2005 Saturn Ion Red Line

Dec. 8, 2005
Driving the feisty supercharged Red Line might make you feel like a kid again, but the narrow Recaro seats are a constant reminder you are not.

But the Red Line, Saturns line of performance vehicles, isnt about comfort. Its about get-up-and-go.

The Ions 2.0-liter Ecotec engine produces 205 hp and 169 lb-ft of torque. Eight seconds flat takes you to 60 mph, despite the coupe being relatively heavy (2,960 lb) for a sports compact.

I had the best time driving it in the park where the performance tires hugged the corners and the extra 12 lb of supercharged boost was a temptation I could not resist.

Inspired by Southern Californias popular tuner cars, the Red Line was developed with assistance from GMs Performance Div.

From the aggressive wheels to the equal-length driveshafts, which limit torque steer, the Red Line is all about performance.

The line of performance vehicles introduced several firsts for Saturn. Besides the Eaton helical Roots supercharger, theres an air-to-water intercooler to reduce the temperature of air entering the engine. Cooler air compliments the performance of the supercharger. Also, electronic throttle control replaces the cable between the gas pedal and motor with an electronic signal for instantaneous throttle response.

The aero-wing spoiler, a $380 option, divides the drivers field-of-vision out the back in two, a distracting sort of split screen.

Some more peeves: Several times I stalled the car releasing the clutch in first gear. My regular ride is an automatic, but Ive driven other stick shifts and havent found releasing the clutch so sensitive. And shifting from fourth to fifth (up and over) was not as smooth as it might have been.

Also, when the car is parked on level ground the drivers door refuses to stay open. Thats okay for refrigerators, but then youre not constantly climbing in and out of your Frigidaire.

The Ions gages are located in the middle of the dash. I found it awkward having to look down and to the right to make certain I was driving the legal limit.

Our vehicle was equipped with a 205-hp 2.0-liter supercharged/intercooled Ecotec engine, five-speed manual transmission with short-throw shifter, tuned induction and exhaust, front and rear performance stabilizer bars, racetrack-tuned suspension, four-wheel disc brakes w/ABS, dual-stage front air bags, front safety belt pretensioners, three PT rear safety belts, engine immobilizer, and daytimerunning lamps. All standard.

Seventeen-inch forged aluminum wheels with performance tires, sport fascias and rockers, chrome exhaust tip, dent-resistant panels, and dual rear-access doors are also standard.

Inside, in addition to the Recaro seats, the Red Line has a leather-wrapped steering wheel, A/C, power locks with anti-lockout, remote keyless entry with alarm, power windows/mirrors, cruise, AM/FM stereo with CD & MP3, adjustable steering column, rear-window defroster, remote trunk release, 60/40 fold-down rear seats, front and rear 12-V outlets, and oil life monitor.

The base price is $20,885, but our loaner boasted the superfluous spoiler ($380) and the competition package ($1,470) that includes limited slip differential, supercharger boost gage, illuminated ladder tachometer, painted wheels w/polished rims, and projector beam fog lamps. Tack on another $325 for XM satellite radio, $565 destination charge, and $80 for floor mats and the Ion Red Line tops out at $23,705.

Despite several minor drawbacks, Im betting more than a few 20-somethings (and those who wish they were) would love one.

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