2009 Aura New Car Test Drive
The Saturn Aura is an excellent choice among midsize sedans. It's modern and fresh, with European character and aesthetic flair. Taut and responsive, it drives like a European family sedan, perhaps because it rides on a German Opel platform. The cabin is tastefully done and laid out and all the controls work very well. A range of engines and drivetrains is available for fuel economy or performance.
For 2009, Aura emphasizes fuel efficiency. Both the base-level XE and leather-trimmed XR now come standard with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission. This combination earns an EPA-rated 22/33 mpg, which Saturn says is the best mileage you can get in a mid-size car without buying a hybrid. Just as significantly, you no longer have to buy a V6 to get StabiliTrak electronic stability control, which is now standard on all Auras. Meanwhile, the XR is now better equipped than ever, adding not only leather but Bluetooth connectivity to its list of standard amenities.
If you do want more power, you can still order the XR with a 252-horsepower, 3.6-liter V6 that returns a reasonable 26mpg on the highway. This is a smooth, sophisticated engine that makes the Aura a very enjoyable car to drive. Or for even more economy (26/34 mpg, city/highway), choose the Aura Hybrid, powered by a 164-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and a 4 kW electric motor. For 2009, you can get the Hybrid with leather seats, too.
Underway, we found the Saturn Aura is quiet and handles well. Brakes, suspension and powertrain all work together to respond to the driver's wishes. Compared with the cars in its own price class, such as the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Ford Fusion, the Aura is well equipped with safety and comfort features. No wonder a panel of 48 independent automotive journalists voted Aura North American Car of the Year when it was introduced in 2007. And it's only gotten better since then.
The 2009 Saturn Aura comes in four models: XE, XR, XR V6, and Hybrid (formerly called Green Line). All are front-wheel drive. XE, XR and Hybrid come standard with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine; a 3.6-liter V6 powers the XR V6.
XE, XR, and XR V6 come with a six-speed automatic transmission with manual-shift control paddles on the steering wheel. The Hybrid comes with a four-speed automatic.
Aura XE ($22,655) features cloth upholstery; air conditioning; cruise control; a six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo with auxiliary input jack and redundant steering wheel controls; XM Satellite Radio; OnStar; tilt/telescope steering wheel; two-way power driver's seat with manual lumbar support; 60/40 split folding rear seat; power windows, mirrors and locks with keyless entry; automatic headlights; and 225/50R17 low-rolling-resistance tires on 17-inch steel wheels.
Aura XR ($24.670) adds leather upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, an eight-way power driver seat, front seat heaters, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Aura XR V6 ($27,150), in addition to the larger engine, upgrades to automatic climate control, auto-dimming inside mirror with compass, universal garage door opener, heated outside mirrors with auto-dimming on the driver's side, fog lights, remote engine starter, and 225/50R18 touring tires on 18-inch alloy wheels.
Aura Hybrid ($26,240) is equipped similarly to the XE, but adds automatic climate control and skips the audio buttons on the steering wheel.
A Preferred Package ($430) adds an eight-way power driver's seat, leather-wrapped shift knob, and Bluetooth to XE; the same package adds all of the above plus steering-wheel audio controls to the Hybrid. Hybrids with the Preferred Package can add the Premium Trim Package ($990), which includes a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, leather upholstery and heated front seats. A Convenience Package for XR ($590) adds heated exterior mirrors, remote starter, auto-dimming inside rearview and outside driver's mirror, compass, and universal garage door opener; a similar package for XE ($840) adds heated front seats as well. Available on XR and XR V6 is a six-way power passenger seat ($400); a 6-CD changer ($300); and an Advanced Audio Package ($425) comprising an eight-speaker, 240-watt audio system with rear-seat audio controls with two wireless headphones. All models offer a power sunroof with sunshade ($800), premium floor mats ($80-100), woodgrain interior trim ($75), and an engine-block heater ($75). The new All Season Package ($290) includes rubber floor mats and molded splash guards, but is not offered on the Hybrid. Chromed wheel covers ($200) are available on XE only.
Safety features that come standard on all models include anti-lock four-wheel disc brakes, traction control, and for 2009, StabiliTrak electronic stability control. Passive safety features that come standard on all models include front seat belts with pretensioners and load-limiters, dual advanced front air bags, front seat-mounted side-impact air bags (for torso protection in a side impact), and front- and rear-seat curtain air bags (for head protection in a rollover or side impact). Be sure to wear those seat belts because they are your first line of defense in a crash.