like good, firm seats, and the Sky delivers. They’re excellent, period, among the car’s best attributes, holding occupants no matter what kind of road, and quite refreshing throughout a long, hot day behind the wheel. You could drive for many a mile in these seats with no backache or leg fidgeties.
While the two vehicles are very similar, there are enough differences in the price, style, interior design, and performance to attract different types of buyers. The styling, of course, is evident: where the Solstice curves the Sky has a hard edge. The Solstice is straight out of the classic roadster design book, while the Sky offers a more contemporary, aggressive look.
Solstice vs. Sky
If you want a softer ride, better equipment and a contemporary style, reach for the Sky. If you’re a sucker for the classic roadster and need a low price more than air conditioning or power windows, opt for the Solstice.
Test Vehicle: 2007 Saturn Sky
Base Price: $23,690 (including the $575 destination charge)
Engine Size and Type: 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine
Engine Horsepower: 170 at 6,600 rpm
Engine Torque: 162 at 4,800 rpm
Transmission: Five-speed manual
Curb Weight, lbs.: 2,933 lbs.
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): 20/28
Observed Fuel Economy: 18.5 mpg
Length: 161.1 inches
Width: 71.4 inches
Wheelbase: 95.1 inches
Height: 50.1 inches
Legroom (front/rear): 42.7 inches
Headroom (front/rear): 38.4 inches
Max. Seating Capacity: Two
Max. Cargo Volume: 5.4 cu.-ft.
Competitors: Honda S2000, Mazda MX-5 Miata, Nissan 350Z Roadster, Pontiac Solstice
Photos courtesy of General Motors