2008 Saturn Aura

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Road Test
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Key Specs

of the 2008 Saturn Aura. Base trim shown.

  • Body Type:
  • Combined MPG:
    21-27 Combined MPG
  • Engine:
    169-hp, 2.4-liter I-4 (regular gas)
  • Drivetrain:
    Front-wheel Drive
  • Transmission:
    4-speed automatic w/OD
  • View more specs

Our Take

From the Cars.com Vehicle Test Team

The Good

  • Performance with either V-6
  • Ride quality
  • Above-average handling
  • Quiet cabin
  • Stylish exterior

The Bad

  • Sub-par interior quality
  • Extra-large steering wheel
  • Powertrain whine (3.6-liter V-6)

Notable Features of the 2008 Saturn Aura

  • Newly available four-cylinder
  • Side-impact and side curtain airbags
  • Optional power adjustable pedals
  • Optional OnStar Turn-by-Turn Navigation

2008 Saturn Aura Road Test

Mike Hanley
Editor's note: This review was written in October 2006 about the XE and XR versions of the 2007 Saturn Aura. Little of substance has changed with this year's model. To see what details are different this year, check out a side-by-side comparison of the two model years.

Serving as a replacement for the forgettable L-Series, the new Saturn Aura marks a renewed attempt by the brand to establish itself in the midsize sedan market. The car impresses on a few fronts. Its handling performance is above average for the segment, and its two available V-6 engines are capable performers. Where it struggles is on the inside, with an interior that has too many problems to be considered among the best in the segment.

Exterior & Styling
Like the Pontiac G6, the five-person Aura is built on an extended-length version of GM's midsize-car platform, and it's one of the best-looking sedans using this design. It features subtle fender flares, a naturally arcing roofline and a short rear deck. The base XE model has standard 17-inch steel wheels (17-inch aluminum wheels are optional) and the uplevel XR gets 18-inch aluminum rims that fill up the wheel wells nicely. The clear-lens taillights feature LEDs.

While its styling is appealing, I miss the aggressiveness of the concept version from a few auto shows ago. Here's hoping the Aura will eventually get a high-performance Red Line variant with the bulging fender flares, side skirts and gaping lower grille that gave the concept s...

Editor's note: This review was written in October 2006 about the XE and XR versions of the 2007 Saturn Aura. Little of substance has changed with this year's model. To see what details are different this year, check out a side-by-side comparison of the two model years.

Serving as a replacement for the forgettable L-Series, the new Saturn Aura marks a renewed attempt by the brand to establish itself in the midsize sedan market. The car impresses on a few fronts. Its handling performance is above average for the segment, and its two available V-6 engines are capable performers. Where it struggles is on the inside, with an interior that has too many problems to be considered among the best in the segment.

Exterior & Styling
Like the Pontiac G6, the five-person Aura is built on an extended-length version of GM's midsize-car platform, and it's one of the best-looking sedans using this design. It features subtle fender flares, a naturally arcing roofline and a short rear deck. The base XE model has standard 17-inch steel wheels (17-inch aluminum wheels are optional) and the uplevel XR gets 18-inch aluminum rims that fill up the wheel wells nicely. The clear-lens taillights feature LEDs.

While its styling is appealing, I miss the aggressiveness of the concept version from a few auto shows ago. Here's hoping the Aura will eventually get a high-performance Red Line variant with the bulging fender flares, side skirts and gaping lower grille that gave the concept such a sense of presence.

Ride & Handling
The Aura's road manners are a pleasant surprise. The four-wheel independent suspension has front and rear stabilizer bars, and when cornering, the XR model remains impressively flat for a family sedan; body roll is well controlled. The suspension is tuned for firmness, but it's fairly good at damping bumps in the road, too. It's a setup that's likely to appeal both to buyers looking for a sporty feel in their sedan as well as those who just need a means of transportation.

In keeping with the sporty dynamics of the chassis, it takes some effort to turn the steering wheel. Unfortunately, the driver isn't given much feedback in return for the added effort. The rim of the tilt/telescope steering wheel feels overly large, too.

GM has been hyping the quietness of its Buick models lately, but perhaps it needs to highlight Saturn. Even when driving on oftentimes-noisy concrete roads or next to semi trucks, the Aura's cabin remains impressively quiet. There was, however, an ominous cracking sound that seemed to emanate from the optional first-row sunroof each time I hit a large bump in the road.

Going & Stopping
Unlike much of the competition, the front-wheel-drive Aura doesn't offer a base four-cylinder engine; buyers get a choice of a 3.5-liter V-6 or a more sophisticated 3.6-liter V-6. The base V-6 Aura undercuts V-6 versions of the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry by thousands of dollars, but with today's volatile fuel prices, the lack of a four-cylinder option is puzzling, regardless of the Aura's upmarket positioning. An expected Aura Green Line hybrid could fill this gap.

Though they're of similar displacement, the two V-6s have different characteristics. The 3.5-liter V-6 provides more-than-adequate acceleration, and the smooth 3.6-liter V-6 is stronger still. The larger V-6 sounds more refined under hard acceleration, emitting a muted growl, but most drivers should be happy with the base V-6's performance.

Saturn Aura Engines
3.5-liter V-63.6-liter V-6
Horsepower224 @ 5,800 rpm252 @ 6,400 rpm
Torque (lbs.-ft.)220 @ 4,000 rpm251 @ 3,200 rpm
Paired transmission4-speed automatic6-speed automatic
EPA-estimated
gas mileage
(city/highway, mpg)
20/3020/28
Source: Manufacturer

The 3.5-liter V-6 uses a four-speed automatic transmission. The 3.6-liter V-6 drives a new six-speed automatic that was jointly developed with Ford and will be used in their vehicles, including the new 2007 Edge crossover SUV. The six-speed automatic includes a clutchless-manual mode that lets the driver change gears using paddles on the steering wheel when the console gear selector is in the M position. The six-speed automatic's downshifts are quick and firm, but occasionally jerky. Four-wheel disc brakes deliver linear stopping performance.

The Inside
Although I was initially impressed with the Aura's interior design, I began to notice flaws after spending a few days behind the wheel.

The biggest shortcomings are flimsy interior pieces and panels. The driver's door armrest feels like it's about to come loose each time its indentation is grasped to pull the door shut, and the ceiling-mounted sunroof controls flex into the headliner with each touch. There are rough plastic edges on the glove box, front door pockets and a dash storage cubby, as well as questionable faux stitching accents on the door armrests.

The Aura also fails to include basic features like grab handles, and there's no center armrest for rear passengers. Combined, these issues give the interior an undeveloped, pre-production feel. It's all the more startling when you consider the strides GM has made with the interiors of its new full-size SUVs and in cars like the Chevrolet Impala.

The cabin does have some strong points. The optional leather front seats are firm but comfortable, though very tall drivers might wish for more rearward seat travel. The center dashboard's controls are smartly arranged, and power adjustable pedals are optional.

The rear seats closest to the doors have comfortable backrests, and there's sufficient legroom thanks in part to the carved-out backs of the front seats, which create extra room for the knees of rear passengers.

Safety
As of publication, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety had not tested the Aura. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration awarded the Aura five stars for both the driver and passenger in its frontal crash test.

Antilock brakes, traction control, side-impact airbags for the front seats and side curtain airbags are standard. The XR adds an electronic stability system. All three rear seats include top tethers and anchors to secure child-safety seats; that's more than many cars have.

Cargo & Towing
At 14.9 cubic feet, the Aura's trunk is comparable to the competition. Folding the standard 60/40-split rear seats exposes a wide — but not especially tall — opening between the trunk and the cabin. Maximum towing capacity is 1,000 pounds when properly equipped.

Features
Options include XM Satellite Radio and a remote starting system. An available glass roof is made of four pieces (three of which can be retracted) and includes a power sunshade.

In place of a traditional in-dash navigation system, the Aura is available with OnStar Turn-by-Turn Navigation. Subscribers can contact an OnStar operator to get directions, which are then sent to the Aura through the OnStar system. Voice guidance is provided through the audio system. The system works well in practice, though it's not always available in rural areas. When turn-by-turn directions aren't available, the operator can read directions to you through the OnStar system, which can record them for later playback. The Aura comes standard with one year of OnStar's base Safe & Sound plan, but Turn-by-Turn Navigation is part of the Directions & Connections package that costs $100 for the first year and $299 per year thereafter.

Aura in the Market
Whether you'll like the Aura or not depends on what's most important to you in a car. If you value a robust engine and capable handling in your midsize sedan, it's worth a look. If you're most concerned with how the car holds up on the inside, the Aura comes up short when compared to the competition.

This sedan is more proof that good things can happen when GM throws its resources into a brand. It's a shame the Aura's cabin didn't get a little more attention so the interior could be worthy of the rest of the car.

Send Mike an email 



Latest 2008 Aura Stories

Consumer Reviews

Exterior Styling
(4.6)
Performance
(4.2)
Interior Design
(4.2)
Comfort
(4.2)
Reliability
(4.2)
Value For The Money
(4.2)

What Drivers Are Saying

(5.0)

Top value for the monies that I put into it!

by LRStevens from Richmond Hts., OH on August 12, 2018

This is a comfy car! It still has plenty of get up and go after 10 years. I haven't had to put much into it to maintain it over the years and it has given me a great return on my investment! I am ... Read full review

(1.0)

So many problems

by Dar from Fargo, ND on July 16, 2018

I've owned this car for over two years. It keeps developing new, bizarre issues I've never seen or heard of before. I've taken it in to mechanics, and even dealerships, but they are never able to fix ... Read full review

Safety & Recalls

Recalls

The 2008 Saturn Aura currently has 5 recalls

Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

The 2008 Saturn Aura has not been tested.

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Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The Aura received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

What is included in Roadside Assistance?

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker