Machine Design

Saturn Sky

Drop-dead gorgeous might be an understatement when describing the Saturn Sky.

Drop-dead gorgeous might be an understatement when describing the . Our test vehicle, a convertible, turned more than a few heads in the five days I cruised around town. On three separate occasions during the ride home, guys gave the car a thumbs-up as they passed. You don't get that attention driving a Camry.

The interior is up to date with brushed aluminum trim, leather seats ($750 option), and radio and speed controls on the steering wheel. The convertible top was a snap to raise or lower.

The Sky has more than just good looks. Handling and performance are also impressive. The 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine generates as nice a sound as you can imagine from a four, and it redlines at 7,000 rpm. The 170-hp engine sports variable valve timing and delivers 90% of its 162-lb-ft of torque at as low as 2,400 rpm, according to Saturn. I found keeping the tach above 3,000 rpm produced pickup in second and third gear that is close to neck snapping. Even on the Goodyear P245/45 performance tires and 18-in. flangeless alloy wheels, it was possible to get the rear wheels to chirp on takeoff.

The ride is a little rougher than a family sedan but that comes from a stiff frame. Saturn engineers say the car is built on full-length hydroformed longitudinal rails and a steel and aluminum chassis. The frame provides an extrawide stance for a stable ride, Saturn claims. A weight distribution of near 50-50 also helps.

Hydraulic-assisted rack-and-pinion steering adds to the Sky's pleasant drivability, and a torque-sensing limited-slip differential keeps the rear wheels working together. The four-wheel independent suspension and four-wheel disc brakes with ABS add to the controlled ride. Front and rear hollow stabilizer bars with ball-joint links keep the car steady through curves.

A few other noteworthy features include a self-adjusting clutch, cruise control, and air conditioning. And even though the rear window folds away, it comes with a defogger. Projector-beam halogen headlamps light the road nicely at night, and an engine-immobilizing device may deter thefts. The EPA says to expect 20-mpg city and 28 on the highway.

On the downside, the trunk is small even with the top up. With it down, there is just about room for two grocery bags. The car definitely needs a bigger boot. I thought the Aisin five-speed manual transmission with short shift lever was a little unrefined. I expected it to almost click into gear, but that was not the case. Still, after a couple hours, I got to know its idiosyncrasies and we got along fine.

One final bit of good news: Saturn is asking $23,115 for the base auto, which seems a heck of a good deal. Options on our model (XM satellite radio $325; premium audio system $590; and the chrome plated aluminum wheels $795) brought the list price to $26,150.

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.