By on September 8, 2006

x07st_au0061.jpg Saturn was born “A different kind of company, a different kind of car.” Talk about post-modern irony; GM created the Saturn division to copy Japan’s products, management techniques and manufacturing dexterity. Needless to say, it worked. Friendly Saturn dealers created devoted customers with a “no dicker” sticker and a pretty good range of plastic-paneled cars (the S-Series). And then… nothing much. After leaving Saturn to twist in the wind, losing billions in the process, GM eventually spiked the brand’s independence. And now, finally, the Saturn Aura is here to revive GM’s "import fighter."

The Aura is an American-built Opel that looks like a Japanese copy of a German car. The model’s sheetmetal offers suitably clean/boring lines in a pronounced wedge shape, with complementary angles and purposeful curves. The blistered wheel arches and chunky front end are muscular by Camry standards– albeit with a thick chrome bar across the grill that would be right at home on Paul Wall's iced-out grin. Conforming to the current Japanese style, oversized headlights blight the Aura's sleek silhouette. Meanwhile, the Aura’s Audi-esque flowing C-pillar and side marker lights add a distinctly Teutonic touch; pronouncing the car’s German heritage louder than a computer generated Kraftwerk concert.

x07st_au0081.jpg A tall posterior rounds out the Aura’s rear, offering an ideal blend of Pontiac understatement and Altezza attitude. The deck lid's chrome slab does more than get its spizzarkle on; it visually thins the booty. The Aura hosts a pair of upbeat exhaust pipes, making a statement of virility no previous Saturn dared proclaim. Topping the package are the most elegant logos adorning a modern vehicle; the Saturn's famous red-square has the depth of a trillion-cut ruby. At long last, badge engineering creates beauty where mediocrity is the norm.

The Aura's substantial door handles feel even better than they look; too bad the same isn't true for the interior. Spend a few minutes in the Aura’s drab and depressing monochromatic black interior cabin and it’s clear GM's strategically placed interior quality has claimed yet another victim. Yes, the dash positions quality polymers and glossy metal-effect goodies within poking distance. Yes, the panel gaps are razor-thin. But the one-piece door armrests not only punish one's elbow, the imitation stitching speaks volumes to this car's potential– before the heartless, merciless, ruthless beancounting bore fruit. 

x07st_au0131.jpg But wait, there’s less! The folding in-dash binnacle impresses Toyotaphiles initially, though its lack of carpeting and thin casting make it an instant rattletrap for coinage. The lighthearted rear cupholders don't fare better; fold them out of sight and note the Aura's appealing secondary audio controls for backseat drivers. The lack of a rear seat center armrest is the most glaring omission for a $27k family sedan.

But not all is lost. Trunk space is mid-pack, but the strut-assist decklid closes with minimal effort.  The dash's center stack houses the most artistic frame for GM's corporate stereo to date, and puts out the highs and lows with, um, competence.  But the positives pale in comparison to the tri-spoke perfection facing the driver: soft leather, intuitive buttonage, entertaining paddle shifters and yet another elegant interpretation of the Saturn logo. It comes as no surprise that said tiller is Corvette derived.

Turn the wheel and the sport-sedan theme continues. The Aura’s seats make a genuine effort at honest-to-God lateral support. Firm steering rewards in fast sweepers but doesn't punish in parking lots. A solid chassis with Tourismo-grade suspension dampening impresses on winding country roads and high speed cruising. Disc brakes bite hard but go down with smooth, linear travel.  Even with 18-inch rims afoot, the Aura XR's ride is smooth and comfortable: there's no thumping or crashing on potholed roads.

816048191.jpg The powertrain's refinement and performance-oriented tuning speak volumes about Saturn's interstellar rocket-sedan. The XR-grade Aura’s 3.6L V6 sets the tempo for variable-valve timing. Hit the gas and a flat powerband with strong mid-range torque pours on the power all the way to redline. Unlike many foreign competitors squeezing every last pony from torque-steer-happy six-pots, Saturn provides real-world performance pleasure over peak performance pride. Combined with a willing and well-trained six-speed automatic, at part throttle or full-tilt, the 252hp Aura never missed a beat. Saturn's multiple downshifts awe like a Vegas magic show, dumping reserves of torque faster than a one-arm bandit unloading a jackpot of quarters.

Unlike recent GM offerings, the Saturn Aura isn't an improvement over its hapless predecessor; it’s a competitive product. While the interior needs to benchmark the Accord's door skins more than Michael Jackson needs to refrain from plastic surgery, the Aura's driving dynamics outweigh its shit list. The world-class chassis and suspension tuning are proof positive that the Aura's design team did their homework. Like always?  I don’t think so. Like never before? Definitely. Enough to rescue the Saturn brand? Like, maybe.

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94 Comments on “Saturn Aura XR Review...”


  • avatar
    Critical Thinker

    “Conforming to the current Japanese style, …”

    I will weigh in on the quality and reliability conversation about the Japanese products. However, I can no longer stay quiet about their styling.

    From my perspective, they are the world’s most boring cars to view, including Lexus, Acura, and Infiniti. They utterly lack any sense of presence or class. For me, they represent the automobile equivalent of oatmeal.

    Granted, some American cars are also absent panache: Taurus, Impala, etc. However, not all of the American cars look as if they have been cloned from two or three stem cell lines.

  • avatar
    Alcibiades

    Thanks for the good review. How was the front-wheel drive torque-steer problem? Did GM get as many of those bugs out as it could have?

  • avatar

    I drove the base model (XE) with the 224hp 3.5-liter engine.

    I found the drivetrain (!) a loud, rough revving, gear-shunting disappointment. Given the $5k price differential between the XE and XR, I think Saturn’s budget minded buyers will flock to this base model (the salesman said it was so).

    Otherwise, excellent handling (with a touch of torque steer under full throttle) and VERY cheap plastics. The oil damping on the plastic cover over the center console was laughable.

    Very roomy in back, easy ingress and exit. Outside the car (engine bay, trunk) the build quality seemed excellent.

    Overall, it struck me as a generally competent car that lacks a Unique Selling Point, something to lift it ABOVE the competition. I guess the Saturn brand is that, isn’t it?

  • avatar
    TexasAg03

    From my perspective, they are the world’s most boring cars to view, including Lexus, Acura, and Infiniti. They utterly lack any sense of presence or class. – Critical Thinker

    I would argue that point, but it is a matter of preference and perception. I find the cars from those three companies attractive. They are no 599GTB, but they look fine.

    For me, they represent the automobile equivalent of oatmeal. – Critical Thinker

    Yes, but very tasty, filling, high-quality oatmeal.

    Overall, it struck me as a generally competent car that lacks a Unique Selling Point, something to lift it ABOVE the competition. I guess the Saturn brand is that, isn’t it? Robert Farago

    I think that is the problem with many American cars. Good reliability, decent quality, but just not quite there overall.

  • avatar
    Frank Williams

    Conforming to the current Japanese style, oversized headlights blight the Aura’s sleek silhouette.

    That’s putting it politely, Sajeev. I was thinking more along the lines it looks like someone put Andy Rooney’s eyebrows on Eva Longoria’s face.

    I can’t help but wonder why, since they were bringing a new car in from overseas, they didn’t bring the station wagon and diesel versions with the sedan. These would generate additional showroom traffic, which the General certainly could use.

  • avatar
    socsndaisy

    Spizzarkle AND booty Sajeev….You sir, are a Jedi wordsmithy!

    I saw this car at the autoshow and it looked long, low and mean. Now I see the pics and it looks mamby-pamby, inflated and pedestrian. Suprisingly, the good stuff seems to be present (handling, power delivery, execution) but what I don’t see is a manual transmission. The other thing, and it may just be the pics, but the roof lines in the profile and quarter shots seem oversized and draw too much attention. The Chrome trim around the doors glass is sharp but ruined by too much painted vertical surface outside of it.

    On the door panels, I had a SL2 in 91 totally loaded up and my elbows are still recovering from the hard plastic rests….sounds like they havent yet solved that issue in an otherwise decent effort.

  • avatar
    Zarba

    This is actually a very competitive vehicle. I like the design, it’s much more muscular than the Fusion or new Sebring.

    The biggest issue is what Robert said about the base model. It’s the one most buyers will choose, and it’s a far cry form the uplevel XR. The low quality of the base car will drag the XR down the depreciation hole with it.

    Compare this with Honda. The 4 and 6 cylinder models are basically identical. The quality is very high across the board, so you don’t feel like you’re in a penalty box if you choose the 4 banger.

    I rented a last-gen Camry last year. With a 4 cylinderr engine. While it’s certainly no sports sedan, it was powerful enough on the highway, and you couldn’t even hear the motor running. The quality of even a rental-special Camry was insane. Boring? Yes. But you’d never feel you had cheaped out if you bought the base model.

    In GM’s infinite stupidity, they want to be able to advertise a very low price. Big deal, if the car is crap. And the crap car is what people will see in droves on the streets. And on the rental lots. And the XR will get killed by them.

    Lastly, GM and Ford have some great cars and deisel engines in Europe. I can’t for the life of me figure out why they don’t engineer every car and engine they build to American emissions and safety specs; now they need the B Cars and the diesel engines and they’re not US compliant. I know it costs money in development, but then they’d have the flexibility to readily import their Euro small cars. As it is, they’re watching the Fit and Versa eat their lunch.

  • avatar
    a_d_y_a

    “I will fly past the moons of Jupiter not to have a Vectra in my life”

    “Fifth fastest sedan in the world”

    “Catastrophic understeer”

    “There is a word to describe this car, it starts with a S and ends in T and it isnt soot”

    - Jezza on Vauxhaull Vectra VXR

  • avatar
    gearhead455

    Aura-

    Production:

    http://www.caranddriver.com/assets/image/2006/Q2/041120061138488224.jpg

    Concept:

    http://www.motortrend.com/roadtests/sedan/112_0503_01l+2007_saturn_aura_concept+front_left_view.jpg

    Not much different- IMHO

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    Fake stitching lives? Sad. At least the Aura has a much better looking rear end than the Vectra sedan and hatch; it’s over an inch narrower like its Epsilon platform-mates than the mid-sized competition.

  • avatar
    dolo54

    I just got back from a week in the land of LA visiting with my gf’s family. They are all Saturn drivers for some crazy reason (although dad now owns a Buick). We got stuck with driving her brothers old sh–box Saturn. After two days of freaking out because my gf drives like a crazed bat out of hell and the car’s doors are thinner than an eggshell, I did ourselves a favor and rented a beautiful 06 Mustang convertible (in guido red – her words) for the rest of the trip. Now that’s a real car. Compared to 2 Saturns I drove, what a joke. The Saturn in this review looks a lot better, but can you get the brown (leather?) interior? That looks pretty spiffy from the photo… The outside looks a lot like a G6. Boring but at least unoffensive. 6-speed auto? nice! Still after my experience last week I probably won’t be considering a Saturn in the near future.

  • avatar
    Frank Williams

    dolo54,

    The Morocco brown leather is $100 extra on the XR. HOWEVER, to get it you also have to order the “Premium Trim” package ($800) AND the sunroof ($800) or the “Panoramic Roof” ($1500).

  • avatar
    Ryan Furst

    I am amazed that GM still cannot get an interior right.

    From my experience the VW Rabbit uses better materials at almost half the cost.

  • avatar

    One big commonly held misconception here. This is NOT a rebadged Opel. The Opel rides on a six-inch-shorter wheelbase. At most the front clip is shared; I’m not sure that much. All other sheetmetal is unique except perhaps the rear quarters and trunk, which might be shared with the Grand Am. The interior is unique; the Opel uses much higher quality materials and has different styling.

    So much for the car’s “German heritage.”

    Gearhead: it’s all about the details. The detailing of the concept, including wheels and front fascia, were much sportier and less frilly than that of the production car. Yes, the sheetmetal is all the same, but the overall appearance is quite different.

    Based on Farago’s review, the XE powertrain behaves just like the similar powertain in the Malibu and Grand Am. The fault is as much with the number of transmission ratios as the engine: often if you want a bit more power you get a downshift and a major jump in engine speed.

  • avatar
    gearhead455

    Michael Karesh:

    Well… That’s what IMHO means…

    —————————————————————————————–

    The platform is shared more closely to a Pontiac G6 or a Chevrolet Malibu than a Vectra. Uplevel Aura uses an Opal drivetrain, base uses a G6 drivetrain

  • avatar

    You have to order the premium trim package because the primary component of that package is leather trim. As you likely know, the $100 just gets you a different color of leather. I’d readily pay it.

    Before people go off making more seat-of-the-pants pricing comparisons, please use my site first to verify:

    http://www.truedelta.com/models/AURA.php

    Let’s play, “How much would you pay for this fine DOHC V6?”

    Farago says that the XR is $5,000 more. The actual base price difference is $4,000. No idea where he got the extra grand.

    But wait, there’s more. The XR’s extra standard equipment goes beyond the DOHC engine and 6-speed transmission. Equip the two trims as similarly as possible, and the MSRP difference shrinks to $1,800.

    So, would you pay $1,800 for this fine powertrain? Well, no need to pick up the phone just yet, because the XR includes things you cannot even get on the XE: stability control, automatic temperature control, polished alloy wheels, and fog lights. Figure $200 for the extra two ratios, and we’ve got $1,500 of extra stuff beyond the engine and larger wheels.

    Final extra cost of the DOHC mill and 18″ rubber: $300 at MSRP, $84 at invoice.

    Far cry from five grand. Except for people who just want the lowest possible price and no options, the XR is clearly the better value.

  • avatar

    I sit corrected.

    But I don’t think buyers would spec-up their XE to XR-ish levels. Hence the differential is still in the thousands– at least in the consumers’ minds.

    Again, the salesman said he was selling XE’s (mostly Saturn buyers trading up) not XR’s.

  • avatar

    Gearhead,

    There’s nothing German about the XR’s powertrain, either. Both the engine and transmission were developed in the U.S. primarily for use in the U.S. The same exact powertrain is standard in the 2007 G6 GTP.

    You’ll find that the Saturn’s MSRP is about $2,000 less than the equivalent G6, but Saturn dealers sell at MSRP, while Pontiac dealers discount. And Pontiacs generally have larger rebates. In the end, the G6 will be less expensive.

  • avatar
    gearhead455

    Yep you are right, it’s what we call “the baby northstar V6″. Thank god, I hate that CTS V6 engine.

  • avatar
    whitenose

    Overall, it struck me as a generally competent car that lacks a Unique Selling Point, something to lift it ABOVE the competition. I guess the Saturn brand is that, isn’t it?

    It didn’t used to be. This is where Saturn lost the plot. They should have kept the plastic panels, even if it did make for huge gaps. My beloved Subie is full of dings and larger dents from parking lot mishaps. My mid-nineties Saturn S-series lasted roughly the same amount of time in my keep, and at the end, looked as good as the day I bought it. In fairness, that means “kind of ugly,” but at least it had no supermarket dents.

    I just wish the old Saturns been better cars in general (on my S, the engine, tranny, and steering all sucked total ass relative to my previous car, an at-that-time 11-year old Honda).

    I really love the writing in this review, by the way. Interesting to compare and contrast with the new Car and Driver review.

  • avatar
    dt

    At US$ 27000.00 it would seem to open the door to a lot of formidable “foriegn” competition.

    What is the price on a “starter” 3 series BMW,please?

    Thank you for a fair minded review.

  • avatar
    Bubba Gump

    Ryan
    when was the last time you looked up at the sunvisors in a rabbit?? You mean heat sealed around the edge plastic sun visors on a VW as quality justifys your comment about GM not getting an interior right. Sounds pretty self riteous to me. In fact Hundai’s still use that stuff to. I looked at a brand new elantra and it has it. Yick.

    Sajeev
    How was it going down the road at cruise? I have heard they are very quiet because of laminated side glass.

  • avatar
    Frank Williams

    Michael Karesh: You have to order the premium trim package because the primary component of that package is leather trim. As you likely know, the $100 just gets you a different color of leather. I’d readily pay it.

    So what does having a sunroof have to do with having a leather interior? I don’t understand why manufacturers require you to buy one option in order to get another that’s totally unrelated. (Yeah, I know… it’s because they can.)

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    I am a recovering Saturn owner myself. I enjoyed the utility of the layout and a few good approaches to cargo hauling along with the plastic dent resistant panels (the best feature IMHO). What did Saturn do? They drop the dent resistant panels. Basically the only thing that made their cars strand out in my mind (in a good way that is). What they needed to do was either greatly improve the styling or greatly improve the drivetrain, accessories, plastics, and just about anything else that could and would break on their cars. The build quality was worse than any other car I have owned including my first, an old Chrysler K car. It seemed years behind the quality of two Nissans and two Mazdas that I have owned, including my current Mazda6s.

    Unless it was tongue in cheek, bringing up the quality of a car’s badging as a good point seems to be stretching more than a bit to find good things to say about it. Aside from that bewilderment on my part, I thoroughly enjoyed the article.

  • avatar
    Brian E

    So the Aura is a competitive car, at least in XR trim. Great. But as Robert points out, they’re not selling XR’s. They’re selling XE’s.

    Why isn’t Chevy selling the pushrod people movers? More to the point, GM has turned its brand hierarchy on its ear and pushed Saturn above both Chevy and Pontiac. If that’s the case, then ditch the XE. Make leather and sunroof standard on the XR, fix the interior trim, and offer navi as the only option. With a little more love for the inside, GM could out budget-luxury the TL. Given the phenomenal success of the TL, that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

  • avatar
    Logan

    I don’t understand why saturn dropped the “dent resistant polymer side panels” for this car. That was a unique selling feature that set the brand apart from others.
    A coworker just bought a new car, she was going to buy an Aura until she realized the plastic sides were gone…

  • avatar
    dolo54

    Whoa! this car is priced over $25k? That’s ludicrous. $25k would buy you so many nicer cars, I though this thing was around $18k from the pictures. btw – this car is built on the g6 platform.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Alcibiades: torque steer was mild, the flat powerband means the power is always on, so there’s little wheel-jerk as the motor hits its stride.

    Frank: not sure about the station wagon with GM’s new crossover rollout, but a diesel model is a great idea.

    socsndaisy: compared to the Aura concept, the production model is a bit bulker. The wheels and fender flares of the concept are gone. Its not a tank like a Chrysler 300, but its a little on the hunky-chunky side.

    Compare this with Honda. The 4 and 6 cylinder models are basically identical. The quality is very high across the board, so you don’t feel like you’re in a penalty box if you choose the 4 banger.

    Well said, Zarba.

    How was it going down the road at cruise? I have heard they are very quiet because of laminated side glass.

    Bubba, its pretty quiet. No complaints here.

    Lumbergh21: my praise of the badges was sincere. They look brilliant, taking me back to the days of jeweled logos on Lincolns, Caddies and those “personal” luxury coupes Detroit made in the mid-1970s.

    Michael: Wheelbases aside, aren’t the Opel and Saturn both on an Epsilon platform? I’d still say the car has strong German roots, especially in the suspension department. It may not be as German-centric as the Merkurs, but it’s got the DNA in it.

    RF: plenty of people turn a deaf ear to coarse powertrains, so the XE’s offering could succeed….but its a bit thirsty for a base engine. (4MPG off a 4-cyl Camry)

  • avatar

    GM dropped the plastic panels because they added about $600 to the price of the car, and people weren’t willing to pay enough extra for them.

    Frank,

    Correct on the sunroof. Blame Honda, which generally forces you to get a sunroof to get leather. Subaru also does the same.

    RF,

    The intent of my site is to bring perceptions closer to reality. The way many people think about prices “What, a loaded one costs $27000? You can get a stripped BMW for not much more than that!” drives me nuts. If you want a stripped car, then also look at a stripped Saturn. I fail to see the logic of directly comparing cars with different levels of equipment.

    For what it’s worth, the feature-adjusted price difference between a 2007 Aura XR and a 2006 BMW 325i is $9,660. The 330i, with a power output closer to the Aura’s, is considerably more, but a case could be made that the 325i offers more comparable performance.

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    As far as styling is concerned from concept to production…They need to leave room for the Aura Redline. That will most likely incorporate the the more agressive design elements.

    Keep in mind that you average family sedan buyer doesn’t want bold styling to begin with.

    They should make sure overall quality of materials is on par or better than Honda or Toyota or what is the reason to buy the Aura?

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    Michael, you said: The intent of my site is to bring perceptions closer to reality. The way many people think about prices “What, a loaded one costs $27000? You can get a stripped BMW for not much more than that!” drives me nuts. If you want a stripped car, then also look at a stripped Saturn. I fail to see the logic of directly comparing cars with different levels of equipment.

    Because that’s how people do it in the real world.

    First of all, “stripped” in a more expensive brand may mean the same thing as “loaded” in a cheaper brand. Second, people may be willing to compromise on leather seats and satellite nav (among other options) if they think they’re getting better value for the money.

    Besides, what’s going to be worth more at trade-in time: The loaded Saturn or the stripped Beemer?

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    I doubt the Saturn/Bimmer comparo comes up very often. Odds are the $27k Saturn will be the focus of $27k Accord and Camry buyers.

  • avatar
    socsndaisy

    This car reminds me ALOT of a mazda 6s. Probably why I like it. And since we are talking money, said Mazda can be had with sunroof and bose for 20K out the door (and yes, Karesh, I just did this very deal). Seems like formidable competition especially if you consider that you can have it in Fusion form as well as a Milan version depending on your personal mojo style.
    Those dent resistant (never gonna rust) panels would have gone a long way towards getting me to look, but without them, and considering my experience with Saturns of the ninties…not a chance (even with the shiny happy warranty news).
    Gotta give it to GM though, its a pretty one, but 27K is pretty steep for this car. Wouldnt be quite so bad until you figure they are about 5K off the mark and that is 20% of the total bill.

  • avatar
    ktm

    The intent of my site is to bring perceptions closer to reality. The way many people think about prices “What, a loaded one costs $27000? You can get a stripped BMW for not much more than that!” drives me nuts. If you want a stripped car, then also look at a stripped Saturn. I fail to see the logic of directly comparing cars with different levels of equipment.

    Martin said it before I could. A ‘stripped’ Acura TL does not have navigation. A fully loaded TL has navigation. As a matter of fact, navigation is the only option on a TL circa MY2006. I am not trying to compare a TL to the Aura, merely providing an example for Martin’s response.

    People will make the comparison (however illogical it may seem to you) between a fully-loaded Aura and a stripped BMW. Why you ask? Because of 1) resale, 2) brand identification, 3) performance, 4) dealership service (those free BMW loaners are nice), 5) free maintenance, 6) better warranty coverage (4/50 BtB?), etc. Hell, some folks even compare new, fully-loaded cars to used high-end marquees for the same reasons I mentioned above (those certified BMW/Audi warranties are damn nice – 6 year/100,000 mile).

  • avatar
    dhathewa

    “I doubt the Saturn/Bimmer comparo comes up very often. Odds are the $27k Saturn will be the focus of $27k Accord and Camry buyers.” – Sajeev Mehta

    1. One of the values to reading a site like TTAC is to point out that, for about the same price as a FWD Saturn, you COULD get a Bimmer. Except, in this case, maybe you can’t (Edmunds says the Bimmer starts at $30K and, after givebacks, I expect the XR will go for much less than MSRP).

    2. Almost. A $24K Saturn will be the focus of $27K Accord and Camry buyers. Grim reality for GM is that people who have purchased Accords and Camrys aren’t going to consider a comparably equipped $27K Saturn to be interchangeable with a $27K Accord or Camry. I may be understating the case (as in a $22K Saturn…). If GM can get its resale values to start holding up, that will probably help to close the gap. One of my buddies is in an Accord now, instead of a Buick, because of resale value (“with automatic,” he said, “it’s almost like having cash.”).

  • avatar
    ktm

    Talk about coincidental timing. I just saw this car in the recent R&T and thought, “Hmmm, I wonder when TTAC will review this car. It looks promising based on the photos.”

  • avatar
    Bubba Gump

    Theres more to the panel story than the cost, though yes it is more expensive to do. Here I’ll lay it out for you. GM got caught in a catch 22. The fundamental problem with the panels is that no one, I repeat no one can supply a plastic that is stable enough. (not dow, not dupont etc. And trust me they tested an armload of plastic derivitives) Saturns with plastic panels in -30 degree weather have 9MM door gaps and in plus 110 they are 2.5 MM. (I know this because I spent more than my share of time tracking them during thermal growth studies) Ah you see the great achilles heel. GM knew that if they made the aura with plastic panels that the mag writers would crucify them for panel gaps. 2MM is the standard acceptable panel gap (lexus was the great pusher here) Saturn customers used to plastic panels and gaps wanted them but the customers lost out because of the ongoing mag writer/public crucifiction that occured over panel gaps on every Saturn S/Vue series and L series car they ever produced. There simply is no way to control the thermal growth of the panel. (this is why they have floating fasteners holding them on so they can grow and shrink without warping) Front and rear facias are a nightmare all on their own. The bottom line regardless of the additional cost which is secondary in this case is that the current plastic technology simply cannot provide the panel gaps the public demands and still privide functionality (ie the doors dont bind on the fenders and quarterpanels) The decision had to be made and they made it albiet a painfull one. The decision was a direct result of beatings over panel gaps in every saturn L, Vue and S series review ever written.

    Dont believe me go read some old reviews. They were pummeled every time. Public demand for dent free panels and Public demand for narrow panel gaps left them with the no win scenario of pissing half the people off and making the other half happy.
    Sucks don’t it.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    I don’t remember the original SLs having bad panel gaps, but the new IONs are pretty bad. Thanks for sharing.

  • avatar
    Bubba Gump

    I was there from the beginning to the end and there is alot the public and the press was just never told about the internal workings of the saturn corporation when it really existed as a wholly owned subsidary. Bet you were never told that in 1998 they had a five speed auto ready to go that was killed in leiu of the global L850 and the global CVT that was comming down the pipe.. Also the patents for the hybrid vue were were submitted in 1996/7 The technology was done but the company hung back waiting for the demand to come. They weren’t quite sure they wanted to jump back in the fire first after the Impact debacle.

    Its very easy to take the high road and say “GM is late to the hybrid game” but, If you had been kicked in the balls to the tune of a billion dollars on a California mandated law and a promised charging station infrastructure by the electric companies that 1. never materialized and 2. a law that was backed out of by California you would be cautious before you leaped off the cliff again. Would you not?

    Now that I’ve disclosed an attachment to GM let me say this. 1. I’m just a peon. 2. Yes we built some lizards during the 90′s early 2000. Prior to the 90′s it was all junk Import and Domestic.(I was an ASE mechanic for 15 years before GM) Theres still some dead wood in the shed to phase out but from the 2005′s on the stuff has made a remarkable transformation and I for one am personally exited at what is comming out. It’s been a long time since I was actually excited about buying what we produce and was proud to talk about. I can say today I actually am. I can tell you that the workin stiffs I’m around are teed, they don’t like the way were percieved and their pissed and their on it.

  • avatar
    2006300c

    A midsized car versus the BMW three series which is the size of a civic is not a fair comparison by any stretch of the imagination. People who buy stripped down luxury cars are like people who buy V6 mustangs, they’re posers. Many people out there, and I’m one of them, believe if you can’t get it loaded don’t get it at all. BTW, I must admit a bias against the BMW 3. At my school the BMW 3 series coupe is the Euro trash version of the Camaro IROC. I’ve come to hate the things.

  • avatar
    craigefa

    I sat in one of these a couple of weeks ago and I was impressed until I realized how much it cost. I thought it was meant as competition for Civic/Corolla not Accord/Camry/Fusion. If you have Civic money, this looks great. If you have Accord money, this looks like an Ion.

  • avatar
    ktm

    People will make the comparison regardless because many folks don’t compare car sizes but price tags.

    Buying a ‘stripped’ down luxury car does not make you a poser. Many ‘stripped’ down luxury cars typically offer more items as standard equipement. The Acura TL is an example (maybe extreme, but it is an example).

    There is more to buying a car than just the price (and I am not talking about prestige). Again, see my discussion above.

    Oh, and I fully challenge that ‘many people out there believe that if you can’t get it loaded don’t get it at all.’ What a crock. I guess that’s why ‘base’ (as in not fully loaded) model cars typically sell better than the fully-loaded models. Not everyone wants stability control, HIDs, 12-way power and heated seats, navigation, etc.

  • avatar
    2006300c

    Family cars by the nature of their purpose need more space than a compact sports sedan, and besides, this being America size does matter. As I was saying the whole point of a luxury car is luxury, just like the whole point of a muscle car is performance. Therefore cloth seats, low output engines, blacked out trim where buttons and wood should be and 15 and 16 inch matte wheels mark you as a poser. Simple as that. The reason base model high end cars sell so well is the same reason why fake Louis Vuittons are everywhere. The makers realize that they can make money off of perpetrators.

  • avatar
    dolo54

    well to each his own, but I totally disagree with “if you can’t get it loaded don’t get it at all”. I would much rather have a great driving car than a fully loaded car. There’s plenty of options I don’t particular want or need. And I would definitely rather have a base 3 series than this car. As a matter of fact I would probably rather have an IROC than this car… as for the v6 Mustang being a ‘poser’ car, well I just drove one last week and its got plenty of power. I was able to do a nice power slide 180 just by turning off the TCS, throwing the wheel and mashing the gas. Didn’t want to get too crazy with my girl in the car but it was pretty fun hearing ‘AAAAAAHHH next time you’re going to do that LET ME KNOW!”. So with the gas mileage I can imagine plenty of posers driving that one…

  • avatar
    ktm

    What base luxury car has “cloth seats, low output engines, blacked out trim where buttons and wood should be and 15 and 16 inch matte wheels”?
    Sounds like you don’t know what you are talking about.

  • avatar
    MatthewInDC

    Anybody else think this car looks like the last Mazda 6?

  • avatar
    2006300c

    The V6 mustang gets 19 mpg and the V8 gets 17 and their highway economy is even, and how Ford only gets 210 HP out of a 4.0l engine is a mystery to me but I digress, it is a fun car but not a real muscle car. . As far as ratty base models go there is the Volvo S40-S60, BMW 3 series and the 5, The old G35, The 2.8L CTS, the V6 STS, 2.7L and even some 3.5L Chrysler 300s and lets not forget the Mercedes C class and the laughable Mercedes S320 from a few years back. Acura only offers fully loaded models because they are trying to build a reputation not appeal to posers. Another reason is that Acura doesn’t have the Bling and Yuppie factors that Mercedes and the others have and can’t exploit it.

    Getting back to the Saturn, this looks to be a sorely needed hit for GM, my 30 something urbanite sister is looking at this and the Mercury Milan as cars for her new family, something that would’ve not happened even 2 years ago and speaks well for domestic manufacturers in general.

  • avatar
    dolo54

    a. who cares? and b. whatever.

  • avatar
    stanshih

    Bubba Gump,

    Funny you mention 2005 as the breakthrough year. Just wanted to let you know that it didn’t go un-noticed.

    I’ve noticed a clear delineation between the pre-2004 and post-2004 products coming out of GM. The product strategy / brand strategy is CLEARLY evident in the newer products. The execution is much improved (though not quite there yet as TTAC generously points out). But at least it’s apparent that GM management has direction and a plan.

  • avatar
    JSForbes

    This car would look so much nicer without the Big Stupid head and tail lights.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Good review Sajeev.Kraftwerk?I am truly impressed.

  • avatar
    Rodney M.

    Well, it seems that GM has built a car to compete with Hyundai, which is not a bad thing. The new Aura seems to be more inline quality-wise with the Sonata. Too bad the Sonata is $3-4K less than the Aura. Now with GM’s 5year/100K mile powertrain warranty it appears that they have their sights firmly set on the Koreans. If they can beat them in this segment and then continue to improve upon quality of the aura then they could realistically give Honda/Toyota a shot across the bow. But first…Hyundai. Get the prices to line up more and they have a chance. As it is, $27K will get the upscale Azera, which dare I say, while not perfect is a better car/value than the Aura XR.

  • avatar
    Lesley Wimbush

    Good story Sajeev. I’m going to have to check out those badges now. :)

  • avatar
    Ryan Furst

    Bubba: SUNVISORS!?!?!?!?!?

    Lets get to the dash and we can talk.

    The Rabbit is hands down nicer how is that self righteous?

    If we must compare cars in the same price class the Jetta 2.0T’s interior is what this car should strive to be.

    I am not a GM basher. I just wish they wouldn’t take a great idea and do it half assed, as always (i.e. the GTO, Solstice/Sky trunk space).

  • avatar
    tms1999

    Too bad consumers won’t be equiped to tell the difference between the 3.5 and the 3.6 (even by the 25 hp diff) Especially to justify the $5K difference.

  • avatar
    PsychoBueller

    I have driven both the XE and XR. There is definitely a difference, though not a huge one. I definitely didn’t notice any driveline lurch on the XE as Mr. Farago stated.

    The Aura has its warts, but I liked it a lot and I would definitely give it a very close look to replace my Accord.

  • avatar

    If you want to feel the driveline shunt (and why wouldn’t you?), either floor it at about 25mph or give it some gas in reverse.

    It’s not a huge problem, but it’s certainly not up to Honda standards.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    What bothers me about the 3.5 (besides RF’s notes) is its lack of fuel efficiency. The 3.6 is great for performance and does pretty good with economy, but there’s no sub-3.0 liter engine (four or six pot) with that 6-speed for entry level buyers.

    Here are the 3.6 and 3.5 EPA ratings, respectively:

    MPG (city) 20 20
    MPG (hwy) 28 29
    MPG (combined) 23 23

    Most Accord and Camrys I see are the four-banger variety, and its a little disappointing that the Aura can’t cover the entry level ground.

  • avatar
    kaisen

    Sajeev-

    My understanding is that there will be a 4 cylinder Aura variant due late-Spring 2007. The 2.4L variable-valve version (169hp/162t) in the G6 earns 23 city / 33 hwy. In Malibu trim the 2.2L combination (144hp/155t) earns a 24 city / 34 hwy EPA rating.

    This would be the same 2.2L combo that Consumer Reports tested to be 16 mpg city / 38 mpg freeway for a 24mpg combinated rating. In the same tests, the 2007 Toyota Camry 2.4 tested 16/36 for 24 combined. Note that they are almost identical. If fuel economy is how a prospective buyer will measure, maybe the apples-to-apples (4 cylinder-to-4 cylinder) comparison will narrow the gap. Real-world fuel economy should put a 2.4L Aura neck and neck with a 2.4L Camry.

    The base XE’s 3.5L V6 is decisively more powerful (224hp/220t) than the base 4 cylinders from Toyota (161hp/158t) and Honda (166hp/160t) but have similar price points.

    I would guess there are quite a few people who find 4-5 mpg a fair trade for an extra 60 horsepower and 60 lb-ft. If not, the 2.4L should be at least $1500 less (see Malibu LT and G6) and have about the same power and fuel economy as 4 cylinder Accords and Camrys.

    GM expects 60% of Auras to be XR’s, for what it’s worth.

    A couple posts have mentioned navigation. Aura is standard with OnStar. OnStar’s Turn-by-Turn navigation downloads instructions to the Aura’s radio where each turn and distance is displayed, and voice prompts (‘turn left 300 yards’) are audible through the stereo system. This requires an upgrade in OnStar service to Directions and Connections which is $100 more each year. But it does NOT require a $2200 nav option (Camry), and you can choose to have the service just for the month you, say, go on a trip. This is standard even on the base XE. Lots of GM vehicles have this capability. Pretty neat.

    I’ve driven both Aura models and like them for the price.

  • avatar
    nino

    —I can’t help but wonder why, since they were bringing a new car in from overseas, they didn’t bring the station wagon and diesel versions with the sedan. These would generate additional showroom traffic, which the General certainly could use.—

    Count my vote for both the wagon version and the Diesel.

    Not to pick a nit, but doesn’t this car cry out for the 2.8 DOHC, 210HP V6 as the base engine? And while I love the 3.6 DOHC V6 engine, when will GM use the turbo 2.8 in a domestic product and develop a turbo version of the 3.6?

  • avatar
    ChartreuseGoose

    Just found this pearl of wisdom from dolo-something-or-other:

    Still after my experience last week I probably won’t be considering a Saturn in the near future.

    So the dude goes on a trip, drives some dude’s craptastic ancient saturn that’s been beat on to within an inch of its life, isn’t impressed…and then writes off all modern Saturns because of the brother’s POS.

    Yay, logic.

  • avatar

    The original Saturn was far cooler looking than the Aura, but the Aura is by far the best looking Saturn since the original. Also, the switchgear was great in my 5speed ’93, and (as I’ve said before) the handling was nice and flat. (A friend, a mechanic who had been a race driver loved the thing, and took it out once on the track at Summit Point). They should have kept improving on the engineering of the original, which seems to be what they had intended to do in the first place, rather than losing their direction (after GM pulled them back into the Mother Company).

    This car is better looking than the Lexii, the subes, and most of the Japanese, but I think the latest Acuras are among the better looking contemporary cars, among the few that don’t make the “ugly car alphabet” I use to help my girlfriend go to sleep when she’s wound up.

  • avatar
    Terry Parkhurst

    A neighbor of mine, who has sold Hummers and then Land Rovers and Jaguars, made much of the fact in June that he would soon be the sales mananger of the Saturn store in Bellevue, Washington. Since then, he has brought home a variety of different Saturns.
    After reading this review about two weeks ago, I today spied a Saturn Aura. Actually, at first I thought to myself, “Oh, there’s a new Chrysler Sebring.” Then as I got closer, I spied the Saturn emblem. I looked it over and really didn’t want to talk with my neighbor about it.
    Walking around the car, I was reminded a bit also of the current Audis. The interior is decent; and admittedly, it seemed like a more substantial car than prior Saturns – bolder, more broad-shouldered.
    The exterior design is just one aspect of a car. But of course, a very important aspect, since as the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression.
    Thanks for telling us what it was like to drive, Sajeev. It might be hard for The General to break through the clutter with this one.

  • avatar
    pswillb

    Funny, I guess everyone has a “must have” feature when shopping new cars; for a 4 door sedan, mine is a back seat center arm rest. I just wouldn’t consider a family car without one. And I bet I am not alone. Here GM needs all the help it can get just to stay in business, and some clueless bean counter figured out how to save $10 in production costs. Seriously, this one flaw will cost them 10,000 annual sales. I have no sympathy for such clueless-ness.

  • avatar
    kaisen

    Have you sat in the center rear seat position in a car with a center armrest? NOT comfortable! Even my Audi A6 was an *ouch* in the center. It might not have been the beancounters, maybe they just wanted (reasonable) comfort for five rather than four. I’d guess Saturn’s customers outgrowing IONs place more importance on the five passenger ability than they do the cupholder/armrest. Or maybe it is a ‘cue from their Germanic (Opel) heritage’

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    pswillb: glad you commented on that. The lack of a rear armrest on a backseat this accomodating was disappointing.

    I’d guess Saturn’s customers outgrowing IONs place more importance on the five passenger ability than they do the cupholder/armrest.

    The cupholder is in the back of the console, and (imaginary) armrest would fold into the seat to allow for 5-passengers when needed.

    There’s really no excuse for missing this feature in a mainstream family sedan.

  • avatar
    kaisen

    Yes, of course, but some fold-up armrests are still downright uncomfortable in your back. I gave my 02 Audi A6 as an example, but it seems anything with a split-fold rear seat AND a folding armrest doesn’t leave room for enough shaping or padding. Try for yourself.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Yes, fifth seat comfort is a problem on some cars but few at this price: family comfort takes precedent over sport. (i.e., I never noticed the armrest in a Taurus or Camry, the fifth seat is all-around uncomfortable by design constraints)

    Even in your Audi, its a small price to pay in my book. I came from a four-person family, the armrest was used more than a fifth seat.

  • avatar
    BGK

    As a current owner of the now discontinued Saturn L series (mine is a V6 wagon) the Aura is a huge improvement, but I would only consider one with the larger V6 and in a wagon. I can only hope a wagon version comes out and maybe with all wheel drive.

    However, the midsize market is extremely fickle and only a few cars in this price category succeed; the Camry, Accord and Ford Fusion come to mind. When it comes to reliability, resale, build quality and refinement the Camry and Accord cannot be beat. Both have a long history of millions of satisfied owners. Despite being relatively boring cars, the Camry and Accord are absolute “can’t go wrong” choices. The Fusion is succeeding on looks alone.

    I admit the Aura does remind me of the Fusion, only because I think it will succeed based on it’s styling. Neither the Fusion or Aura are as “good” as the Camry or Accord but I think the Aura should put Saturn on the sales map.

    After looking inside a new top of line XR, I was definitely turned off by the cheap feeling plastic pieces, radio and climate control system that are a bit difficult to distinguish apart, cheap cup holders and a lack of a rear folding armrest. A folding armrest with storage and/or cup holders is a really nice and expected feature. There is also no rear a/c vent at the back of the center console, but oddly there are controls for the sound system! Another annoying flaw that is common on many cars, including the Aura, is the lack of almost verticle inside door handles. Anything else is just awkward to use. However, it’s amazing how a cheap interior cannot kill the popularity of a vehicle if styling is the primary purchase factor. Just check out a Chrysler 300 for the best success example of exterior styling (with a cheap interior!) winning sales!

    I still don’t know why GM (and Ford) don’t develop their European cars with the US in mind. This would save tons of money and we would have better products. There is absolutely no excuse for not doing this; all the European car companies pretty much have been doing it for years. The best part would be we would have many more diesel powered cars that could even be run on biodiesel if a fuel standard could be reached. Think of the long term possibilities without any of the hybrid vehicle penalties!

  • avatar
    kaisen

    This from someone with three ‘k’s in their screen name….

  • avatar
    kaisen

    Jakkk,

    I share most of your sentiments, but using a bullhorn (with disregard for the English language, I might add) to express your views doesn’t help the cause. It just lends credibility to the American-car-buyer stereotype of the redneck beer-swillin’ good ol’ boy that despises anything furrin’ ‘cuz they ain’t AMERICAN. The Aura stands on its own merits, without needing the inebriated endorsement, or playing the ‘Patriot card’.

    Take off the badges and the 85th-percentile American would think the Aura could easily be Japanese or European.

  • avatar
    suohtil

    ” The Aura stands on its own merits, ” – Not according to Sajeev.

  • avatar
    BGK

    Honestly, I am qualified to say what I have said about the Aura. I have driven or examined just about every popular vehicle currently on the market. I sell new vehicles for a living, which has included Ford, Dodge, Hyundai, Acura, Nissan, Mazda and Volkswagen, among others. When you see things from a dealership level, you can really tell what is right or wrong with a product and the manufacturer.

    In addition, I live in the single most important automotive market in the US-California where roughly 10% of all vehicles sold in the country are purchased. All the major car manufacturers have either offices or design centers in California because it is so important.

    Opinion is one thing but the fact of the matter is Toyota is now outselling all of GM in California. Domestic brands generally use rental car companies as a crutch to keep up their sales. Chrysler has only recovered due to their being purchased by Daimler Benz. GM and Ford are loosing billions of dollars year after year while their overall market share continues to shrink. If you think GM (which includes Saturn) builds a great product, you are obviously in the minority at this point in time. American cars have made great strides in quality, but they sadly lack the resale of the top Japanese brands. There is absolutely no question, that the majority of Japanese brands, even though many are built in the US require less maintenance and last longer than most US branded vehicles. I have seen MANY Japanese cars with owners keeping them beyond 300,000 miles-this is almost unheard of for American makes. It does appear that GM (as well as Ford) could be on the road to recovery, but only time will tell if they get it right before it is too late.

  • avatar
    kaisen

    suohtil –

    Did you really read the same article? It sounded like Sajeev liked the Aura except for a few interior quibbles.

    Maybe you need to drive one for yourself. I did, and really liked it.

  • avatar
    Darkvette

    Ok, here’s my two cents on everything people said in the reviews here. Anyone who is biased against American-made cars is going to continually trash and degrade them no matter what anyone says or does. They will stick with their foreign cars to the death. They are called die-hards. Then you have people who are on the opposite end of the spectrum, those that will only buy American-made cars and would never in a thousand years touch a foreign made car. They are also called die-hards. Then you have yet another class, those that teeter in the middle, not on one end or the other, those people that will buy a car because of either it’s price, a good smooth ride, or because they need something to drive. These are the people, those in the middle, that GM is trying to reach out to with this new Aura.

    Also, I saw that no one in here mentioned the other reason for the quiet ride in the Aura, the quiet-steel technology. This was used so that the sounds of the engine don’t reverberate on the steel and make for a loud drive. Now, I’m one of those people in the middle. It doesn’t matter what I drive as long as it’s a car. But I can tell you this, my best friend drives a Toyota Corolla, my father-in-law drives a Honda Accord, and my other best friend drives a Toyota Camry. My neighbor drives a Ford Fusion, my sister, a Ford Escort, my mom has a Kia Optima. The company I used to be with had 3 Accords, 1 Acura TSX, and a Honda Civic. All these are 2003 and up models. I’ve driven all these cars, numerous times including on highways.

    I didn’t like the Civic, the Corolla, or the Optima, too small, not to mention the fact that each car couldn’t get out of its own way, even if it tried. I didn’t like the Fusion or the Escort, alright size, not enough power. As for the Accords and the Camry, they are nice cars, good power, comfortable ride, and I do note the reliability, only a few minute problems, the turning radius and roaring loudness when speeding up. Now, along comes the Aura, after an XE and XR test drive. Here is a car that has ample interior room, great power, a comfortable ride, exellent overall handling and turning radius, and it’s quiet on start, speeding up, and on highway. I’ll give you that the interior does look a bit cheap, but it’s good enough for me. So, i’m one of those people in the middle, and if I am a target for this kind of car, then it’s working, because my next car will probably be an Aura. The dealer did tell me that there will be a full-blown hybrid version in Spring 2007 and a Redline version sometime as well., which is when GM is releasing most of their hybrid versions. The only downside to the Aura for me is no manual transmission. It is a fun car to drive, and I like fun cars. So, to Sajeev, good, honest review. Granted it’s nice to read reviews, anyone who hasn’t taken one for a test drive, really should. It’s a nice car, even just for a test drive.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    Thanks for your comments, darkvette! Your even-handed analysis is much appreciated.

  • avatar

    Sajeev, you are welcome. I think TTAC could use more unbiased reviewers like you.

  • avatar
    dhathewa

    Darkvette, perhaps I misunderstood you? You seem to be panning the turning radius and certain other aspects of the Camry while praising the turning radius and other aspects of the Aura?

    There must be some mistake, the Camry’s turning radius is noticeably the better of the two at 36’1″ while the Aura’s is 40’5″.

    I know which one I’d rather try to parallel park.

  • avatar

    While that may be true, I still didn’t like the Camry. I can name you other things I didn’t like about it, but it’s all a matter of our opinions. I’m not disputing the numbers you have there, nor would I. All I was saying is that in my opinion, I didn’t like the turning radius. Others will probably pick apart what I said as well, also using facts and numbers, but all it comes down to is a matter of opinions, whether there is fact behind it or not. There is no sense in arguing over opinions that usually end up being hard to change anyway. All I was saying in my post is my opinion, not fact, not anything else, just my opinion based on experiences I’ve had and things I was told. You have your opinion, and I have mine. To each his own. Thank you dhathewa, for your feedback though, it is much appreciated. I didn’t know the numbers behind them, and now I do, so thank you.

  • avatar
    dhathewa

    “While that may be true, I still didn’t like the Camry. I can name you other things I didn’t like about it, but it’s all a matter of our opinions.” – Darkvette

    Sure. But I like to start my opinions from a basis of objective fact. Things that can be measured and compared. Fuel economy, capacity, turning radius.

    When you take the time to publish an opinion (the Aura has a better turning radius than the Camry) that’s the opposite, in significant measure, from objective measurement (the Camry has a better turning radius than the Aura), I have to wonder why. Whether, for instance, you are an American-brand die-hard or just a careless observer?

  • avatar

    “the Aura has a better turning radius than the Camry” -dhathewa

    You take my words out of context. I know what I said, and not once did I say that the Aura has a better turning radius than the Camry. I simply said that as my opinion, I didn’t like the turning radius of the Camry. I did however like the turning radius of the Aura. So please don’t take my words out of context. It could have been the locations where I was driving them, Baltimore for the Auras and Washington DC for the Camry, that may have something to do with it, I don’t know. Being that it was my friend’s car, he did have the power steering pump go up in it a few months after I drove it that time, so maybe that had a part in it as well. But don’t forget that it was my opinion, not fact, not anything else, just my simple opinion.

    “I like to start my opinions from a basis of objective fact. Things that can be measured and compared. Fuel economy, capacity, turning radius.

    When you take the time to publish an opinion that’s the opposite, in significant measure, from objective measurement, I have to wonder why. Whether, for instance, you are an American-brand die-hard or just a careless observer?” -dhathwea

    I’m not disputing your facts. I’m defending my opinion. I don’t do my opinions on facts, because in the past I’ve had a lot of problems getting reliable facts. This is why I base things on what I like and what I don’t like. I am not an American-brand die hard, nor am I a Foreign-brand die-hard, I am in the middle. I am an observer, yes, but careless, no. I chose my words carefully, but if you want a debate over the turning radius, then fine – I give up, you win. I don’t care about the numbers of it all and which one has the better turning radius based in fact. I care about what I like when I drive a car for the first time, be it features, styling, or turning radius. Am I saying I won’t own a Camry, no, i’m not. I’m just saying that I didn’t like the turning radius of my friends car. Granted I did say, “that my next car will probably be an Aura,” I didn’t say it definitely would. Besides, I have a while to think about what I want my next car to be, because I just bought a car last fall.

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    dhathewa & darkvette:

    The Aura’s turning radius didnt feel out of place, but I don’t doubt the Camry is easier to park.

    That’s a small price to pay for one of the best ride/handling packages out there at any price point.

    The Camry LE I tested is not an enthusiast’s car, nor is it even a competant handling car (massive understeer, crazy body roll) so I’m willing to sacrifice the four feet in turning radius for a REAL car any day, any time.

  • avatar
    dhathewa

    “the Camry LE I tested is not an enthusiast’s car, nor is it even a competant handling car (massive understeer, crazy body roll) so I’m willing to sacrifice the four feet in turning radius for a REAL car any day, any time.” – Sajeef Mehta

    I like a car that handles well, too, but in the Real World, jamming the car into a parking space or maneuvering around a parking ramp is a real test of real handling.

    And the Aura, with FWD an no stick IS an enthusiasts’ car?

  • avatar
    Sajeev Mehta

    I like a car that handles well, too, but in the Real World, jamming the car into a parking space or maneuvering around a parking ramp is a real test of real handling.

    I guess that’s where we differ. I keep a bit of speed when cornering most everywhere and parking is wide and ample where I live. A few extra 3-pt turns are a small price to pay for flat cornering. :-)

    And yeah, its still an enthusiasts car…because its got the chassis/suspension/powertrain nailed. This is the car you recommend to friends/family/significant other so you still enjoy the time away from your (insert your automotive passion here).

  • avatar
    aldon

    This is a car that is as good as the Accord or Camry, while (IMHO) looking better.

    While those two cars have nothing that set it appart from the pack, Saturn has a unique dealer and service system.

    I have owned several new cars; German, Japanese, American and even Korean, all had some kind of service problem during it’s time with me, only Saturn treated me and my car in what I would describe as an ‘outstanding’ manner and at least two other companies turned me off to ever buying from them again.

    That’s Saturn’s hook, their service, now they have a really good car to go along with it.

    I hope the Outlook is as good and they do something about the Relay (My wife needs a bigger car next).

  • avatar
    kaisen

    They are doing something about the Relay ….. killing it. 2007 is the final year.

  • avatar
    nrborod

    Thanks for your perspective, Darkvette
    I’ve been driving Hondas for about 20 years now, and lately I’ve been wondering why. My current car, a 2004 Accord EX-L 4 cyl was very well reviewed by car mags, but after driving it a while, I find it very lacking. While the basic Honda build quality is good, this car does not feel all that refined as a 4, nor is the ride at all smooth(my 2001 was better!)–it’s much too harsh and noisy–very little compliance, really and feels very uncertain in the curves at speed. The driveline has much too much harshness in overdrive at 2000rpm and lower. The ride of the car is too noisy overall–when will Honda learn the term “sound insulation”
    True, many details of convenience are tyhere in the car–the interior, etc, but ride, handling, driveline, quietness are not, really. In some ways, the car is overrated. I like the Aura models, and I think the XE moderately optioned will be a very good replacement/value, even if I take a hit in mileage.(BUT, I wonder if there’ll be the 6spd tranny for the XE in ’08? I might have to wait and see) So, it boils down to what you like and can live with on a daily basis. It’s not always a logical process, for sure. I gather for many, it’s an emotional process, actually.

  • avatar
    tones03

  • avatar

    I wanted to take the time to mention the fact that neither Toyota OR Honda won the North American Car of the Year Award for 2007, the Saturn Aura did. What does that say about this car? It’s a DEFINITE contender. The Accord wasn’t even on the list of finalists. Interesting, isn’t it???? Check out the link for yourself:

  • avatar

    http://autoweek.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070107/FREE/70107002/1056/autoshows

  • avatar
    nrborod

    The Accord….it’s at the end of a design run, isn’t it? Won’t ’08 be a NEW design?
    WhatEVER the new design IS, it will probably end up as “Best” car THAT year…..

  • avatar
    coopuaw31

    I am very pleased with what I have read in this review. I have had the opportunity to drive several of these vehicles on a daily basis and much like you find the XR a much more desirable model. I too find the interior to be less than ideal by way of materials, however, they seem to be as sturdy as they come. If I were to buy an automobile for a family with young children, believe you me sturdiness would be the first thing on my mind. The interior panel fits have come a long way since they 90's saturns, and ergonomics has always been in the forefront. I also am a big fan of the morroccan brown leather interior, it really makes the cabin pop. I know this car will do little to sway die-hard Japanese car buyers, but I believe that darkvette is right that it is more geared to the middle of the road consumer. Which is big step towards swaying the Japanese car buyers.

  • avatar
    MJD112379

    I'm wondering if I'm the only one here who owns an AURA. I have an AURA XR. The car is fantastic. I still don't know what the fake stitching thing everyone talks about is…I can only assume the little things that are barely visible on the outer edge of the inside door handles. The car is such a great value and it feels quality made… I'm very happy with my purchase.

  • avatar
    da buik

    yeh my dad just got this car… we drove the accord, the mazda6, the camry, and the altima V6s and i gotta say the altima was the fastest, but rode crappy, and the aura was an easy second

    the mazda, we just didnt like… the camry has a crappy transmission… the accord i liked a lot but too pricy and no tap shift and not as fast

    btw, tire size does not make a car adhere to the road any better… tire size is for heat… motorcycles have little tiny tires and corner faster than any car… if you watch a motorcycle in a turn there is only like an inch of tire on the road- just fyi guys so you dont look stupid

    also, 18″ rims dont do anything for handling, they just make this car look badass


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