JACKSON, Miss., - Our second encounter with the 2007 Saturn Aura XR sedan was at the airport. Our flight landed, we got our really huge duffle bag and found the car in the general parking lot.
We had been on the launch program a year ago in Santa Barbara where there were some twisting roads but little else to challenge the Aura. Now, we had the car on our turf for a real world exam.
The Aura passed the first test with ease. We opened the trunk and it swallowed our really large duffle bag without any problem. In fact, the trunk was so large that there was room for out lap top computer, too. Once we put that in, there was still room for more stuff, if we had some.
We headed out of the Jackson- International Airport, pointed the nose of our test car West on I- 20 and then took I- 55 South. We were headed to New Orleans.
The second hurdle that the Saturn Aura jumped over with relative ease was power. We had the XR. It had a 3.6- liter V6 that made 252 horsepower and 251 pounds- feet of torque. It was mated to a six- speed transmission.
From the first push on the gas pedal, we knew that the Aura had plenty of pep. There was more than enough oomph to cruise down I- 55 with little effort. Passing was swift, almost effortless. The engine was quiet, ran smooth and gear shifts were what they should be in every automatic - imperceptible except under hard acceleration.
The car was comfortable, too. The seats provided plenty of back support, lower lumbar support and there was some thigh support. That's important on the highway, even though we were looking at less than a three- hour drive.
Our only complaint about the Aura's road manners was that the suspension could have been tuned to handle undulating spans in the road at high speeds better than it did. We really did not get that planted to road feel that gives you extra security when getting across overpasses. Still, our test vehicle was solid on surface streets.
Third on our list of Aura goodies was its equipment. Our test vehicle had leather seats, steering wheel and a leather- covered shifting knob. It was all in black which was further set off by the neat chrome trim. The exterior color of our test car was red and like every Saturn Aura XR, our test vehicle had dual exhausts tipped with chrome.
Power adjustable pedals widened the ergonomic comfort range of our test car. And our test car was equipped with a satellite radio, in dash CD changer and an audio system with an auxiliary jack. So we plugged in our iPod.
We found the Aura fairly quiet and once we got to New Orleans it handled everything thrown at it and put into it: the bumpy streets, a 50 lbs bad of weed kill and lawn feed thrown into the trunk and crossing the Mississippi River Bridge two or three daily.
Once someone pulled up along side of us and said she liked the car. It's been our experience that if one person says that many more wanted to do the same thing.
The Aura did all that was asked of it economically well, too. It Aura had a fuel economy rating of 20 mpg in the city and 28 miles on the hwy. It took us less than a half of tank of gasoline to get to New Orleans and that included a stop in Hammond, La.
We filled up twice. Including the full tank of gas the car had when we picked it up, we went from here to New Orleans, spent one week there and drove back to Jackson on three tanks of gas. That wasn't bad for a mid- size sedan.
And to us the best part of our test vehicle was its sticker: $26,919.