By KBB.com Editors
The 2008 Saturn Aura sedan is the second salvo in Saturn's rejuvenation war, joining the hot SKY roadster and soon-to-be-launched Astra sedan and coupe. Like the SKY roadster, the Aura is more stylish and confident than anything Saturn produced in its first 15 years of existence. Although the Aura shares a platform with the Pontiac G6, Saturn's version feels significantly more refined inside, outside and on the road. Joining the lineup this year is a gas-electric Aura hybrid dubbed the Aura Green Line. Even as Saturn begins unleashing its most appealing cars ever, the automaker has committed to maintaining its popular "no haggle" pricing policy.You'll Like This Car If...
The 2008 Saturn Aura's confident styling is backed up by eager handling combined with a comfortable and surprisingly quiet highway ride. An attractive, well-appointed interior and overall sense of refinement solidify the sedan's appeal.You May Not Like This Car If...
If you're looking for a proven track record of reliability and resale, you'll find the Aura faces the unenviable task of competing with the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, vehicles that have earned and deserve their status as the two best-selling cars in the country.What's New for 2008
A four-cylinder model joins the lineup featuring GM's proven 2.4-liter engine. XM Satellite Radio is made standard across the line, while the XE V6 receives StabiliTrak stability control.Driving It Driving Impressions
Despite the athletic styling and eager stance, we weren't sure exactly what to expect from the Aura once we got behind the wheel. Having seen the spec sheet we did anticipate a healthy dose of get-up-and-go from the XR model, but we didn't expect such smooth shifts from the six-speed automatic transmission. The XE's V6 powertrain isn't as refined, but it's more than adequate and downright competitive. The passenger cabin remained notably quiet on the highway, and the Aura handled twisty two-lane roads better than most midsize sedans this comfortable.Favorite Features
When it comes to sunroofs, bigger is almost always better. The Aura's multi-panel panoramic glass sunroof consists of a front panel that angles up as a deflector and three others that retract and stack at the rear.
Rear-seat Wireless Headphones
Although the Aura doesn't offer a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, it does offer two sets of wireless headphones to accommodate differing music tastes.
The Aura's interior is defined by the attractive styling, quality materials and overall sense of refinement that have begun permeating the passenger cabins of more and more domestic entries. There are still details to be polished, but to compare the Aura's interior with that of earlier Saturns is to contrast two different automotive eras. The mere availability of the unique Morocco Brown leather package furthers the Aura's contemporary image. Ambient cabin illumination enhances the upscale feel at night.Exterior
In addition to the chrome-bar grille serving as the new face of Saturn, the Aura is distinguished by big, expressive headlamps, a sleek profile with sharply-defined fender flares and distinctive LED taillamps. Aura XR models have 18-inch alloy wheels (in place of standard-issue 17-inch steel wheels), chrome door handles and front foglamps.Notable Standard Equipment
Included as standard equipment on a base Aura XE are a six-speaker CD/CD-MP3 sound system with auxiliary audio input, power windows/locks/mirrors, remote keyless entry, automatic headlamps, cruise control, split-folding rear seatbacks and 17-inch steel wheels. Standard safety equipment includes electronic traction control plus front, front-side and side-curtain airbags.Notable Optional Equipment
Optional equipment includes a 3.5-liter V6 (XE), a 3.6-liter V6 (XR), traditional glass sunroof or four-panel panoramic glass sunroof, six-disc premium audio system with rear-seat wireless headphones, remote vehicle start, power-adjustable pedals, leather seats, heated front seats, steering wheel-mounted audio controls and electronic stability control.Under the Hood
Thanks in part to variable valve timing and the advantage of a six-speed automatic transmission, the Aura XR's more powerful, more sophisticated 3.6-liter engine returns combined fuel economy almost as good as that of the XE's 3.5-liter engine. The XR also offers the added benefit of steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. The frugal 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine provides adequate power, but is not as smooth or refined as the four-cylinder engines of the Honda Accord or Toyota Camry.
2.4-liter inline 4
169 horsepower @ 6400 rpm
160 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/30
2.4-liter inline 4 hybrid
164 horsepower @ 6400 rpm
159 lb.-ft. of torque @ 5000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 24/32
219 horsepower @ 5900 rpm
219 lb.-ft. of torque @ 3200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/29
252 horsepower @ 6300 rpm
251 lb.-ft. of torque @ 3200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/26
The 2008 Saturn Aura XE four-cylinder's Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts just over $20,000, with the XR V6 model starting around $25,000 and topping out near $28,000 when fully loaded. The Green Line Hybrid starts around $23,000. The Honda Accord and Toyota Camry start at $19,000 and $21,000, respectively, and will climb to the low-to-mid $30,000 range when fully equipped. The Hyundai Sonata and Ford Fusion both start closer to $18,000 and top out around $26,000 and $30,000. We expect the Aura to maintain resale value better than the Sonata and Fusion, but not as well as industry-standards Accord and Camry.