click above image for more views of this Opel Vectra mule testing in the U.S.

Though they look similar, the current Saturn Aura and its European cousin, the Opel Vectra, do not share the exact same platform as many mistakenly believe. General Motors will correct this when the next-generation of each car arrives, and we've already seen a number of spy shots showing a new Opel Vectra being tested in disguise.

These spy shots we bring you today are no different, except instead of being taken in some far off land, they were taken in Death Valley, U.S.A. This is the first time we've seen the new Vectra being tested in the U.S., and for that matter, with so little covering. It's easy to see through the camo to the Vectra's new styling, which is heavily derivative of the Opel GTC Concept that debuted in Geneva last March. That's fine with us, as the GTC is a stunning coupe concept and adding two more doors has hardly lessened the design's appeal. We particularly like the swoop that starts where the A-pillar meets the base of the windshield and then carves a nice line into the front door. It reminds us of a similar swoop on the rear doors of the Toyota Camry, though with a more subtle and tasteful execution. The size of the front and rear overhand is a little alarming, as we think the design would be served better by pushing the wheels out to the corners, but overall the proportions are right on. The car looks neither heavy nor insubstantial, and it appears wider than the current models, as well.

The next-generation Opel Vectra will debut first, and then around 2010 we'll get our version in the form of a new Saturn Aura. It shouldn't be difficult at all to extrapolate what the next Aura will look like from these pics, as we expect a different grille to be the biggest difference.

[Photos: KGP Photography]

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