Review: 2007 Saturn Aura

2007 Saturn Aura

In the corporate world, you’re forever doing these things called “decks”. These are presentation decks done in Microsoft PowerPoint format that you use to get across why you should spend $30 million for a new CRM platform, or why the company needs to move to a lower-cost area of the country, or how it would be a huge plus for the company to acquire a network of resellers for their core product. Stuff like that. Since some decks can run up to 70 pages (hard to believe, isn’t it?), you’re generally required to put a short “Executive Summary” section right up front so that people can read that if they don’t want to slog through the whole presentation.

I’m feeling the whole corporate thing today, and maybe you’re in a hurry, so here’s the Executive Summary on the new 2007 Saturn Aura XR: Surprisingly good in almost every aspect, great in a couple of areas, attractive looks, and is the equal (or better) of everything in its class, including the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord. Considering how poor the previous Saturn sedans were before the Aura, GM’s leap forward with the Aura is nothing short of astounding. General Motors has finally produced an affordable family sedan that has achieved parity with the toughest competitors in the segment.

Weird, huh? Yeah, you bet. I know I was surprised. But there you have it. Here’s the long version.

The Saturn Aura XR has the higher level of equipment over the Aura XE, and believe me, the XR is the one you want. The Aura XE has the GM mainstay 3.5 liter V6 with 224 horsepower, a four-speed auto box, a lower level of trim and a base price of $20,595. It’s not a bad car; and I’m sure Saturn will roll quite a few off the blacktop, it’s just that you get a lot more car for just a little more money with the Aura XR.

The Saturn Aura XR has the fine 252 horsepower twin-cam 3.6 liter V6 from the Cadillac CTS as the means of motivation, the first application of this engine in front-wheel drive configuration. The XR gets GM’s superb 6-speed automatic transmission, a creamy, upmarket creation that also has the option of paddle shifters on the steering wheel if you’re feeling a little frisky. The XR has StabiliTrak, GM’s active stability system. And the XR has a very nice Brown Morroccan Leather Package for the interior as an option, as well as a higher level of standard equipment all around. And the base price of the Saturn Aura XR is $24,595, and loaded to the gills, it’s only a little over $27 thousand.

After driving the Aura XR for a few hours, here are some things I noticed pretty quickly:

Price point is excellent, and should give the other cars in this market category a tough time of it on a price/value comparison.

Very, very quiet for the segment – seems more expensive than it is in that regard.

Interior lighting is very well done.

Usual dead spot in the middle of the steering typical on GM cars seems to have gone away. It’s like a Christmas Miracle!

More fun to drive than a Toyota Camry or a Honda Accord, and not as much fun as the VW Passat, Mazda 6, or the Ford Fusion, but pretty damn close. More fun as you go faster, which is the opposite of the Camry and the Accord, and right in there with the Passat, the 6, and the Fusion. Great on-road manners.

A-pillar windshield frame on driver side seems thicker than it actually is – it took a little while for me to start “seeing” through it.

Engine is finally a match for the V6 offered by Honda-Nissan-Toyota in everything I could feel and hear – torque, horsepower, powertrain noise, sophistication, and smoothness.

The six-speed auto is excellent, but here’s a minor quibble: when you use the paddle shifter, the odometer and trip odometer go away.

Fit and finish inside looks very tight, with good gaps and shut lines. Outside, I really like the side view, love the rear 3/4 view, the rear view, and the front is kind of standard design. Overall the look is sophisticated in an understated European way.

The Saturn Aura XR and Aura XE both have a 5-star rating in the crash tests. The Aura XR gets an EPA-rated 20 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.

As I mentioned in the beginning of this review, the new 2007 Saturn Aura XR is a definite contender with some real character in this segment, and should not be overlooked if you’re considering one of the other cars in this hotly-contested part of the market. And, really, if GM can get potential buyers like you to just go and drive the car, they will make their sales projections easily, and for a change, it won’t be through rebates or special financing, it will be as a result of selling a car that’s as good or better than the competition. Now, I am a realist – that’s easier said than done, and GM has no one but themselves to blame for this predicament. They sold the American public mostly crap for 25 years, so there is no small amount of ill will among the public for GM to overcome. But, here’s the deal: you’re only hurting yourself if you don’t put this one on your list. It’s a very good, and a very honest car at a very good price.

Author: Brendan Moore

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting , a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area. He also manages Autosavant Consulting, a separate practice within Cedar Point Consulting. where he advises businesses connected to the auto industry. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at http://www.cedarpointconsulting.com.

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