Saturn Sky (Convertible), 2008: Weidel on Wheels

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By Jeff Weidel

Needing a little “bling” in its lineup, Saturn finally convinced parent company General Motors a sports car could elicit positive results. Although the Sky convertible wasn’t exactly unique when it came out a year ago, it provided Saturn with definite eye appeal.

And even if car shoppers didn’t buy it, at least they were taking a good look at the attractive Sky, a better version of the Pontiac Solstice, another GM product.

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The American car-buying public has a fascination for convertibles. They represent a vehicle most people feel they want, yet can’t justify the purchase, simply because in most cases they’re impractical.

Overall, Saturn’s first entry into the convertible world has received positive marks for handling, appearance and price. The attractive Sky has a wide stance, curvy edges and a slim front grille that sits high enough so there are no worries about scraping it against a curb.

My first encounter with the Sky came a year ago when I drove the distinctive yellow-colored, two-seat roadster. It was too eye-catching for my tastes. For my week with the 2008 model, a less distinctive silver model was more to my liking.

I drove the Red Line, the upgraded Sky featuring a 2.0-liter, turbocharged inline-4 that produces 260 horsepower. The base model is a 2.4-liter, inline-4 with 177 horsepower.

Not surprisingly, the Red Line is about two seconds faster than the base model when accelerating from 0-60 mph and does so in about 5.5 seconds. The Red Line also costs nearly $5,000 more than the base model at $29,175.

To my dismay, the Red Line I drove for a week had automatic transmission, which personally takes all the fun out of driving a sports car. They beg for a manual transmission to “experience” the power.

The Red Line is not only quicker, it handles a lot more responsibly than the standard model, and with its stiffer suspension is able to maintain its grip on winding roads. What isn’t so pleasing is the Sky feels every bump on uneven surfaces at high speeds.

Another unenviable characteristic of the Sky is its limited interior storage. It has a glovebox, but the deck lid along the back wall is poorly positioned (items often tumble out when the lid is opened.) The interior’s cheap plastic material doesn’t sweeten the deal, either.

The trunk is also difficult to access and useless. While a narrow section will squeeze in a set of golf clubs, it’s not suitable for other regular items.

Putting down the convertible top is another annoying feature. Give me a push button any time, especially after dealing with the Sky’s infuriating top. It requires a person to pop an inside lever, yank the top down, open the trunk, then slam it shut once the top is secure inside.

But let’s face it. No one buys a sports car because they want trunk space and other conveniences. Everyone has the same goal: Put the top down and head out for some memorable weekend cruising on a sun-drenched day. And with the Sky those weekend drives can be lengthy since its fuel mileages estimates are good at 21-31 mpg.

FAST FACTS: 2008 Saturn Sky

Power — 2.0-liter, turbocharged inline-4, 260 horsepower; Mileage Estimates — 21-31 mpg; Standard Features — antilock disc brakes, stability control, OnStar system, six-speaker audio system with CD/MP3 player, satellite radio, daytime running lights, tire-pressure monitor, leather-wrapped steering wheel, rear defogger; Warranty — Powertrain, 5 years/100,000; Bumper-to-bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles, Corrosion, 6 years/100,000 miles; Free roadside assistance, 5 years/100,000 miles.

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