With 16 manufacturers offering midsize cars and another 10 manufacturers in the premium midsize market, newcomers in the exceedingly popular category often face rough sales roads. Saturn didn’t fare well with its midsize L-Series, which was discontinued in 2004. But the General Motors division is trying again with the 2007 Aura.
There’s little doubt Honda, Toyota and Nissan will remain category frontrunners, at least for now. But like updated and soundly improved sedans offered by Hyundai and Mercury, the Aura should soon be in the mix among the small corps infiltrating the leaders’ dominance.
The Aura, which shares its wheelbase and front-wheel platform with the Chevrolet Malibu Maxx hatchback and Pontiac G6 sedan, is available in XE and XR models. Both are four-door-only sedans with the latter model the premium offering.
Both models are manufacturer-approved for four-down towing, with instructions available in the driver’s manual.
My weekly driver was the XR model, which has a slightly larger and more powerful, 3.6-liter, 252-horsepower engine, 18-inch wheels and a six-speed automatic transmission, The XE features a 3.5-liter, 224-horsepower engine, with a four-speed automatic and 17-inch wheels.
A hybrid model is scheduled for debut in mid-2007, and it will be GM’s first hybrid passenger car.
The XR is offered at $4,000 more than than XE and beyond the aforementioned differences, the increase seems worthwhile.
Saturn doesn’t skimp on standard features. The XE’s list is long, but the additions to the XR include: manual-shift capability (small steering wheel shifting paddles), an anti-skid system, automatic climate control, heated front seats, eight-way power driver seat, heated power mirrors, remote engine start, in-dash six-disc CD/MP3 player, steering wheel front and rear radio controls, automatic day/night rearview mirror, universal garage door opener, fog lights and alloy wheels.
Four “major” optional packages are also available, and my test drive featured the Premium Trim package ($1,050), which included all leather options and a power sunroof.
The more powerful Aura, like the mainstream version, may be the best Saturn ever offered. The exterior is angled and chiseled, and its Euro-styling works well with an improved, roomy interior that features quality materials as well as complementary wood and metal trimming. Saturn’s instrumentation style is straightforward and stylishly simple. In short, the Saturn’s staid reputation is gone.
I didn’t drive the standard XE model, but the higher-powered XR model does well in start acceleration situations and throughout the entire array of driving scenarios. The ride is smooth, quiet and confident, and the Aura fits its name well.
The new vehicle has an aura, no doubt. It’s a midsize family sedan that wouldn’t lose much status if it were positioned in the premium midsize class.
The Weekly Driver: 2007 Saturn Aura
Safety Features – Dual front side and side curtain airbags
Fuel Mileage (estimates) – 18 mpg (city), 27 mpg (highway).
Warranty – Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain, 5 years/60,000 miles, Corrosion, 5 years/unlimited miles; (24-hour) roadside assistance program, 3 years/36,000 miles.
Base Price – $23,945.00