2007 Saturn Sky Review
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS
2007 Saturn Sky
Remember this sort of test question from school? Pick the one word or phrase that doesn't fit: Saturn, style, sports car.
That was a trick question, as the 2007 Saturn Sky sports car is now available and Saturn, style, and sports car not only fit together, they fit together very well. Saturn? Style? Sports car? GM's newest division is growing up, and expanding, and what better way to introduce new styling trends and an emphasis on performance than to introduce a two-seat sports roadster?
While the Sky is based on the same new global rear-wheel drive "Kappa" compact sports platform as the Pontiac Solstice, only the windshield and convertible top are similar. No body or interior panels interchange. Saturn is moving closer to GM's European brands in styling, and the Sky is the first evidence of this. Stylistically, the Sky is closer to the Vauxhall VX Lightning concept car of 2003, developed by GM's British subsidiary, but the similarities are only general, limited to an angular design as opposed to the Solstice's curves. The Sky and the Solstice will not be confused.
The Sky and Solstice do share powertrains, with the 177-horsepower, 2.4-liter twincam Ecotec four-cylinder available now matched to either a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission. When the Sky Red Line appears in the Fall, it, like the Solstice GXP, will have a 260-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged version of the Ecotec as well as upgraded suspension and brakes and some visual differentiation.
But while the Sky and Solstice share a solid chassis made largely of hydroformed tubing and sheetmetal, with a fully-independent short-and-long arm suspension, there are subtle differences in suspension tuning that give each a slightly different character. The Sky is positioned a bit more upscale, with a higher level of standard equipment, and accordingly feels a touch more refined.
Saturns have not previously been known for their attention-getting properties, but during my week with the Sky, I was often the center of attention. The Sky is distinctive, and it also produces all of the right sensations to be a competitive sports roadster. In unblown standard form it's pleasantly quick, with a suspension that successfully balances handling and comfort. The top is easily operated, although it does require the driver to get out of the car. Luggage capacity with the top up is reasonable; with it down a fair amount of creativity is necessary. Such is the nature of a sports car. If the Sky is the first in a new generation of Saturns, Saturn is in a very good position.
APPEARANCE: Are we in Italy? The Sky is certainly flashy enough to be an extrovert Italian. It is a bit larger than the norm for the small sports car class, and its long hood, short deck proportions are accentuated by the sharp creases of its fenders, which also emphasize the curves of its flanks and hood. The fenders are blistered out just enough to hint at performance without looking excessive, and the sculpted rear deck, with its twin integrated headrest fairings, slopes gently to a rounded rear panel that features huge taillights. Back in front, the small upper grille, with its T-shaped chrome bar, reminds me of an Iso Grifo (ok, it could also be off a Vauxhall), while the lower intake is more than a little reminiscent of the mid-engined, high-performance Vauxhall VXR220.
COMFORT: In style, the Sky's interior matches its exterior and also has a European flavor. The $750 Premium package with which my test car was equipped adds substance with leather seating surfaces and steering wheel trim, and places auxiliary audio controls on the steering wheel spokes. It also includes metal-and-rubber pedals. The Sky has a little more passenger space than in most small roadsters, thanks to the relatively long wheelbase and wide track. The seat cushions are low, which benefits tall drivers, but the lack of height-adjustability will be an issue with anyone under five foot six. Visibility to the rear and rear quarters is very good, even with the top up, thanks to the backlight design. With the top down, wind and noise levels are very tolerable. Top operation is simple, requiring only release of the deck lid and the latching or unlatching of one central latch, but you will need to get out of the car to raise the lid and drop the top, or vice-versa. Top-up trunk capacity is about average for a small sports roadster, but with the top down there is all of about two cubic feet, as the top takes up nearly all of the space under the rear deck. And because of the top design and fuel tank position, there is no space for even a space-saver spare - the "spare tire" is a can of sealant.
SAFETY: All current and foreseeable safety requirements are met by the Sky, which protects its occupants with dual airbags. Four-wheel antilock disc brakes are standard, as is the OnStar telematics system.
RIDE AND HANDLING: The Sky's chassis is a very good example of how to make a sports car - it is comprised of a strong, fully-enclosed central backbone and hydroformed tubing for the outside frame rails, tied together with sheetmetal, and with tubular-and-sheetmetal front and rear bulkheads. It's a contemporary high-tech, mass-produceable, front-engined version of a late-1960s race car chassis. Although the Sky shares its structure and fully-independent short-and-long arm suspension design with the Solstice, there are subtle tuning differences between the two. Perhaps the suspension bushings are a little different, or maybe there are slight modifications to shock and spring rates. The result is a more refined ride, with no ill effect on handling. And because of the exemplary chassis structure, cowl shake is nonexistent, even on the poorly-paved roads around my home. A sports car is supposed to be fun to drive, especially on an appropriately challenging road, and the Sky will not disappoint. The large and sticky tires stay firmly planted, and near 50/50 weight distribution the good suspension calibration make it a joy to drive. Plus, the chassis is so solid that it should be able to handle the extra power of the Red Line with no problems at all.
PERFORMANCE: The Sky fits right into the long line of small- and medium-displacement sports cars that achieved their popularity and reputation not on straight-line acceleration, but on their handling in the corners and general fun-to-drive nature. Which is not to say that it's slow - with a 0-60 time of around 7.2 seconds, it's far quicker than any of the affordable classics from the past. The 2.4-liter Ecotec produces 177 horsepower at 6600 rpm, with torque peaking at 166 lb-ft at 4800 rpm, but it has over 2900 pounds of Sky to move. The engine pulls well from 3000 rpm, and starts to scream above 4500. Driven moderately, it's passable if not inspiring, but does make all the appropriate sports car sounds. Driven harder, and revved to the 7000-rpm redline, it gets up and moves the car endearingly quickly. An available, and highly recommended limited-slip differential ensures traction. With its power characteristics, quick shifting is a must, and the Aisin five-speed gearbox's linkage obliges wonderfully. The Red Line's gonna be a screaming beast, though.
CONCLUSIONS Saturn, style, and sports car? With its new Sky, Saturn is showing an interesting new direction.
2007 Saturn Sky Base Price $ 24,195 Price As Tested $ 25,140 Engine Type dual overhead cam, aluminum alloy, 16-valve inline 4-cylinder with variable cam phasing on both intake and exhaust cams Engine Size 2.4 liters / 145 cu. in. Horsepower 177 @ 6600 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 166 @ 4800 rpm Transmission 5-speed manual Wheelbase / Length 95.1 in. / 161.1 in. Curb Weight 2933 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 16.6 Fuel Capacity 13.6 gal. Fuel Requirement 91 octane premium gasoline recommended but not required Tires P245/45 VR18 Goodyear Eagle RS-A Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, ABS standard Suspension, front/rear independent short-and-long arm / independent short-and-long armDrivetrain front engine, rear-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 20 / 28 / 22 0 to 60 mph 7.2 sec OPTIONS AND CHARGES Premium trim - includes: leather seat inserts, leather- wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, stainless steel pedal covers, metallic-finish sill plates $ 750 Limited-slip differential $ 195 2007 SaturnSky