Saturn has introduced an all-new mid-size sedan called the Aura. The 2007 Saturn Aura is the company's first truly credible entry in the most competitive segment of the automobile market. Compared with Saturn's last mid-size car, the unloved L-Series sedan and wagon that died quiet deaths back in 2004, the Aura is decidedly modern and fresh, with Euro character and aesthetic flair. Interestingly, the Aura has none of the plastic body panels that made Saturn famous in the 1990s.
The Aura is based on the same safe, solid architecture as the Saab 9-3, which sells for thousands of dollars more. Compared with the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Ford Fusion, the Aura is well equipped with safety and comfort features.
Aura comes with a choice of two powerful V6 engines. (And a hybrid model is on its way.) The Aura is competitively priced: The base XE starts at less than $20,495 and comes with a 224-horsepower V6 and four-speed automatic. The more powerful XR features a 252-hp V6 and six-speed automatic. Both V6 engines offer good fuel economy, rated 20 mpg city and 28-29 mpg highway.
The cabin is tastefully done and laid out well. All the controls work very well and the sound setup is particularly convenient. Saturn's interior materials are still behind the leaders in the segment, but the design is pleasing. We preferred the cloth over the standard leather option, but we liked the Moroccan Brown leather that's available on the Aura XR model.
Underway, the Saturn Aura is quiet and handles well. We found it drives like a European family sedan, taut and responsive, with brakes, suspension and powertrain working together to respond to the driver's wishes. This is not surprising, given the Aura shares its structure with the German Opel Vectra.
The 2007 Saturn Aura comes in two trim levels, the base XE and the more powerful XR. All models are front-wheel drive.
The Aura XE ($19,845) features a 224-hp V6 engine, front-wheel drive and a four-speed automatic transmission. Standard equipment includes cloth upholstery, 17-inch steel wheels with wheel covers, a tilt/telescope steering wheel, keyless entry, automatic headlights, cruise control, and a six-speaker sound system with CD/MP3 player.
The Aura XR ($23,845) features a 252-hp V6 and a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control paddles on the steering wheel. The Aura XR also features automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver seat, front seat heaters, a remote engine starter, an eight-speaker stereo with an in-dash six-disc CD changer, rear audio controls, a universal garage door opener, 18-inch wheels, and fog lamps. (The destination charge is $650.)
Options for the XE include a Preferred Package ($375), which includes an eight-way power driver's seat, steering wheel radio controls, and heated power mirrors; a Convenience Package ($700), which includes heated front seats, remote starter, auto-dimming rearview mirror, and universal garage door opener; an Advanced Audio Package ($725), which includes an eight-speaker stereo with in-dash 6CD and rear audio controls; and alloy wheels ($400). Options for XE and XR models include an Enhanced Convenience Package ($425), which includes a six-way power passenger seat and power adjustable pedals; a Premium Trim Package ($1050), which includes a leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather upholstery and heated front seats; a power sunroof ($800), which includes a sliding, multi-panel panoramic sunroof ($1500), premium floor mats ($100) and XM Satellite Radio ($199). Moroccan Brown interior trim ($100) is available on the XR.
Safety features that come standard on all models include anti-lock four-wheel disc brakes and traction control. XR models come standard with electronic stability control. Passive safety features that come standard include front seat belts with pretensioners and load-limiters, dual front air bags, front seat-mounted side-impact air bags (for torso protection in a side impact), and front- and rear-seat curtain air bags (for head protection in a rollover or side impact). Be sure to wear those seat belts because they are your first line of defense in a crash.