At a press conference today to kick off the North American International Auto Show, the Saturn Aura was named the North American Car of the Year. The award is presented annually by a jury of 49 prominent automotive journalists from throughout the United States and Canada.
"We’re extremely pleased that the Aura has been named the North American Car of the Year," said Jill Lajdziak, general manager for Saturn. "The Aura is an important step in our ongoing product revitalization plan, and this award is proof that our efforts are paying off."
The Aura features the design found on all new Saturn vehicles, with a bold chrome-bar grille and sharp lines with flowing surfaces. It also exhibits the brand’s new attention to detail on the interior as well, with tight gaps and improved materials over past Saturn vehicles.
The uplevel Saturn Aura XR marks the first use of the new HydraMatic 6T70 transmission, the first six-speed automatic in a front-wheel-drive vehicle from GM. This transmission is mated to the 3.6L dual overhead cam V6, producing 252 peak horsepower for a sporty driving experience.
In addition to its design and driving character, the panel recognized Aura for its overall value. The Aura XE starts at just $20,995, and comes with a long list of standard features that includes a 224-horsepower 3.5L V6 engine, six airbags, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and GM’s OnStar Safety and Security system.
With its long list of standard safety equipment, the Aura’s safety credentials rate among the best in the industry. It earned five stars - the highest rating possible - in all four metrics from the federal government’s new car assessment program.
In addition to the powertrain upgrade, the XR adds standard StabiliTrak electronic stability control, 18-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats and remote vehicle ignition. The XR starts at $24,995.
Saturn will add a Green Line model this spring, featuring a 2.4L, four-cylinder engine mated to an electric motor generator. This affordable hybrid will start at under $23,000, and will get a 25% improvement in fuel economy over the Aura XE.
The Aura went on sale at Saturn retailers in August 2006. Saturn sold more than 5,800 Auras in December 2006.
The judges had this to say:
Lindsay Brooke, Automotive Engineering International: "A stiff body structure, suspension nicely balanced between ride compliance and handling, responsive DOHC V6 and smooth-shifting 6-speed automatic make the Aura more fun to drive than Toyota’s Camry."
John Davis, Motor Week: "A striking and entertaining family sedan alternative to Camry and Accord. Excellent interior that is original, yet mainstream."
Matt DeLorenzo, Road and Track: "The Saturn Aura is a breakthrough car for General Motors. The exterior styling, interior upgrades and drive train, especially the 3.6L V6 with the 6-speed automatic, come together as a complete package. The road manners are solid, the interior is beautiful, and the overall fit and finish is top-notch. Add in a competitive price structure that keeps the sticker below $30,000 and you have a world-class family sedan."
Denis Duquet, Le Guide de l’Auto: "This sedan proves that things have changed at Saturn in a very positive and quite spectacular way."
Ken Gross, Playboy - Hemispheres: "This smart Euro-styled sedan could lead a Saturn turnaround. It’s well-thought out, very nicely styled, entertaining to drive and thoughtfully priced."