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Car and Driver Drives AURA Hybrid: 0-60 in 9.4s, 0.76g, 23 observed MPG

Date: May 29, 2007


Author: empowah

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Tested: 2007 Saturn Aura Green Line - Short Take Road Tests

Date: May 2007


Author: Jared Gall

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Tested: 2007 Saturn Aura Green Line - Short Take Road Tests

Sorry, Saturn, but we don’t foresee long lines forming at the dealership for this budget hybrid.

Strolling to the parking lot to hop into the Aura at the end of the day, we noticed our Aura Green Line was red. A red Green Line? How about a Red Green line: “If the women don’t find you handsome, they should at least find you handy.”

The Red Green Show was a Canadian parody of home-improvement and outdoor shows that ran on CBC and PBS from 1991 to 2006. Main character Red Green was known for his nuggets of humble wit.

What would Red think of the Aura Green Line? Well, the people have spoken, and they already seem to think the Aura is a handsome car. We do. Red, what if the women do find you handsome? Does that mean you don’t have to be handy, then?

Good for the Aura Green Line, because the mild hybrid powertrain in this car is not particularly handy at acceleration or saving fuel. This is the same drivetrain that powers the Saturn Vue Green Line, and not the sort of hybrid that will whoosh around on nothing but electric power. Rather, the electric motor spins the accessory drive when the Aura is stopped, allowing the gasoline engine to shut down when stationary. When the driver takes his or her foot off the brake pedal, the engine starts back up.

GM says this mild hybrid, although it saves less fuel than a full hybrid, is a cheaper way to hybrid enlightenment, which is correct. With a base price of $22,695, this is the cheapest hybrid on the market today, but just barely. The Aura only undercuts the Toyota Prius by $100. Our example came with a single option, the $375 Preferred package, that includes a power driver seat, power mirrors, and steering-wheel audio controls.

All hybrids do the start/stop trick, but in most the action is (almost) transparent, and the driver has to pay close attention to notice the engine starting and stopping. In our long-term Lexus RX400h, often the only way to tell if the engine was running or not was to look at the power-flow display on the driver information screen. All you have to do to tell if the Aura Green Line is running or not is to be in it, since the 2.4-liter four-cylinder is as smooth and quiet as a riot in a minefield.

Since we don’t spend much of our time idling in traffic here in Ann Arbor, Michigan, this hybrid solution netted less-than-spectacular results for the Aura Green Line’s fuel-economy numbers. We averaged 23 mpg, only 3 mpg better than a V-6 Aura and a number we’re sure Saturn would rather we didn’t report. Granted, that number includes our track-testing session and flogging the car from every stop just to hear the poor 2.4 suffer, but every car we test must protect its petroleum reserves against the same onslaught.

We could get 23 mpg in a much more entertaining car, one with more than a mere 164 horsepower, one capable of reaching 60 mph in less than 9.4 seconds and with a quarter-mile better than 17.3 seconds at 83 mph. This lethargic acceleration is due also to the gearing in the four-speed automatic, which, to keep revs down at speed, stretches the ratios farther than an engine with only 159 pound-feet of torque should. More than four gears would be useful. Heck, they’ve been putting 21-speed transmissions on bicycles for years that could probably handle the Green Line’s torque.

We could get that sort of fuel economy in a car that delivered much more driving excitement than did the Aura, what with its underwhelming 0.76-g skidpad performance, too. Okay, that number was no doubt hindered by the budget Uniroyal Tiger Paws, tires that grip the road with all the feeble tenacity of the runt of the litter and scream just as shrilly at almost any provocation.

More grip in the Aura Green Line would be useful venturing onto the freeway, as its lackadaisical acceleration means the safest way to enter traffic is by building as much speed as possible while orbiting the on-ramp before actually having to merge, therefore minimizing the amount of time spent in the travel lanes while the overburdened four-cylinder strains to get the car to speed.

We could get better fuel economy and better performance from other vehicles, but could we do it for less than $23,070? Well, actually, yeah, we could. How about a four-cylinder Honda Accord or Nissan Altima?

GM is working on a full hybrid powertrain for the 2009 Vue, a system that will cost more but save more fuel. We hope that powertrain will be shared with the Aura.
VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan

PRICE AS TESTED: $23,070 (base price: $22,695)

ENGINE TYPE: DOHC 16-valve inline-4, 164-hp, 128 lb-ft; AC permanent-magnet electric motor, 5 hp, 48 lb-ft; combined system, 164 hp

TRANSMISSION: 4-speed automatic


Wheelbase: 112.3 in Length: 190.0 in Width: 70.3 in Height: 57.6 in Curb weight: 3510 lb

Zero to 60 mph: 9.4 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 27.8 sec
Street start, 5–60 mph: 9.9 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 17.3 sec @ 83 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 192 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.76 g

EPA city/highway driving: 28/35 mpg
C/D-observed: 23 mpg


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