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2004 Saturn Ion Quad CoupeWe're scooting down a narrow section road scored through Michigan farmlands just beyond suburban fringes of Detroit while putting the pedal down on a curvy coupe variation of Ion, the compact-class marque in the line of Saturn from General Motors.

Ion popped up last year in Saturn's line as replacement for the original S-Series cars and brought clever innovations and sleek styling to the small-car segment.

The 2004 editions of Ion, skewed into four-door sedan and innovative four-door coupe conformations, earn refinements for passenger compartments encased by slinky bodies with a modern four-cylinder powertrain aboard.

We like the way the coupe handles.

There's power at the pedal when you request it, the manual shifter stick feels tight and controllable, steering's quick in response to the slightest flick of driver's wrist, as various hardware of an independent suspension system evens out road bumps and checks body roll through the right-angled corners on a zig-zag route down the farm roads.

Ion rides on a world-class platform that's strong and stiff to support high-tech components including an electric power steering (EPS) system for the rack and pinion mechanism. With a speed-sensitive power boost that kicks in when turning, the system eliminates the need for a power steering pump.

Suspension design, consisting of independent front elements with semi-independent torsion beam in back, also shows stabilizer bars fore and aft. Components remain constant for all trims, with tuning accomplished by increasing the size of tires.

Saturn, it seems, has forged an assertive personality for Ion as a coupe and it comes with gutsy mechanical equipment to express a sporty flavor.

Then there's the novelty of a four-door cabin in a radical departure from the typical two-door coupe.

2004 Saturn Ion Quad CoupeSaturn's design sets these two extra doors immediately behind the front doors on each flank.

The front one's hinged at the front but the adjoining rear door has hinges on the hind side with a handle tucked flush into the leading edge of the jam.

To open one of the back doors first requires opening the front door, then the rear panel swings out at right angle in suicide-door fashion to forge a broad portal that's unobstructed by a center roof pillar so it's easy to access the rear seats.

Saturn dubs this clever design as the Ion Quad Coupe.

In the cabin, the back of the front passenger bucket folds forward to form a flat horizontal surface, and backs of the rear seat, divided into two separate sections, also fold flat on the same plane as the floor of the tail-side cargo compartment.

Long cargo items like lumber or sports gear such as skis or snowboards can be stacked on top of these folded seats and stretched from the dashboard to the tailgate.

2004 Saturn Ion Quad Coupe InteriorChanges to the Quad Coupe cabin for 2004 include a monochromatic instrument panel tinted in ebony, soft-to-touch paint applied to the center stack of controls and revamped colors for the radio panel and shifter bezel.

The instrument cluster mounts at the top center of the dashboard, leaving the area immediately in front of Ion's small and sporty steering wheel airy and uncluttered.

New radios and audio packages, concealed behind a new faceplate, show up on 2004 models.

A base kit with CD and cassette decks has been replaced by a CD deck capable of playing MP3 format files, while a six-disc changer with cassette unit switches to a six-disc changer with MP3 capability.

The subscription-based XM satellite radio service, with superior sound quality and coast-to-coast reception through a hundred digital channels, is now available with either of the new radios. And the list of optional audio gear for the Quad Coupe reaches to the Saturn Advanced Audio System with a 160-watt amplifier and six premium speakers.

Exterior styling, with crisp and chiseled lines, features strong geometric shapes mingled with angular flanks and a bold but squared tail counterbalanced by smooth rails running over the arched cab from front cowl to the bottom of the back window.

Those curvaceous roof rails are tinted to the body color in standard versions of the Quad Coupe but a new option for 2004 are tinted rails in a silver accent color called Silver Nickel as plastic panels that can be installed from a do-it-yourself kit.

The rail trim color matches tinted trim pieces for the cabin, such as bezels ringing the instrument panel, shifter stick and climate control panel.

Vivid colors for body paint also work on the Quad Coupe, with Electric Lime the latest shade.

Side body panels on the Quad Coupe are constructed from molded polymer. The pliable plastic resembles sheetmetal but flexes in the face of parking-lot mishaps like encounters with other car doors or grocery carts. Following a cart collision, it snaps back to the original shape leaving no dent or ding -- and no chipped paint.

Safety content extends to frontal air bags for driver and passenger, with side curtain-style air bags concealed in the ceiling above front and rear doors available as a stand-alone option, as well as an anti-lock brake system (ABS) with traction control (TCS).

Ion in all models stocks GM's EcoTec four-pack engine in a dual-cam design displacing 2.2 liters.

It produces a robust 140 hp at 5800 rpm plus 145 lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm.

Standard transmission is a manual five-speed by Germany's Getrag with short-throw stick.

Optional is a continuously variable transmission (VTi).

Rather than the step-ratio gears of a conventional automatic, this transmission uses pulleys and a special steel belt to precisely match engine output to vehicle speed, enabling seamless acceleration through all speeds. The device approaches a manual shifter's fuel economy but delivers virtually undetectable shift transitions.

2004 Saturn Ion Quad Coupe InteriorNew calibrations in computer software for the VTi in 2004 bring enhanced grade logic to boost performance when driving through hilly terrain.

Ion the Quad Coupe comes in two trims.

Entry version Ion 2 rolls on 15-inch wheels and stocks air conditioning and power door locks. The deluxe version Ion 3 provides more equipment including power windows and larger 16-inch alloy wheels.

Price range est. $ 14,500 to $ 19,800

Click here for more information on the Saturn Ion Quad Coupe.
For the Saturn 2004 Model Guide: Click Here