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TheCarConnection.com's editors drove the new Saturn Aura in order to give you an expert opinion. TheCarConnection.com also researched available road tests on the new Saturn Aura to produce this conclusive review and to help you find the truth where other reviews might differ.
In a matter of just a few years, GM transformed Saturn into a brand that only slightly resembles the cars of its past, and the addition of the Aura in 2007 was a big part of Saturn’s metamorphosis.
The exterior of the 2009 Saturn Aura features a broad-shouldered crease running from the headlights to the jewel-like taillights and giving the car a sculptured character equal to, if not better than, many other mainline sedans available. The design still feels quite fresh, even though it’s now three years old.
For 2009 Saturn builds on the Aura lineup’s character by discontinuing the up-level 3.5-liter V-6-equipped XE model and introducing a new XR model sporting all the amenities of the discontinued XE but with the more fuel-efficient Ecotec 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. Joining the four-cylinder XR are the returning 2.4-liter, four-cylinder XE and the 3.6-liter, V-6 XR. The Aura Hybrid model offers a mild hybrid system for increased fuel economy and is covered by TheCarConnection.com in a separate review.
The 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine has a reasonable 169 horsepower. The aluminum-alloy 3.6-liter V-6 engine makes 252 horsepower and 251 pound-feet of torque; with it, the Aura can get to 60 mph in less than seven seconds and delivers EPA estimates of 17 mpg city, 26 highway. Both 2009 Saturn Aura models come with a six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive; the transmission includes TAPShift, which allows drivers to manually change gears via steering-wheel-mounted paddles.
Shoppers who don’t have high expectations for acceleration will probably be fine with the standard four-cylinder engine in the 2009 Saturn Aura. It’s perky around town but not as energetic in high-speed passing, and it can be coarse-sounding when accelerating. The V-6 is another story; it’s one of GM’s smoothest V-6 engines and brings a responsive feel throughout the rev band. Handling is quite good in the Aura, reflecting the direct influence of GM’s German operation, Opel. Even on tight, fast turns, the Aura delivers very little body roll.
Inside the cabin the cloth interior is well executed. Seating is comfortable and supportive in the 2009 Saturn Aura. There's plenty of room in the rear, the spaciousness enhanced by extra knee room carved into the front seatbacks. Some testers feel the rear-seat cushion is too low and flat, while others gripe about the panel that covers the back of the front seats; its quality isn't up to the rest of the interior. Also, the "wood" on the dashboard and doors is a little too unconvincing. At 80 mph, the Aura's cabin remains surprisingly quiet.
The new four-cylinder 2009 Saturn Aura XR features amenities such as leather seating, alloy wheels, and Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity (optional on XE and hybrid Preferred models). Even the base XE comes with a few more features than rival base sedans, such as cruise control, keyless entry, and a trip computer among the standard items. Top options on the V-6 XR include a sunroof and a rear-seat audio package with wireless headphones. A navigation system isn’t offered on the Aura.
The Saturn Aura has done very well in crash tests, with top ratings in all major U.S. frontal and side tests. Front side airbags, side-curtain bags, and anti-lock brakes are standard, and StabiliTrak electronic stability control is newly standard on all Aura models for 2009.