Mike Meoleny, Saturn’s Vehicle Chief Engineer, Midsize Vehicles, is responsible for the new Aura sedan, and says that General Motors knows that consumers have assigned this kind of cachet to certain vehicles within non-premium segments of the market. He agrees that, once upon a time, the Saturn brand enjoyed this same kind of prestige. Though it sold small, inexpensive cars when it launched in 1990, Saturn rapidly developed a loyal fan base that was proud to park a Saturn in the driveway. In response, General Motors promptly ignored Saturn fans by starving cash flow that could have been used to develop new models. A decade later, Saturn was a punch line, the product line was aged, and only die-hard fans were willing to accept old-tech engineering for no-haggle pricing and dent-resistant body panels.
It’s been some time in coming, but now, Saturn is looking to recapture that 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. 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 $27,769.
Of course, it remains to be seen whether the Aura is as safe as the competition, or whether it is as reliable as the competition, or whether it holds its value as well as the competition. Let’s also not forget that over the years General Motors has promised on numerous occasions that its newest models beat the imports – does anyone remember the Cadillac Cimarron or the Oldsmobile Intrigue? And does anyone really think a Buick LaCrosse is just as good as a Lexus ES 350? At the very least, however, the new Saturn AURA gives customers that are still loyal to the brand a great reason to return to the dealer, trade-in that ratty old L- or S-Series, and drive home in a new family sedan that won’t make the neighbors question their values, their success, or their intelligence. Better yet, the Aura is one of the first of several new models that should rapidly change the general public’s perception of Saturn.