2015 Volt New Car Test Drive
The Saturn Sky is a two-seat roadster designed to compete against the Mazda MX-5 Miata and other roadsters. Like the Miata, the Sky is relatively affordable when compared against the BMW Z4, Mercedes SLK, Porsche Boxster, Audi TT, and Honda S2000.
We think the Sky is well worth a look for anyone who wants a fun, two-seat cruiser that can drop the top and let the sun shine in. It doesn't have the agility of the Miata, but the Sky is a classic sports car with classic sports car running gear: rear-wheel drive, a fully independent suspension, powerful four-wheel disc brakes, high-performance tires, a double overhead-cam engine, and a manual gearbox.
Saturn's roadster is built on GM's worldwide Kappa platform, a rear-wheel-drive architecture shared with the Pontiac Solstice in the U.S. and the Opel GT in Europe. But while the Solstice is rounded and quietly muscular with relatively subtle surface decoration, the Sky is lean, sharp, aggressive and extroverted. Given their mechanical similarity, the two cars look remarkably different with dramatically different styling. The base Sky comes better equipped than the base-level Solstice.
The Sky comes with a choice of engines. The standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder is a sensible engine, while the Sky Red Line features a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder boasting 260 horsepower. The Red Line also comes with special front and rear styling, high-performance tires, and a sports suspension.
Standard equipment includes StabiliTrak electronic stability control, a limited-slip differential, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a power height adjuster for the driver's seat, and XM Satellite Radio.
Changes for 2009 are minor and include 18-inch wheels in three finishes, some new colors, and a new OnStar 8.0 that includes Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity.
Another benefit the Sky offers is Saturn's one-price, no-haggle car shopping and one of the best dealer networks in the country. This is the second year for the second generation of the Saturn Vue, a sweet spot in terms of reliability. Completely redesigned for the 2008 model year this latest Saturn Vue is based on a German Opel, and it offers quality fit and finish, a versatile interior, tasteful style, and solid value in a compact crossover utility vehicle. It represents a vast improvement over the first-generation Vue. It drives nice and handles well. And many find it's just the right size.
The Vue is stylish outside, while inside is a versatile cabin that offers several alternatives for hauling people or cargo. The interior is attractive and European in style, modern and classy, with comfortable seats.
The 2009 Saturn Vue is available in three trim levels, with three engines, two transmissions and a choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The standard four-cylinder engine delivers an EPA fuel economy rating of 19/26 mpg City/Highway. Equipped with the V6, the Vue is rated at 17/24 mpg City/Highway with front-wheel drive, and with all-wheel drive it's rated 16/23 mpg. Properly equipped, the Vue V6 is rated to tow up to 3500 pounds. We found it delivers more than sufficient power and acceleration performance, especially with either of the two V6 engines.
Saturn has given the Vue a generous level of safety equipment. The Vue comes standard with a full complement of air bags, traction and stability control, and anti-lock brakes.
Since the Vue was all-new for 2008, changes for 2009 are minor. Brake Assist now comes standard on all models, there is an enhanced Driver Information Center, the Convenience Package for the XE model now includes heated seats, there is an available Chrome Package for the V6 models, there are some new colors, and a few other small changes.
With lots of standard features, good power, decent fuel economy, a commendable level of ride and handling, and a versatile interior, the Saturn Vue represents a vehicle that's full of space and storage, easy to use, easy to drive, and easy on the eyes. After four years in its original form, the boxy Scion xB was totally redesigned for 2008. Scion said that owners wanted their xBs to be bigger. Since it takes three years to produce a new car, the requests to expand the box must have started coming early. In any case, the only additional change for 2009 is to the paint chart, where Stingray Metallic replaces Nautical Blue Metallic.
This latest xB is indeed a bigger box, but it doesn't look so much like a box any more. And it isn't, as the increased length reduces the squareness. The styling is considerably improved. Plastic surgery on the chin has made a huge difference, and the other edges and angles are much softer, making the xB more attractive and less funny looking.
It's also less distinctive than before, but it's still distinctive compared to other cars of this size. Utility-wise, it's like the Honda Fit (front-wheel drive, five-door with good cargo space), but it looks more like the Honda Element.
The current xB is 12 inches longer than the original, on a wheelbase that's just 4 inches longer; this means bigger overhangs, which goes against the trend, as most new vehicles increase the wheelbase more than the length, efficient packaging that increases stability. The current xB is 2.8 inches wider, though, and that adds stability. And the wheels have been increased in size to 16 inches, allowing larger disc brakes, front and rear. The xB's brakes are very good.
The xB features electric power steering, which does away with belts, pulleys and fluid. It's quite nimble and fun to drive around town.
The bigger box provides an increase in cargo capacity, but 4.6 inches of legroom has been lost in the front seat, from 45.3 inches down to 40.7; in the rear, the legroom remains the same. So if Scion redesigned the xB to satisfy customers, it must have been those buyers who use the xB as cute little utility vans, not those who carry passengers. The front seats recline almost fully, and the 60/40 rear seats drop flat with one easy pull of a lever.
Not visible, but just as significant, is the whopping 50 percent increase in power. The xB now uses the same 2.4-liter engine that powers the quick tC Coupe. It makes 158 horsepower, an increase of no less than 55 over the 1.5-liter engine in the 2004-2007 xB. The engine employs all of Toyota's considerable variable valve timing technology (VVT-i), and gets 22/28 miles per gallon, at the EPA's ULEV-II (ultra-low) emissions ratings. The old xB got 30/34, but comparisons are difficult to make because the 2.4-liter engine has so much more horsepower, and because now the mileage is measured by the new 2008 EPA standards, which are more realistic than before.
Two transmissions are available, a four-speed automatic with manual shifting, and a five-speed manual. The automatic shifts well, but with only four speeds it kicks down a lot, especially from fourth to third. The xB would be smoother with a five-speed automatic, but that's not available.
The 2009 Saturn Sky comes standard with a 173-hp 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine. The base Sky ($27,595) has air conditioning, power windows and door locks, power mirrors, fog lights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver's seat, GM's Driver Information Center, OnStar, and a black cloth interior. The standard audio system is a six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 unit with XM Satellite Radio, speed-compensated volume, automatic tone control, TheftLock and Radio Data System (RDS). Tires are 245/45VR18 Goodyear Eagle RSA all-season radials on 18-inch aluminum wheels.
The Sky Red Line ($31,905) packs a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine turbocharged to 260 horsepower, a performance-tuned suspension, 18-inch polished aluminum wheels, 245/45WR18 Goodyear Eagle F1 high-performance tires, unique treatment of the headlights, grille, and bumper, and dual polished exhaust outlets. Inside, the Red Line features metallic sill plates, stainless steel pedal covers, specific gauges, and a digital boost gauge integrated into the Driver Information Center.
Options include a six-CD changer ($295), a 225-watt, seven-speaker Monsoon sound system ($395), a decklid spoiler ($350), and 18-inch chrome wheels ($545-$795). Leather seating is available as part of a Premium Trim Package for the base model ($795), or as a stand-alone ($475) for the Red Line, and Sunburst Yellow paint costs extra ($195).
Safety features that come standard on all models include front and side air bags, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, OnStar emergency communications, StabiliTrak electronic stability control, and a tire-pressure monitor. The 2009 Saturn Vue comes in a choice of XE, XR and Red Line trim levels. Three powertrains are available: The 2.4-liter four-cylinder Ecotec engine, a 3.5-liter V6 engine, and a high-feature 3.6-liter V6 with variable valve timing. The four-cylinder engine has a four-speed automatic transmission, and the two V6 engines are mated to GM's six-speed automatic. All three trim levels are available in front-drive and all-wheel-drive versions, but the four-cylinder engine is available only with two-wheel drive.
The availability and content of the various option packages is somewhat dependent upon the trim levels, but, basically there is a Preferred Package with eight-way power driver's seat, leather wheel, heated power mirrors, lighted visor vanity mirrors, and automatic temperature control ($1,020); a Convenience Package with rain-sensing wipers, heated washer fluid, remote starting and a universal remote for gates, garage doors and home lighting ($920); a Premium Package with leather seating, leather shift knob, and heated front seats ($1,075); and a Chrome Package, with front and rear lower fascia moldings ($195). Other options include a DVD navigation and CD/MP3 player system ($2,145) and a high-end stereo system ($325). Also available is a trailer towing package ($350), power sunroof ($850), fog lamps ($150), cargo cover ($85), cargo divider, and a stereo/six-CD upgrade ($295).
Safety features include OnStar Safe and Sound emergency communications, ABS, Bake Assist, traction control, and StabiliTrak electronic stability control. This version of StabiliTrak includes a trailer-stabilizing system that automatically applies the brakes when it detects the trailer swaying behind the vehicle. With all Scions, there is just one model but a million options. That's the Scion personalization theme. The xB with manual transmission is $15,750; with automatic it's $16,700.
Standard equipment on the xB includes charcoal fabric interior, air conditioning, cruise control, information display, 160-watt Pioneer audio system with iPod and auxiliary connection, tilt steering wheel with audio controls, remote keyless entry, power side mirrors with turn signal indicators, power windows, and door locks, halogen headlamps, tinted glass, 16-inch steel wheels with wheelcovers.
Options include alloy wheels in 16-inch ($795), 17-inch ($1,595), and 19-inch ($2,150) sizes, a rear spoiler ($423), Pioneer premium audio ($389), a navigation system ($1,800), and a rear seat DVD entertainment system with 7-inch screens in the back of the front headrests ($1,599). For those desiring high performance, Scion dealers sell many TRD (Toyota Racing Development) parts, from superchargers to suspension items to aerodynamic kits.
Safety features include Vehicle Stability Control with Traction Control, anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist, a tire pressure monitor, frontal and front side airbags, and side curtain airbags.