by Steve Lovett, Senior Editor
When the SKY was introduced this spring, it marked a turning point for the Saturn brand. It showcased the new design vocabulary that has been infused with the DNA of the Aura, Outlook and soon to be produced Astra. The SKY stood out with its stunning proportions and signature cues such as the boomerang grille bar, angled front lamps, wide stance, and chrome-bisected rear lamps. The vehicle has been a showstopper for the brand, but they didn’t stop there.
Saturn recently announced the Red Line version of this already sporty nimble roadster. There are quite a few upgrades in this package. Let’s start with the engine. Replacing the relatively tame 2.4L 177hp VVT inline-4 is a new, turbocharged unit. The new ECOTEC Turbo VVT powerplant displaces a smaller 2.0L but produces 260hp and 260ft-lb of torque across a wide power band. This new engine is GM’s first gasoline engine with Direct Injection technology, which uses a high-pressure fuel rail and unique injectors which result in much more precise fuel metering. Despite the huge increase in power, the Red Line SKY actually delivers better fuel economy than the base model. That’s a true win-win situation.
Other important upgrades include a standard limited slip differential as well as Good Year Eagle F1 high-performance tires to keep that power planted. With this kind of power in a 3,000lb car, the added traction is certainly appreciated. In case an overzealous driver manages to defeat these upgraded systems, the Red Line SKY includes a performance calibrated Stabiltrak stability control system, complete with a selectable competitive algorithim for track days. The suspension is also tweaked for even better handling, but still delivers a compliant ride.
On the exterior, the Red Line can be identified by its Red Line and turbo badges, the dual exhausts, silver accent colored gills and brake cooling outlets in the front fascia. A stylish spoiler is an option, and appears very well integrated.
Saturn makes the SKY available with 9 different paint colors, three interior colors and two colors for the cloth top. The model I’m driving arrived in a fetching combination of midnight blue paint, tan top, and two-tone black and tan interior. This palette is set off by a stunning set of 18” polished aluminum wheels. This combination gives the car an upscale, almost British quality. Exterior fits and finishes were quite good, except for some gathering in the rear buttresses of the cloth top.
Interior design is first rate, except for some notable ergonomic flaws which I’ll address in my driving impressions. The Red line includes unique embroidery in the seats as well as the floor mats. It also includes a leather wrapped wheel and shift knob as well as aluminum sill plates. Making this one stylish interior to look at.
Overall, the car has the appearance of a true winner. The style is absolutely, “stand-out” and it seems to have the hardware now to back it up. Next, we’ll evaluate driving impressions with about 2000 miles behind the wheel of this beauty. Stay tuned.