2009 Saturn Aura Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
March 16, 2009

The 2009 Saturn Aura is a neat-looking and responsive mid-size sedan.

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.

Review continues below

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.


2009 Saturn Aura


Reviewers are very impressed with the 2009 Saturn Aura’s style.

According to TheCarConnection.com's editors, reviewers of the 2009 Saturn Aura are seduced by the style and grace of the 2009 Aura.

“This car wears about as fresh and handsome a suit of clothes as a four-door sedan can…The roofline is a single sweeping curve from front pillar to rear,” and the chrome band across the grille is “repeated in back” with a broad chrome band along the trunk lid,” attests Automedia. MyRide.com points out the “chrome grille bar with the red Saturn logo embedded front and center, distinctive upswept headlights, and LED taillights with silver trim." The 2009 Saturn Aura is a “fine-looking mid-size family sedan,” Car and Driver says, while Edmunds calls it "sharper" and "more contemporary" than Saturn’s past efforts. Kelley Blue Book echoes this sentiment, noting this Aura 2009's "sleek profile with sharply-defined fender flares,"

The Aura 2009's five-seat cabin features front buckets and a rear bench that can be finished in cloth or leather upholstery. ConsumerGuide appreciates the large gauges in the Saturn Aura and the "mostly handy and intuitive" controls. However, the steering-wheel controls may be "a bit small for easy use." The design is attractive, and Edmunds says a "pleasing mix of simulated wood and metallic accents" gives the cabin "an upscale ambiance"—although they also note that the "fake stitching," "rough plastic," and "rubbery vinyl trim" is a little too excessive "for a car in this price range." However, opting for the "Moroccan leather" can help "camouflage these missteps." Cars.com declares, "Saturn is keeping up with the Joneses, with two-tone interiors and improved materials quality."


2009 Saturn Aura


Though the four-cylinder models of the 2009 Saturn Aura are the frugal choice, the V-6 models have more satisfying performance.

Reviews from across the Web agree that the 2009 Saturn Aura exhibits good handling and road manners and has good performance all-around.

The 2009 Saturn Aura is available with four different engines: a 2.4-liter four-cylinder, a 3.5-liter V-6 for the XE, and a 3.6-liter V-6 for the XR, as well as GM’s hybrid system. The base 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine outputs 160 horsepower. The four-cylinder Aura, Car and Driver says, “is less expensive but isn’t quite as sweet as the best Japanese powerplants.”

The 3.6-liter V-6 in the Aura XR is a smooth-revving engine producing 252 horsepower and 251 pound-feet or torque that gets from 0-60 in less than 7 seconds and delivers EPA estimates of 17 mpg city, 26 mpg highway. Edmunds likes this combination the best: “Performance is much smoother and swifter with the 3.6-liter, and for consumers who aren't counting every mpg, it's the more satisfying choice.” ConsumerGuide reports its test Aura XR hit "60 mph from a stop in an impressive 6.5 seconds." They also praise the vehicle's automatic transmission, noting it is "commendably smooth and responsive." The XR transmission also has a "clutchless-manual mode and steering-wheel-mounted shift levers," says Cars.com. This combination is “superior,” Automedia remarks, and “highly recommended for Eurocar enthusiasts and those not on a tight budget.”

Steering on the Saturn Aura is rather "devoid of feel," attests Edmunds, and it hurts the car in the area of its sporting credentials. There is also no assist at low speeds, which can make parking rather intensive. Automedia, however, feels that in XR versions, “the tightly-tuned suspension and steering boost the Aura's satisfaction level right up there among the market's best front-drivers.” However, Edmunds suggests that the Saturn Aura is very capable, with minimum body roll. MyRide.com agrees, pointing out the "four-link independent rear suspension with large stabilizer bars front and rear to control body roll." Car and Driver reports that it “handles nicely.” However, reviewers at ConsumerGuide notice "some jiggle and body drumming on rippled surfaces."

According to MyRide.com, "A four-wheel-disc braking system with ABS and dynamic rear proportioning" comes standard, but the "strong and stable braking is marred by oddly dull and heavy pedal action," warns ConsumerGuide.

“In truth, the Chevy Malibu is a more fully realized version of these underpinnings,” says Car and Driver in a surprising but accurate summary of the Aura’s performance.


2009 Saturn Aura

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Saturn Aura provides its passengers the spaciousness of a larger vehicle, but it lacks some refinement.

Reviews read by the TheCarConnection.com’s experts find the 2009 Saturn Aura to be comfortable, but quality suffers a little due some unfinished rough edges.

Test cars suffer some gaps in the panels and seams that are not friendly to the eyes. And while "chrome is sprinkled throughout for added flair," notes MyRide.com, the Saturn Aura overlooks several comforts and finishing touches such as "a rear seat center armrest" and "a close assist handle for the inside of the trunk lid." Particularly remarkable is a “morocco brown” interior leather package that reviewers adore, but as Cars.com observes, “There are rough plastic edges on the glove box, front door pockets and a dash storage cubby, as well as questionable faux stitching accents on the door armrests.” "The interior quality" of the Saturn Aura is, however, "worlds better than its predecessors," vouches Car and Driver, "but it still doesn't quite match the best of the Japanese rivals." ConsumerGuide adds that the cabin of the Saturn Aura contains quality materials and a lot of soft touches.

Edmunds says the Aura "offers all the room, comfort and performance of other General Motors family sedans, but does it with more panache." However, backseat occupants will find that the seats are "lacking in thigh support" and legroom is not as spacious as "the Pontiac G6," reports MyRide.com. “The Aura treats rear passengers to a lavish amount of space—but they must go without a center armrest,” says Edmunds.

The "multi-adjustable front seats" are "comfortable during a lengthy drive," says MyRide.com, adding that the driver can find an optimal position with the telescopic steering wheel and power-adjustable pedals. The upper portion of the driver's door panel is also padded for comfortable elbow resting. Cars.com notes, “The optional leather front seats are firm but comfortable, though very tall drivers might wish for more rearward seat travel.”

Elsewhere in the cabin of the Aura, there’s a lack of “small-item storage," though trunk space is "class-average," says ConsumerGuide. Even so, the trunk is "usefully shaped" and clocks in at "just under 15 cubic feet," according to Edmunds. When it comes to noise, ConsumerGuide comments, "Aura's main demerit here is marked coarse-surface tire thrum. Also, moderate wind rush at highway speeds. V-6 engines sound pleasant enough, though neither is as smooth as the class leaders."


2009 Saturn Aura


The 2009 Saturn Aura is a safe vehicle with good crash-test scores and all the expected safety features.

Excellent crash-test scores confirm the 2009 Saturn Aura as one the safest vehicle in its class, and the addition of StabiliTrak only elevates the Aura’s remarkable safety record.

The 2009 Saturn Aura has not been tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), but according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the 2009 Saturn Aura earns five out of five stars in passenger, driver, side impact front, and side impact rear tests, and four out of five stars in rollover protection. The only black spot is a "marginal" rating from the IIHS in its seat-based rear-impact test—indicating a higher chance of whiplash or neck injury in a rear-ender.

According to Edmunds, the Saturn Aura has "antilock disc brakes, traction control and the OnStar emergency communications system," along with "[f]ront-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags." Cars.com says, "The Aura doesn't skimp on safety provisions." Comfort-oriented features help bulk up the Aura’s safety record, adds Cars.com. With the "steering wheel telescoping adjustment," you can find the appropriate distance from the airbag—a major safety concern. You can add "power-adjustable pedals" as well, reports ConsumerGuide.

ConsumerGuide remarks that visibility in the Saturn Aura is "just OK," when it comes to looking "dead astern and to the right-rear," though there is "no problem otherwise."


2009 Saturn Aura


The 2009 Saturn Aura offers a generous list of features, but the lack of a nav system might turn some off.

Depending on powertrains and options fitted, the price range between the base model Aura and an Aura with XR trim can vary greatly, but otherwise, all 2009 Saturn Aura models are nicely complemented with standard features.

Edmunds says of the two trim levels, the XE and XR, the Saturn Aura XR includes luxurious add-ons such as "18-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, a power driver seat, heated front seats, remote vehicle start, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and an upgraded stereo with an in-dash CD changer, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls and rear-seat audio controls." The XE has a lot of standard features on its own, including "17-inch wheels, air-conditioning, full power accessories, a trip computer and a CD stereo with satellite radio and an auxiliary audio jack," reports Edmunds.

According to Car and Driver, the 2009 Aura can be outfitted with a variety of upgrade packages, including the "Advance Audio Package," which "features eight speakers, a six-disc in-dash changer, and rear-seat audio controls." There's also the "Preferred package, which adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls and an eight-way power driver's seat," and the "Convenience package, which includes remote start and heated front seats and outside mirrors." And then you have the premium package for the Aura 2009, which is "essentially leather upholstery and heated front seats." Lastly, the "Enhanced Convenience package…adds a six-way power passenger's seat and power adjustable pedals but is again only available with the Preferred package."

Bluetooth hands-free phone connection is now standard on XR models; it's also optional on the XE and the hybrid with a Preferred Package. A navigation system is not offered on the Saturn Aura, but a three-month subscription to XM Satellite Radio is standard. And last but not least, ConsumerGuide gripes that the optional sunroof "cuts into headroom a bit."

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December 17, 2015
2009 Saturn Aura 4-Door Sedan V6 XR

Nice car but has some issues

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Only problem i am having with my aura is the fact the trunk leaks giving me about three inches of water around the spare, and the floor in the back passenger side the carpet is always soaked.
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April 28, 2015
2009 Saturn Aura 4-Door Sedan V6 XR

A very good, comfortable and reliable car. Great traveling traveling machine.

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This is actually a superb car. Initially I had some minor electrical problems, later found to be caused by the dealer installed security system. Once that system was removed, I have had absolutely no... + More »
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Styling 8.0
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Comfort & Quality 8.0
Safety 8.0
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