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USA TODAY Saturn Aura XR test

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Souped-up Aura XR makes for a nice ride

here

HUME, Va. — Saturn's Aura midsize sedan really is two cars.

Drive the uplevel XR with its high-performance V-6 and sporty suspension and you wonder where, sweet car, have you been all this time?

But get behind the wheel of the base XE and the impression is less impressive: Nice car. Could use some tweaking. Pretty darn good, though.

Like I've always said, the rpesence of a more refined and powerful DOHC plant and more gears in the tranny is needed to spin more positive press for GM's cars and it took them forever to figure that out.

If the 2007 Aura were typical of Detroit-mobiles the past decade, Toyota ™, Honda (HMC) and others not native to the USA surely would have found it tougher to gain so much market share. The XR, especially, seems a reasonable alternative to a Honda or Toyota. As a new model, Aura can't boast the enviable track record for high quality and strong resale value that the top Japanese models can, however.

XE's 3.5-liter pushrod-style V-6 was crude-sounding on start-up, although it quieted as it warmed.

GM calls that engine "high value," as opposed to the more sophisticated "high feature" overhead-camshaft 3.6-liter V-6 in the XR. You can translate the GM terms as "cheap" and "refined."

• Fuel economy. Respectable; mid-20s on both test cars despite plenty of lead-foot moments. Conservative driving should yield impressive numbers, if the testers were true harbingers.

Aura makes a strong case for itself, but anybody who's driven a 2007 Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan (NSANY) Altima or Hyundai Sonata or Azera knows that a strong case is merely the price of admission.

SONATA OR AZERA? LMAO! i think not. read autoweeks butchering of the sonata to see how that car is exposing itself as a fraud.

Trip computer in XE test car showed 26.2 mpg on interstate and rural two-lane roads. XR showed 24.4 mpg.

• Overall:  Best thing Saturn's done, but can it overcome anti-Detroit prejudice among foreign-brand buyers?

Edited by regfootball

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Alas, GM has a seriously competitive product in the tough mid-size sedan segment. The reviews coming in all seem to agree on that notion. T

The final, big factor that is necessary for the vehicle's long-term success is clearly reliability. It seems that GM has not been able to shake build quality woes, as apparent from most reviews. Hopefully, these are just initial problems that won't worsen with time, and, issues that will be fixed come next MY.

From here, it is absolutely vital that GM increase investment in the AURA's lifecycle. Take a cue from Nissan and the Altima. Nissan improved the quality of the Altima within 2 years...addressing key weakpoints such as interior materials and build quality. This is the kind of investment that will keep your product not only fresh, but permanent in consumer's minds. On the flip side, look at Ford and the Focus. This car, by and far, was the best compact on the market upon introduction, beating out its competitors in several compraros. But, Ford neglected the Focus, clearly their most successful product in years, and now the vehicle is falling deeply into irrelevancy.

So where should the AURA go from here? Ideally, a significant MCE should be on the cards for the 2009 MY. Targets should be: replace the base powertrain with smaller HF V6/6-speed Auto, redesign interior with better materials and better integration, enhance bumpers/grille/lights. As I've always, firmly believed, consumers will pay more for quality, authentic materials, should they be offered. I believe the Mustang has proved this (in a mass market sense), with its authentic brushed aluminum option selling way over projected targets. Additionally, using these kinds of materials are a point of competitive differentiation, and take heed to the increasingly individualistic and expressive consumer population.

Or, GM can choose to do what they've often done, opting for a MCE 3 years down, and only changing the styling - not addressing the weakeness and upping quality. All in all, I'd like to see the AURA and upcoming Malibu be "here to stay."

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I drove an XR today, here are my impressions:

1. Interior, while not groundbreaking is attractive and high quality.

2. Gauges are awesome

3. Transmission is like butta.... got to play with the slap shift, it's fun on the twisties

4. Turn signal lever felt kind flimsy and out of place compaired to the rest of the switchgear.

5. Moraccan leather is hot

6. heated seats stay on after you shut the engine off till you open the car door

7. very tight turning radius

8. 3.6 is very willing to play, I have one in my CTS so this was expected

Overall impression? It's a poor man's front wheel drive Cadillac CTS with a nicer styled interior.

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I drove an XR today, here are my impressions:

1. Interior, while not groundbreaking is attractive and high quality.

2. Gauges are awesome

3. Transmission is like butta.... got to play with the slap shift, it's fun on the twisties

4. Turn signal lever felt kind flimsy and out of place compaired to the rest of the switchgear.

5. Moraccan leather is hot

6. heated seats stay on after you shut the engine off till you open the car door

7. very tight turning radius

8. 3.6 is very willing to play, I have one in my CTS so this was expected

Overall impression? It's a poor man's front wheel drive Cadillac CTS with a nicer styled interior.

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the gauges seemed small and cheap looking to me, in comparison to say, an accord or even the grand prix.

the interior of the Aura is still too narrow like other Epsilons.

of course, I need to drive one yet, your review sounds great.

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I drove an XR today, here are my impressions:

1. Interior, while not groundbreaking is attractive and high quality.

2. Gauges are awesome

3. Transmission is like butta.... got to play with the slap shift, it's fun on the twisties

4. Turn signal lever felt kind flimsy and out of place compaired to the rest of the switchgear.

5. Moraccan leather is hot

6. heated seats stay on after you shut the engine off till you open the car door

7. very tight turning radius

8. 3.6 is very willing to play, I have one in my CTS so this was expected

Overall impression? It's a poor man's front wheel drive Cadillac CTS with a nicer styled interior.

209743[/snapback]

I'm with you on the one I got to try out. The one thing that really impressed me was the lack the of sound. There was little to no sound, even at highway speeds.

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1. Interior, while not groundbreaking is attractive and high quality.

I haven't seen the interior in person so I can't comment on it's quality but I do agree about it being attractive even if it isn't groundbreaking. More importantly, it's not an interior that will drive customers away which is what GM's interiors have been doing for years.

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I haven't seen an XR up close yet, but was talking to a guy at a small local fall festival where 3 Saturns were on display. This guy did not work for Saturn, but owned a Sky (which he didn't bring that day) and was asked to be there by the local dealership. Thing that impressed me was that he had driven an XR extensively and said without a doubt it handled better than his infiniti G35X.

Par for the course, again we see references to "not groundbreaking' in regards to a GM product. I have asked this before: can anyone give an example of a recent competitor's product that was groundbreaking?

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I have asked this before: can anyone give an example of a recent competitor's product that was groundbreaking?

209893[/snapback]

Nissan's interiors, but not in a good way.

Civic interior, but not in a good way.

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I'm with you on the one I got to try out.  The one thing that really impressed me was the lack the of sound.  There was little to no sound, even at highway speeds.

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I do agree that the XR I drove was quiet, but my comparison car is a CTS which is fairly quiet in it's own right so it's not something that stood out to me.

Put it this way, if you blind folded me the sound would have made me think that I was in my own car since the engine notes are identical.

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If it weren't for the fact that I'm waiting for a 2008 CTS to replace my current one, I'd probably end up in an Aura. It really is that good.

Edit: With as good as a setup as the XR is, I am wondering what GM will do for an Aura Redline. That could seriosly end up being the GTO of today.

Edited by Oldsmoboi

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Good article. I'd like to address "red's" comments about improvements to the Aura: there will be some next year and it will be called MALIBU.

I've heard that GM is going to give the divisions more autonomy over their own design and engineering. This can only be a good thing. As with the Eqluinox/Torrent debacle, I always get the feeling that GM has to leave things out for the next brand; either for lack of development money or so they have something left for the next guy. Instead of making the car ALL it can be, they seem to stop short. Either they are stupid or the marketing boys are calling the shots.

Look at the Grand Prix/Allure/Impala cycle. The Grand Prix was rushed and rough. The Allure was better. The Impala was nearly great.

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again we see references to "not groundbreaking' in regards to a GM product. I have asked this before: can anyone give an example of a recent competitor's product that was groundbreaking?

209893[/snapback]

Posted Image

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How in God's name could the Epsilons be too narrow for anyone other than a fat ass?

Seems plenty wide to me, but I consider myself to be of the perfect size- 5'10", and 127 lbs.

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How in God's name could the Epsilons be too narrow for anyone other than a fat ass?

Seems plenty wide to me, but I consider myself to be of the perfect size- 5'10", and 127 lbs.

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I've driven a few Epsilons from Avis (Malibu, Vectra, G6) and they were wide enough for me (6'0", 225 lbs)..

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Myer, you make me feel like a lard butt. At 5'5", 140 pounds, I found the G6 to be plenty spacious.

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Nissan's interiors, but not in a good way.

Civic interior, but not in a good way.

209902[/snapback]

It needs balls of steels to make interiors like Nissan. Look at FX 35 or Murano in orange and I am certain puke will surface off your mouth. Amazingly they still sell well.

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Has anyone driven an AURA XE model that can comment here?  I'd like ot know what your impressions are of this model vs. the XR.  Thanks!

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I test drove both models. I drove the XE first, and thought it was a pretty nice car with plenty of power for most drivers. If you stomped it, it would move along pretty quick. Then I drove the XR, and it felt like it was constantly ready to sprint, even before you would stomp it, and of course would move very quickly.

Then a Mercedes ran a stoplight and almost hit us. Anyway... anything else you want to know?

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The 3.6 liter/6 speed auto combination is a thoroughbread setup with 0-60 in 6.2 seconds according to C&D which I confirmed on a little test drive last weekend. That compares to the Camry which does the same sprint to 60 despite having 16 more rated hp. I didn't drive the base 3500 but have had experience with this engine in a variety of other GM models. The old 4 speed automatic holds this engine back some and the 3.6 makes much sweeter sounds compared to the 3500's raspy growl which I understand has been tamed in the Aura.

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I drove an XE rental today for about 50 miles and I was IMPRESSED.

The 3.5 did just fine! It sounded like an engine! Big suprise there..... I'm sure the 3.6 would be better as I have driven a STS with one and it was awesome.

3.5 has enough power and the interior was very quiet and well behaved. Drove without radio on the whole time on I70 around St Louis.

The interior is very nice. The materials are all nice and its well put together. Love the orange gauges and the orange black tie radio. Cupholder door is sweet how it is spring loaded and it has that loovered look to it.

We had 4 grown men in the car, and it was commented on how nice it was to have the knee cuts in the back for the taller people in the back.

The "non car guys" in the car were suprised to see the GM badge on the car not expecting it to be made by General Motors.

Overall, a great car that costs less than any foregin car in its market.

PS - The Cadillac door chime just gives it that extra touch of class in my opinion.

Edited by CadillacKing3

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Thanks for that post CadillacKing3. I will be getting the XE anyday now, once my salesman finds one equipped and in the colors I've requested. It's reassuring to read your experience in the XE. I can't wait to get mine!!! Anyone else experience an AURA lately???

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The more it sinks in, the more I like the car. I test drove the previous verison of the malibu (which one COTY honors when it came out) and it was way too small and nasty.

This car is awesome and it really does have more room inside of it than my W Body Grand Prix. If I wasn't thinking used Cadillac for my next car, this would be on my list of things to buy.

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....This car is awesome and it really does have more room inside of it than my W Body Grand Prix. If I wasn't thinking used Cadillac for my next car, this would be on my list of things to buy.

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Odd you mention that because I wonder how close the specs are between the Aura and an Impala. There is a lot of similarities between the styling of the two that one could easily assume they are both built on the same platform.

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