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A division of the General Motors Corporation, Saturn was established in 1985 as a response to small-car imports from Japan and Germany. The first Saturn rolled off the assembly line in 1990. All original Saturns (S-Series) featured dent-resistant polymer panels, which were a major selling point. Saturn production ended in 2009 and, after failed attempts at finding a new owner, GM will shut down the brand in 2010.
In recent years, General Motors has had something of a change of heart regarding hybrids. In 2004, “Car Czar” Bob Lutz dismissed hybrid cars as “impractical” and “a fad.” By 2007, Saturn gained a Green Line off-shoot dedicated exclusively to selling such endeavors. While GM doesn’t separate out sales stats for Saturn’s sub-brand, suffice it to say sales suck. This bodes badly for Saturn’s newest green machine: the 2008 Aura Green Line. Does the hybrid version of last year’s North American Car of the Year deserve a chance?
2008 Saturn Aura Green Line Review Car Review Rating
“GM has never sold a competitive small car in America.” Not true. The imported rear wheel-drive Opel 1900– the sedan version of the Manta– was a superb machine for its day. Unfortunately, a rising dollar and a lack of marketing and development vis-a-vis the Japanese competition (Datsun 510) doomed the 1900 to footnoted obscurity. And now, once again, General Motors NA turns to Opel to get back in the small car game. They've brought over the Eurozone’s best selling passenger car: the Astra. Starting this January, you can buy an Astra in America, only with the logo swapped from Opel’s lightning bolt to Saturn’s rings. Should you?
Saturn Astra Review Car Review Rating
Not that Camcordima or Miata drivers have noticed, but GM’s long-neglected Saturn brand has been busy rolling out a raft of new models. I came, I saw, I drove, I despaired. The Aura, Sky and Outlook are fine machines, but even better examples of “80%” cars: GM vehicles that are an interior, gearbox, suspension and/or trunk space away from greatness. So when I saw the all-new, Opel-sourced 2008 Saturn Vue, I thought I knew exactly what was coming my way. I don’t mind saying it: I was somewhat wrong.
Saturn Vue Review Car Review Rating
You gotta admire the chutzpah of an automaker that asks buyers to “rethink American” by pitting a German derived sedan against cars.com’s third “most American” automobile (Toyota Camry) and a sedan with 70 percent domestic content (Honda Accord). Although Saturn’s ads invites interested parties to a side-by-side-by-side comparison of all three “domestics”, like many intenders, I didn’t have time. So I decided to test the Saturn Aura XE and call it good. You know, if it was.
Saturn Aura XE Review Car Review Rating
The planet Saturn is a giant ball of gas. When it comes to selling cars to enthusiasts, GM’s “like never before” division is also full of hot air. In 1999, Saturn said their Opel-sourced LS sedan would be fun to drive. It wasn’t. In 2003, Saturn made similar noises over the ION Quad Coupe. Strike two. In 2004, the ION Red Line was supposedly da bomb. Pistonheads lined up none deep. But was the Red Line really at fault? Or was it sabotaged by Saturn’s nebulous image and boy-who-cried-wolf marketing?
In 1971, U.S. Senator Roman Hruska rose to the defense of an undistinguished Supreme Court nominee named G. Harrold Carswell. "Even if he is mediocre, there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren't they?" And their successors are entitled to wheels befitting their station in life, like the Saturn Vue Green Line.
Soccer Moms who adopted fossil-feasting truck-based SUVs for their parental duties know the truth: the genre is falling from fashion faster than Sony’s PS2. Style-conscious sprog schleppers now want a spacious rug-rat mover that doesn’t drain tanker trucks or scream mommy-van. For them, crossovers are The Next Big Thing. They’re eyeing vehicles like the new Saturn Outlook, the first of GM’s all-new Lambda platform-based crossovers (the GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave are set to follow). The Outlook replaces the TWAT-winning Relay minivan– which isn’t exactly a tough act to follow. Still, will the Outlook break a leg?
The Saturn Sky has been a tremendous success. Not because it’s a great car; the lack of any appreciable trunk space and the model’s less than intoxicating driving dynamics make it a toy with limited play value. But the Sky knocks the ball out of the park in the style department. In fact, the Sky is the most physically appealing GM car has produced since Harley Earl last prowled the halls of The General’s design department. With the advent of the Saturn Sky Red Line, GM’s different kind of sports car gets a chance to redeem itself amongst die-hard pistonheads, to whom the drop-dead gorgeous base model failed to provide the necessary automotive intercourse. Unfortunately…
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."
Can GM, master of big iron, build a proper sports car? Not simply something that murders straights and grips like grim death– the Corvette's got that covered. Rather, a roadster that takes to the bends with the eager playfulness of an overstimulated puppy and the agility of an all-star point guard. Could the Saturn SKY be such a car? I know it sounds crazy: an honest-to-God sports car from GM's shiny happy plastic panel people. And the specs aren't promising: this parts-bin special out-girths the Mazda MX-5 by four inches and 400 pounds. Still, it sure looks promising…