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PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10
the base engine is slow to rev and has little power reserve for quick highway passing
Sky Red Line hustles its way to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds
Car and Driver
the Red Line challenges the Porsche Cayman at 5.8 seconds
Either trim of the 2009 Saturn Sky provides satisfying performance on a mountain road, with especially commendable steering, though most reviewers agree that the turbocharged Red Line is not only more powerful in daily driving, but also more enjoyable.
The engines on the 2009 Saturn Sky lineup are two very different beasts; Edmunds says that the "base-model 2009 Saturn Sky comes with a 2.4-liter inline-four engine that makes 177 hp and 166 pound-feet of torque," while the Red Line version of the Sky Saturn "has a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with direct injection capable of a very strong 260 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque."
Impressions of the engines vary considerably in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, as the enthusiast-oriented reviewers understandably favor the stronger 2.0-liter version over the 2.4-liter engine. ConsumerGuide remarks that "the base engine is slow to rev and has little power reserve for quick highway passing," and Cars.com laments that "you have to get the engine revving pretty high to get appreciable power out of it." Fortunately, the Saturn Sky Red Line steps in to provide a more enthusiastic driving experience. Whereas "the regular Sky went from zero to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds," Edmunds claims "the Red Line challenges the Porsche Cayman at 5.8 seconds."
Both versions of the Sky Saturn are available with one of two transmission options, but neither scores particularly well with reviewers. Cars.com says that "the short gearshift" on the "five-speed manual" is reasonable, but notes that "a sixth gear is nice to have," and in particular, "the Sky really needs it." The other available option is "a five-speed automatic transmission" that "costs $925 extra," according to Road & Track. However, Cars.com warns against the automatic paired with the base engine, asserting "modestly powered engines and automatic transmissions are the worst combination." The situation improves on the Saturn Sky Red Line, where ConsumerGuide claims "the automatic transmission has no real penalty vs. the manual."
One of the benefits of an engine with a small output, such as the 2.0- or 2.4-liter offerings on the Saturn Sky lineup, is that it usually affords good fuel economy. That is true on the 2009 Saturn Sky; the EPA estimates the Red Line will return 19 mpg city and 26 mpg highway with the automatic transmission and 19 mpg city, 28 mpg highway with the manual. The less powerful engine on the base Saturn Sky actually gets worse mileage numbers, rating 19 mpg city, 24 mpg highway with the automatic, according to the EPA. In real-life testing, ConsumerGuide reports their base Saturn Sky "with manual transmission averaged 20.8 mpg in mixed driving," while the "test manual-transmission Red Line averaged 20.1 mpg in mostly city driving."
Another area where the 2009 Saturn Sky shines is in terms of handling and ride quality. ConsumerGuide remarks that "the ride is supple enough for sports cars" on the base model, but "the sport suspension used on Red Line" is a bit tauter, "so impact harshness is more noticeable." However, the tauter suspension definitely improves handling, and Edmunds reviewers say "most drivers will find the car's substantial lateral grip and quick steering enjoyable enough to make the Sky a fun and engaging twisty road companion." Cars.com also raves that, "in terms of overall performance, the Sky's ride and handling are where it shines the brightest." When it comes time to stop, Cars.com attests that the brakes are "highly effective four-wheel discs with standard ABS."
The 2009 Saturn Sky Red Line is the choice for enthusiasts, but both versions handle well.