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ROAD & TRAVEL New Car Review: 2007 Saturn Aura

2007 Saturn Aura Mid-size Sedan Road Test Review

by Bob Plunkett

Running up Lockwood Valley Road, two lanes of blacktop draped across the Sierra Madre Range of California near Frazier Park, the new mid-size sedan cuts crisply through the apex of every turn at a quick clip yet without tire squeal.

In these benders, our car maintains a stable position with minimal lateral roll, the result of a stiffly braced unibody design with sophisticated independent suspension elements at all corners.

ROAD & TRAVEL New Car Review: 2007 Saturn Aura

Surging power, lurking below the right foot pedal, proves too much for some of the curve sets and occasionally requires a check through the left pedal, which links to four disc brakes and an on-board computer with anti-lock action as well as electronic vehicle stability management (ESC).

Steering, firm and precise due to a rack and pinion arrangement with speed-sensing variable assistance, seems as attuned as a pricy Euro touring sedan. And it shows us in wiggles through right-left-right chicanes on the deserted road that it can dance like a sporty machine as reinforced with powerful V6 muscle.

A driver's mental check-list of highlights and high scores for this vehicle crystalizes as we scoot down the I-5 freeway, which takes us into the urban sprawl of Los Angeles County and the conclusion of this driving test.

One particular impression rises to the top of our impressions to describe the thrill of driving this new car: Import Car of the Year.

Obvious incongruity for this thought is the fact that the vehicle we're steering is not some cat-clawed touring car shipped over from Europe but a new mid-size model for the Saturn brand of General Motors and it comes together at GM's Fairfax Assembly Plant in Kansas City, Kan.

Saturn delivers this dynamic new sedan for the Class of 2007 under the badge of Aura.

Despite its ride and drive traits like a costly Euro tourer, Aura arrives at market with rather affordable price points. Actually, there are two variations -- Aura XE and Aura XR -- each packing a powerful but different V6 engine as well as a different automatic transmission. Aura XE shows a MSRP of only $19,945, while the XR begins at $23,945.

Platform for Saturn's new vehicle is the Epsilon architecture which also underpins other products of General Motors, like the Opel Vectra in Europe, Sweden's 9-3 by Saab and Chevy's Malibu.

The Epsilon platform features a long wheelbase and wide track with world-class chassis dynamics to set up superior handling traits. A fully independent suspension features MacPherson struts with aluminum L-shaped control arms up front.

In back, the XE totes a four-link arrangement with twin-tube gas shocks, dual-rate coil springs plus a direct-acting stabilizer bar.

ROAD & TRAVEL New Car Review: 2007 Saturn Aura

Aura XR differs in the rear suspension by adding monotube shocks for tighter wheel control. Steering is a hydraulic rack and pinion design with variable assistance and the steering ratio set to 16.2:1. The driver gets a good feel for the road through this system, which is firm and quick at highway speed yet compliant and easy to work for slow-go in a parking lot. Brakes include a large disc at every wheel with anti-lock system (ABS).

Aura XE also has a traction control system (TCS) with an electronic control module which varies the torque output of the engine to check tire slippage on a slick road. Aura XR upgrades to GM's StabiliTrak electronic vehicle skid control system.

Both XE and XR pack aboard a carload of safety equipment including passive safety systems like frontal and seat-mounted side-impact air bags for front seats and curtain-style air bags above outboard seats in front and back rows.

Aura makes a bold statement with its crisp but smooth exterior design. Up front, the prow features oversized multi-lens headlamp clusters flanking a broad but narrow grille crowned by a slab of chrome. Sculpted rails sweep up a massive windshield and over the arching roof to the brief deck of a blunted tail, while on side fenders fore and aft the wheelwells bulge in rounded arches to emphasize the oversized rubber.

Aura XE rolls on 17-inch steel wheels (or optional cast aluminum) with P225/50 touring tires. Aura XR scores 18-inch ultra-bright cast aluminum wheels capped by P225/50 touring tires.

Regarding powertrains, Aura XE draws from a 3.5-liter V6 with VVT (variable valve timing) making 224 hp at 5800 rpm plus torque up to 220 lb-ft at 4000 rpm. It ties to the GM Hydra-Matic 4T45 four-speed automatic transmission.

Aura XR gets GM's new dual-cam 3.6-liter V6 with VVT along with a new 6T70 six-speed automatic and DSC (driver shift control) manual shifting via paddles mounted on the steering wheel. The 3.6-liter V6 achieves 252 hp at 6400 rpm and torque pitched to 251 lb-ft at 3200 rpm.

Aura's tastefully trimmed passenger compartment provides seats for five and lots of amenities. In a dashboard instrument cluster the round electroluminescent speedometer and tachometer glow warmly in amber light.

ROAD & TRAVEL New Car Review: 2007 Saturn Aura

Aura XE shows such standard equipment as cloth upholstery, two-way power controls for the driver's seat, power controls for windows and door locks and mirrors, automatic headlamps, cruise control, a steering wheel that tilts and telescopes, air conditioning and a sound kit with AM/FM/CD/MP3 and six speakers.

Aura XR also stocks eight-way power controls on the driver's seat plus heated front seats and a remote engine starter, automatic climate controls, automatic dimming for the electrochromatic rearview mirror, and audio upgrades with a six-disc CD deck in the dash and eight speakers.

The list of options includes a premium trim package with leather seats and leather-wrapped steering wheel, a convenience package, a multi-panel panoramic sunroof, OnStar telecommunications and XM satellite radio service.

2007 Saturn Aura
Mid-size luxury sedan
Model options:

Aura XE
Aura XR

Engine size:

XE: OHV 3.5-L V6/VVT


XE: Auto/4/4T45
XR: Auto/6/6T70/DSC


113.8 inches

Overall Length:

206.8 inches

Rear/Front Drive:

Rear/front drive FWD


Power 4-disc
XR: ABS/StabiliTrak

Air bags:

2 (front)
2 (side)
4 (side curtain)

Fuel Economy:

XE: 20/29 mpg
XR: 20/28 mpg


XE: $19,945
XR: $23,945