The Aura is the largest of all Saturn sedans. The Saturn Aura shares the same platform as the Saab 9-3 and the European-market Opel Vectra. The Aura shares styling cues with the Opel. The Saturn Aura is front-wheel drive and rides on a 112-inch wheelbase.
In front, the Aura features a broad grille with a thick chrome insert flanked by almond-shaped, multi-element headlamp units. The nicely sculpted front bumper houses tiny fog lamps on the Aura XR. With big engines and front-wheel drive, the Aura has a requisitely long nose, but thanks to nice tapering of the bumpers, it doesn't look disproportionately front-heavy.
The body sides are clean and tastefully sculpted, with a healthy bit of chrome detailing on the window trim. The XR takes this a step further with bright door handles. The Aura rides on a long wheelbase, which contributes to an elegant, planted appearance. The rear door is particularly long, however, making it more difficult for your rear-seat passengers to climb in and out in tight parking lots. A power moonroof with sun shade is optional.
All Auras XE models ride on 17-inch wheels; steel wheels with wheel covers are standard; attractive alloy wheels are optional. XR models ride on dressy 14-spoke, 18-inch machined-surface alloy wheels; while the Green Line hybrid runs 16-inch alloys for lower weight and rolling resistance.
The rear end is dominated by glitzy, high-mounted tail lamps that mirror the almond shape of the headlamps and incorporate two strips of fast-illuminating LED brake lights. The bumper is tall.
The interior of the Saturn Aura is tasteful with an assortment of materials. Control operation is straightforward and the ergonomic layout is ideal. Secondary controls are shared with other GM models.
The front seats offer reasonable support for most people, though we would like to see better lumbar support. We found the fabric upholstery to be of high quality. The quality of the optional leather on both the XE and XR seemed marginal, however, with the only exception being the cool-looking Moroccan Brown interior featuring uniquely grained, embossed leather seating inserts. The available eight-way power adjustments for the driver made it easier to get comfortable than in the six-way manual seats. The steering wheel tilts and telescopes, though it feels one size too large for this car. At least with leather-equipped cars, the steering wheel feels good in the hand thanks to soft leather wrapping, which is far preferable to the grainy urethane texture of the wheel you get in cloth-equipped Auras.
Ergonomics are quite good. The front-seat elbow rest cleverly extends into the B-pillar for an additional 1.6 inches of elbow room, to accommodate taller drivers who slide the seat rearward. The cover for the center console slides fore and aft for comfortable elbow resting on the inboard side. Outward vision through the windshield and side windows is good. The rear shelf, however, is quite high, blocking a fair amount of vision through the rearview mirror and increasing the size of the blind spots, especially for shorter drivers.
The deep-set, electroluminescent speedometer and tachometer are lovely, illuminated in a modern-looking amber shade. A trip computer/vehicle information display is nestled in the speedometer, and has a real-time fuel economy function. However, the display is too small to show more than 16 characters at the same time. Therefore, only one function (the trip odometer, standard odometer, fuel economy, the gear indicator for the manual mode for the XR's six-speed automatic, and so on) can be viewed at any given time.
Interior trim is mixed in quality but pleasingly designed, with padded materials covering the curvaceous dash top and door panels, but less impressive hard plastic most everywhere else. There are other materials as well, including generous swaths of silvery metallic or wood-grained plastic trim, made more attractive by chrome details in many well-placed locations. We would like to say that these materials are up to snuff compared with Toyota, Honda and even Hyundai, but in truth, they're not quite there. However, the panel fit is tight and among the best we've seen on an American product.
All controls, buttons and knobs feel upscale in their operation. Controls for the standard, six-speaker, AM/FM/CD/MP3/XM stereo, as well as the optional, 240-watt eight-speaker sound system include presets that are not band-specific; in other words, AM, FM and XM stations can exist in the same bank of buttons; no need to change bands. This makes a big difference when jumping around to your favorite stations in everyday use. For example, it takes just one press of a button to jump from your favorite AM talk radio station to your favorite FM music station or to your favorite XM news station. The premium audio system has separate controls for rear-seat passengers and a pair of wireless headphones. Auxiliary input jacks are provided for iPods and other MP3 players.
A GPS navigation system is not available for the Aura, but the latest version of OnStar (version 7.0) includes turn-by-turn directions. This navigational feature delivers the guidance benefits of a conventional, map-based navigation system with voice commands. But instead of having to input destination information on a touch screen, which can be dangerous while in motion, the driver presses the OnStar button, and an OnStar adviser comes online to assist in finding the destination. After talking to you, the OnStar adviser uploads the