We recently spent a week with Saturn's latest addition to the stable, the Aura Green Line, which afforded us the opportunity to size it up relative to its Aura XR sibling that we tested last year. The Aura XR was impressive, with attractive styling, some real pop underhood courtesy of the 3.6L V6, and a nicely-rounded, comfortable driving experience. A lot of he same basic good stuff carries forward to the Aura Green Line. Autoblog's Aura Hybrid also looked pretty sharp and comported itself well overall. Follow the jump for a brief rundown of some of our observations of the Green Line compared to the XR, and keep an eye on AutoblogGreen in the coming days, as our colleague, Sam Abuelsamid, will be posting a complete full-length review of the car.
The Aura Green Line combines the the same mild hybrid system and 2.4L Ecotec engine used in the Vue Green Line that we reviewed last year. Good for 164 horsepower, it's paired with a 4-speed auto (the paddle-shifted six-speed would be nice here, General) and moves the Aura around ably. When warranted, the car gets an electric boost to help out with acceleration. It's no match for the XR's 3.6L V6, which is smoother, quieter, and much more powerful, but that said, the Green Line powertrain lets the car perform well both locally and on the interstate. The little green "eco" light appears quite readily and will remain illuminated as long as you keep your right foot light on the throttle. It becomes a bit of a game while driving to see how long you can keep it going, and unlike the '07 Vue Green Line, the Aura GL has an info center display in the gauge cluster that shows you both instant and average fuel economy. This means you can really keep tabs on how you're doing, and see a number to correspond with the light on the instrument panel.
The EPA rates the Aura Green Line at 28/35 city/highway, and over the week, we averaged right around 25 mpg -- just like we did with the Vue Green Line. The lowish number is probably attributable to yours truly's hellish 30-mile-each-way commute in mostly stop-and-go traffic. While it really puts the stop/start system to work, it otherwise doesn't play up to the Aura's strength as an economical highway cruiser. That trait that became apparent when I used the car as my transportation to and from the Greenwich Concours last weekend. In contrast to my weekday commute, the 60-mile round trip each weekend day was a breeze, and over the two days, the car's average fuel economy increased pretty quickly.
Our tester was equipped with the Preferred Package, which adds a power driver's seat, wheel-mounted radio controls, and heated electric outside mirrors. The cloth seating surfaces are fairly generic-looking, but the seats themselves are very comfortable and supportive. Parents who'd like a leather seating option (it's easier to keep clean) are out of luck: hides aren't available in the Aura Green Line -- a surprising omission, if you ask us. We also have to say that we found the light gray interior color to be on the boring side -- this is a matter of personal taste, of course, but it just didn't jibe well with the car's attractive Berry Red exterior, in our opinion. The available tan fabric and trim is far more complimentary, and is what we'd choose if we were buying.
A passenger commented on the car's backseat legroom and noted that the dugouts in the front seatbacks really make a difference in this respect. Trunk space remains ample, but some is sacrificed to make room for the car's battery pack. One thing we mentioned when reviewing the XR is that the center storage bin's lid and latches felt exceptionally flimsy, and we expressed concern over their ability to survive daily use. After driving the Aura Green Line, we can affirm that the bin's lid really is an egregious piece of crap. The latch on this particular tester had become off-kilter and didn't work properly. It's this kind of thing that detracts from what is otherwise a perfectly good car that we genuinely like. Fix it.
You'll find other hybrid sedans that top the Aura Green Line in terms of available equipment and fuel economy (think Altima and Camry), but the Saturn wins big in the window sticker competition, checking in at just $23,070 as tested. Throw in the $1300 federal tax credit it's eligible for, and once again, you have a very appealing value package in a car wearing the square Green Line badge.
Stay tuned for much more on the Aura Green Line from AutoblogGreen.
UPDATE: The full In the AutoblogGreen Garage review has now been posted.
All photos Copyright ©2007 Alex Núñez / Weblogs, Inc.