- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 28, 2006

In the eyes of the traditional Saturn owner the General Motors division that started out with a near-cult following has lost its luster. Sales were more than disappointing and there was talk that the upstart car group would go away.

Not so quickly do we judge.

Saturn’s General Manager, Jill Lajdziak, may seem small in stature, but she is quite large in personality and bent on getting Saturn back on track.

Along with the introduction of the Sky sports car Saturn is sure to brighten its circles with the Aura.

Any sedan is going to have a rough time at ousting the Camry or Accord from their positions, but this Saturn is going to give them a go at the market. No, it doesn’t have ground breaking styling nor does it offer some magic techno-feature that revolutionizes the auto industry.

What this sedan does is offer a fine automobile in the family sedan class with excellent road manners while holding passengers in comfort. Plus, it isn’t going to break the bank.

The exterior design isn’t earth shattering, but it is refreshing and much more contemporary than I have thought previous Saturns, save the Sky. It seems to incorporate influences from both Asian and European designers. It is a larger car than it feels from the driver’s seat, which is a good thing. The car is agile without becoming overly sporty.

It is elegant without the perception of arrogance. It will fit easily into your budget .

The test car was dressed in inviting Moroccan brown leather that gave the vehicle a custom look. Front bucket seats were firm, yet comfortable as was the rear bench seat. I could have easily carried four of my friends along on my adventures.

Under the sheet metal is a platform shared with other GM products, namely SAAB 9-3 and Pontiac G6. What this sharing does is help retain a specific price point. But drivers of Asian and European sedans will not be disappointed. The Aura sits on a longer wheelbase helping to soak up those harsh irregularities on the road. This also increases available rear seat leg room and helps offer ample storage space in the trunk. And speaking of the trunk, I would swear Tony Soprano’s buddies could use this car to hide a few of their not so close friends.

The Aura comes in two nicely equipped trim levels. The base XE is powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. The base engine produces an admirable 224 horsepower. This combination keeps the Aura quiet on the inside and offers excellent power along with economy.

At just over $20,000 the XE includes as standard equipment, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, and traction control like the up-level XR.

Moving up to the XR with its base price of around $24,000, drivers get more performance with its 252 horsepower 3.6-liter V-6 engine and a six-speed automatic transmission.

Lajdziak is confident the new Aura will invigorate the Saturn brand. I think it will even more than the Sky might only because the Aura is aimed at the family more than the enthusiast.

If two seats will work for you jump in a Sky. However, if the practicality of everyday family life overpowers your decision you will not be disappointed in the Aura.

Now, all Saturn needs to do is reinstitute the Saturn Homecoming event that was so popular with Saturn owners. Who knows they might uncover an underground movement they were completely unaware of.

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