THE RIDE: Four-door, five-passenger 2009 Saturn Aura XR midsize sedan.
DOWN THE ROAD: A carryover from 2008 and sharing its basic design with the Malibu and G6, I have the opportunity to test drive an all-new model, the XR, but with a 2.4-liter, inline-4 cylinder engine. It may not be a speedster but the front-wheel-drive Aura will leave a lasting impression on you. After all, it is the flagship vehicle for Saturn.
TECH & PERFORMANCE: A 2.4-liter DOHC Ecotec inline-4 cylinder engine offers 169 horsepower at 6400 rpm and 160 pounds-feet of torque at 4500 rpm. It is mated to a standard 6-speed automatic transmission but can be manually operated via shifter paddles on the three-spoke steering wheel. Front suspension duties fall on a capable MacPherson strut with aluminum L-shaped control arms. A four-link independent system with monotube shocks and coil springs takes control in the rear of the vehicle. The car is equipped with an unswerving hydraulic rack-and-pinion steering system. Slowing down the Aura are 11.65-inch ventilated front and 10.6-inch solid brake rotors in the rear shod inside 17-inch alloy wheels.
LOOK & FEEL: A chrome grille bar housing the traditional Saturn emblem is surrounded by halogen headlights in clear housings that wrap upward around the car's body. For 2009, the carmaker has moved badging from the deck lid bright bar to a painted surface on the trunk door. The interior is spacious with a distinct European flair. We liked the appearance of the LED-lit analog instruments and the rich-looking leather on the shifter knob and easy-to-grip steering wheel. The Driver Information Center is cleverly placed under the speedometer. The rear seats fold down while the trunk area offers 14.9 cubic feet of space.
SAFETY FIRST: Dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag for both rows, four-wheel antilock brakes with Brake Assist, stability and traction control, remote keyless entry, theft deterrent system, latch system for child safety seats, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights are standard. Best of all, the car gets a 5-star rating from the federal government in frontal and side crashes.
OUT THE DOOR: $23,450, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges. Go for the $590 convenience package to enjoy a universal home remote, remote vehicle start, inside rearview mirror with auto dim and compass, and power outside mirrors.
BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, 215/55R17; wheelbase, 112.3 inches; length, 190 inches; weight, 3,436 pounds; fuel capacity, 16.3 gallons; city, 22 mpg; highway, 33 mpg.
WHY DIG IT: It may not be equipped with a V-6 but the inline-4 cylinder engine in this Aura is plenty to make the ride energetic and enjoyable for its passengers. With a hint of European styling in and out, this is one car with which Saturn can give the competition a run for their money. Here's to a car that has a certain 'Aura' to it.