Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The 2007 Saturns: Believe The Hype

GM has released official photos and details of all the new 2007 Saturn models, and upon seeing them, it's easy to see why Bob Lutz has been so supremely confident about the product renaissance that is taking place across GM, and at Saturn in particular. These new Saturns are an astonishing, refreshing departure from what we have learned to expect from the brand.

2007 Saturn Aura

Is the 2007 Aura an exact copy of the Aura Concept? No. But it's very close. And the interior? Almost spot-on, right down to the very expensive-looking brown leather seen on the concept, which I never expected to see on the production car.

2007 Saturn Aura XR interior, with optional Morocco Brown leather seating

Honestly, I look at these photos and can't believe I'm looking at a Saturn. That's how significant these changes are. This is better than anything that has ever worn the little red planet badge, and by a significant margin.

Upon release, Aura will come in two trim levels: XE and the more upmarket XR.

Aura XE is powered by a 3.5L V6 paired with GM's 4T45-E 4-speed automatic. Power output is 224 horses with 220 lb-ft of torque. Aura XR gets a 3.6L V6 mated to the new Hydra-Matic 6T70 6-speed automatic, which also allows the driver to shift using steering column-mounted paddles. The 3.6L also increases power to 252 horsepower and 251 lb-ft of torque.

Inside, customers can choose from a wide array of audio systems and a plethora of options including power-adjustable pedals, heated seats (cloth or leather...nice), the four-panel Panoramic sunroof introduced on the Pontiac G6, and a host of other convenience and luxury features.

Later in the model year, Saturn will introduce a third variant to the marketplace: The Aura Green Line, which will get a version of the 2.4L Ecotec Hybrid powertrain introduced on the Vue Green Line. This is significant because it'll be GM's first hybrid passenger car (all the GM hybrids are trucks and SUVs right now).

Oh, and that snazzy leather interior pictured above? It's called Morocco Brown, and it's an option on the Aura XR.

2007 Saturn Outlook

Late this year (production starts in Q4), people walking into their local Saturn showrooms will have a larger SUV than the Vue available to them for the first time. The 8-passenger Outlook crossover incorporates the design language and sense of style established with the Sky roadster and Aura sedan, and to good effect. It sports the new Saturn "face" up front, highlighted by the chrome strip running across the top of the grille. Powerful-looking fender bulges accomodate wheels and tires that fill the wells nicely. In back, the tidy look continues, with handsome taillights and a dual exhaust (on the XR model) whose outlets mimic the look of the ones on the Sky roadster.

Like the Aura, the trim levels are called XE and XR. Both versions get power from the 3.6L V6 with VVT, which is connected to the new 6-speed Hydra-Matic tranny. Outlook XE has a single exhaust and makes 265 horsepower and 244 pounds of torque. Outlook XR gets a dual exhaust and a slight bump in power: 267 horses and 247 lb-ft of torque. Both FWD and AWD are available on Outlook models.

2007 Saturn Outlook XR interior

The Outlook's interior lives up to the standards set by the latest generation of GM vehicles, particularly the new GMT900 trucks (Tahoe/Yukon/Escalade, etc.). Quality-looking woodgrain and contrasting colors highlight an attractive, ergonomic passenger cabin. Stereo and HVAC controls are neatly organized in a center stack that flows into an equally logical center console area. Third row access is made easier through the use of GM's Smart Slide second-row seats (below), which move forward and allow passengers to get in back without breaking into an impromptu Cirque du Soleil performance.

2007 Saturn Outlook second-row Smart Slide seating

Cargo capacity is well over 116 cubic feet with the second and third row seats folded into the floor, and even when configured for maximum passenger capacity, Outlook still manages over 19 cubic feet of cargo room behind the third row.

Options like navigation, DVD entertainment, heated washer fluid (a la Buick Lucerne) and others complete the package.

2007 Saturn Sky Red Line

We first brought you news of the Sky Red Line last month. Today, GM released more details about their new performance roadster in advance of the car's unveiling at the New York Auto Show tomorrow morning.

Visually, the dual exhausts flanking the rear diffuser are the most obvious indicators that you are indeed looking at a Sky Red Line and not a standard Sky. Specific Red Line badges, highly-polished chrome wheels and exterior trim pieces are also exclusive to the performance model. From the front, you can see the intercooler hiding behind the lower fascia. The chrome-rimmed intakes at the corners are for brake cooling.

Like it's Pontiac Solstice GXP cousin, Sky Red Line is driven by a 2.0L turbocharged direct-injection Ecotec 4-cylinder that produces a staggering 260 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. That's more than enough power to get Sky Red Line drivers to their destinations in good time, assuming they don't make friends with local law enforcement along the way.

Inside, the seats are embroidered with the Red Line logo and the instrument cluster is specific to the go-fast model. Sky Red Line also gets a digital boost gauge.

2007 Saturn Sky Red Line interior

With its high power and 50/50 weight distribution, the Sky Red Line should provide an invigorating driving experience to those fortunate enough to park one in their driveways. Full performance details should be available tomorrow following the car's formal introduction in New York.

In summary, things look extremely promising at Saturn right now, and I expect to see a very
upbeat Bob Lutz in New York at the Saturn press conference.

More to come tomorrow...

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