2006 Relay New Car Test Drive
The Saturn Relay is styled to look like an SUV, with a long, square nose, exposed C-pillars, and heavy-duty roof rails. It is a minivan, however, with the valuable virtues of sliding side doors and comfortable seating for seven.
The Relay's cabin is clean and contemporary, and some neat features are available. OnStar is standard. A new integrated navigation system is available. A rear-seat DVD entertainment system comes standard, and the available PhatNoise entertainment system can play video games, digital music and movies through the vehicle's existing sound system. It's pretty Phat.
The Relay gets down the highway well, and the driver enjoys a commanding view of the road. It's smooth and quiet and the steering is light and easy. Brakes are powerful and easy to modulate for smooth stops. The standard 201-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 is relatively smooth and quiet, if not particularly muscular. A new 235-horsepower, 3.9-liter V6 engine is optional on 2006 models.
All-wheel drive is available, and GM's Versatrak provides excellent traction and stability for wintry driving.
The Saturn Relay was launched as a 2005 model. For 2006, it gets more safety features and more entertainment features. Side-impact airbags are now available on selected models for improved crash protection. Relay received a five-star safety rating in the federal government's frontal crash tests and, although it does not offer side curtain airbags, it earned a five-star rating for rear-seat passengers and a four-star rating for front seat passengers in the government's side-impact tests. In the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's 40-mph offset-impact test, Relay rated good.
Saturn dealers are renowned for their attention to customer service, and the Relay is priced aggressively against its competition.
The 2006 Saturn Relay comes in two trim levels, which with Saturn's characteristic no-frills approach are named Relay 2 and Relay 3. (There is no Relay 1.)
All Relays are powered by a 3.5-liter V6 mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive (FWD) is standard, but all-wheel drive (AWD) is available on Relay 3. All Relays feature seven-passenger seating, with two rows of bucket seats and a three-across split folding bench in the third row.
Relay 2 ($22,850) comes with manually operated sliding doors on both sides. Standard features include ABS, OnStar with a one-year subscription, air conditioning, tilt wheel, remote keyless entry, cruise control, power locks, power windows, power heated mirrors, a roof rail system, a nice-sounding eight-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio unit, rear seat audio controls, rear-seat DVD entertainment, and 17-inch wheels and tires.
Relay 3 ($27,345) adds a long list of additional standard equipment, including a six-way power driver's seat, second row captain's chairs (they have armrests, which the standard bucket seats do not), a power passenger-side sliding door, rear air conditioning, power third-row vent windows, headphones and remote control for the DVD system, storage systems overhead and in the rear cargo area, a universal garage door opener, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, traction control, and other features. Seat-mounted side-impact airbags for the driver and front-seat passenger have joined the list for '06. Second-row side impact airbags are optional ($350).
A 3.9-liter V6 is optional ($500) for late-2006 Relay 3 FWD models.
Relay 3 AWD ($29,755) adds all-wheel drive, sport-tuned steering, independent rear suspension (rather than a twist-beam axle), automatic load leveling, and an inflator kit.
Options for Relay 2 include rear-seat air conditioning ($475); a six-way power driver's seat ($275); a power sliding door for the passenger side ($450); and headphones for the DVD player ($75). An Entertainment Package ($450) includes the wireless headphones, plus a 115-volt power point and a second-row toy box. A Safety Package ($545) combines traction control with front-seat-mounted side-impact airbags. The Captain's Chair Package ($1,095) replaces the second-row buckets with captain's chairs that incorporate side-impact airbags, too.
Options for Relay 3 include leather upholstery with heated front seats ($1,350) and GPS navigation ($1,995). A Convenience Package ($545) combines a power driver-side sliding door with ultrasonic rear park assist.
Options for all Relays include StabiliTrak electronic stability control ($450); XM Satellite Radio ($325, including a one-year subscription); a PhatNoise entertainment system ($795) that features a 40 gigabyte hard drive that can store 10,000 songs in MP3, WMA or WAV formats; remote starter ($175); and a trailering package for up to 3500 pounds ($175). A Touring Package ($260) for FWD Relays combines firmer suspension components with uprated tires, automatic load leveling, and the inflator kit.
Safety equipment has been upgraded for '06. The multi-stage frontal airbags that come standard now feature GM's Passenger Sensing System, which shuts off the right-front airbag if it detects a child or small adult in that seat. Front-seat seat-belt retractors incorporate pre-tensioners and load limiters. Front-seat side-impact airbags are now standard on Relay 3 and optional on Relay 2. Second-row side-impact airbags are optional.
Also available is a second-row seat that swivels outside of the vehicle and incorporates a power lift function, designed to make it easier for physically challenged people to get in and out ($4,795).