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vanillasky
WOW! THAT'S A SATURN?

saturn sky (first drive)

We're cruising Florida's Fernandina Beach while in town for the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance. There's some fabulous hardware trolling the island this weekend, yet our brilliant Sunburst Yellow Sky is attracting as much attention as any Bentley or Bugatti. "I had no idea Saturn made a sports car." "Dude, how much does that thing cost?" "That's a Saturn? Don't they make icky cars?"

The questions come rapid fire no matter where we take the squat, wide roadster that Saturn hopes will become its image leader. But let's dispense with the obvious: Yes, it's a reconstituted Pontiac Solstice. GM needs to amortize the cost of its global chassis architectures, so every one of them must do double, triple, or quadruple duty. The Sky has been part of this Kappa platform's plan since its beginning, when GM carmeister Bob Lutz declared the company would build a legit, rear-drive sports car that would base for less than $20 grand. The Pontiac went on sale last April; the Sky is coming to market as you read this.

While the chassis and all the hidden parts are virtually unchanged from those of the Solstice, not a single body panel is carried over, with the exception of the windshield surround and the mirrors. The more crisply tailored suit is by Franz von Holzhausen, who worked on the Solstice.

The Sky's surfaces are flatter, and there are more beveled edges, as compared with those of this less detailed and more curvaceous Solstice. Splashes of chrome and aggressive lighting clusters highlight an assertive visage; the chrome vents on the hood are nonfunctional but also add sparkle. Which is the better looking ride? That's a question of personal taste. But based on the spontaneous, if statistically irrelevant feedback we received from the Amelia Island locals and vacationers, the Sky is the hands-down fave.

As the Sky will base for more than the Solstice, it has a slightly higher level of standard equipment. Saturn also invested a few bucks in the interior. It still has the same ergonomic flaws (two of the three cupholders are a pain to use; you have to reach far back on the doors to engage the window switches, and there's a dearth of interior storage spaces), but the cabin has been dressed up a bit.

The Pontiac's wraparound IP has given way to Sky-specific center and guage stacks. Some surfaces are finished in a alumalook plastic, some are chrome, while others yet are done in "piano black" -- a fancy term for shiny black plastic. A six-speaker CD audio system and power windows/mirrors/locks are standard.

While the ancillary bits are hard to reach, the important stuff is well placed and feel good to the hand. Our tester included the $750 Premium Package, which means leather seat inserts, a leather-trimmed steering wheel with audio controls, stainless-steel pedal covers, and metallic-finished sill plates. You won't confuse this interior with that of an SL55 AMG, but it's dressier than the Solstice's and looks and feels more upscale.

As noted, the chassis and powertrain architecture are unchanged: a 2.4-liter, 177-horse Ecotec four, a five-speed manual or auto transmission, standard four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, and 18-inch wheels. The damper settings have been recalibrated for a smoother ride, and the jounce bumpers allow a skosh more suspension travel. Any negative impact on the Sky's handling would be minimal, if it's even measurable. Another modest revision in the name of a more sophisticated persona is a quieter, yet deeper, exhaust note.

Save for the visuals, the smoother ride, and the richer voice, the driving experience is much the same as the Pontiac's. You sit low in the car, and the high beltline makes you feel cosseted. The shifter is short, stubby, and well connected to the transmission. The main guages are easily viewed through the steering wheel.

The Ecotec four isn't as sweet as Mazda'a 2.3 or the best from Honda, but it is a willing workhorse. There's a nice plate of torque available from 3000 to about 5000 revs--its peak occurs at 4800--and the engine is reasonably smooth up to about 5500. As you pass 6000, it begins to thrash somewhat, which is too bad because you have to rev it to 6600 to get all 177 horses out of it. The five-speed manual is a good partner, although there's too much rpm falloff on the 2-3 shift, slightly closer gear spacing or a six-speed trans would cure this.

The Sky's track is wide for its length, and the engine sits far back in the chassis. This, combined with a well-tuned suspension and large rolling stock means a car that handles well yet doesn't punish with an overly aggressive ride. The overall feel is neutral and predictable, with understeer checking in as the limits are neared. Most drivers will be happy with the steering's weight and feel, although serious sports-car pilots will ask for a few percent more of each. The Sky's turn-in is crisp, although not knife-edged like that of an MX-5 or an S2000.

The Sky's not the committed canyon carver that the above noted Mazda and Honda are, but it may be a better distance runner. Thanks to its longish wheelbase, there's more room inside, and the ride is supple given its handling capability. We didn't have the opportunity to track test the Sky yet, but its numbers should be nearly identical to the Solstice's. We also were pleased at the tightness of the structure; this test unit was squeak- and rattle-free, however nasty the bumps we pummeled with it.

The top is also the same as the Pontiac's, although it gets as standard an accoustic liner material that's optional on the Pontiac. The top can't be opened and thrown over your shoulder at a stoplight like the MX-5's can. And it eats up a bunch of the trunk in the down position, which the Mazda's doesn't. But it hides neatly beneath the rear deck and is made of rich-looking cloth. In this case, function follows form. But as we cruised along the Florida coastline, wind in the hair and all that, the Sky was a fun, engaging place to hang.

The Sky will become not only Saturn's image flagship, but its lead performance model as well. A turbocharged, 260-horse Redline version will have been introduced at the New York auto show by the time you read this. That one, like the Pontiac Solstice GXP also coming soon, will show what this platform is really capable of.

As you'd expect, the Saturn Sky inherits the Solstice's strengths and bears its flaws. But as an attractive, affordable sports car that's zippy enough to live with every day, it works. And it's anything but icky.
 

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Axel said:
vanillasky
WOW! THAT'S A SATURN?

While the chassis and all the hidden parts are virtually unchanged from those of the Solstice, not a single body panel is carried over, with the exception of the windshield surround and the mirrors. The more crisply tailored suit is by Franz von Holzhausen, who worked on the Solstice.
I guess the trunk lid is not a body panel cause it is exactly the same!
 

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Not bad from M/T did you read the ref to the V6....in the Mag....I think the V6 is a very good IDEA....:cheers:
 

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actually the sky has more pointy humps on it's trunk lid, so while similar they are still different.
 

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mynewsolstice said:
I guess the trunk lid is not a body panel cause it is exactly the same!
nope wrong kemosabe, the humps on the sky have a sharper peak than the solstice... and the cutouts around the tail lights are different... the Sky also has to sharp raised areas that go all the way down the trunk on both sides.... I also think the rear edge is a different shape.
see the two pictures I have attached.
 

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did you see all the pictures

I opened that mag today, and what a joy to find all the pictures and pic of the redline and the center pull out. Everyone in the clinic thought I was nuts when I opened that up and started yahoo and drulling, The women thought it was a guy I was swooning over. but nope it was my SKY. That whole mag just made waiting harder!!!!!!!!!

Kimberly
ChiliSky
 

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SkyMan 07 said:
nope wrong kemosabe, the humps on the sky have a sharper peak than the solstice...
SkyMan would be correct on that. Someone posted pic's of the Solstice windscreen on the Sky. The humps are different. I was supprised. I'd have thought that would be standard between the two cars.:eek:
 

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Loving all these great reviews, go SATURN!!!
 

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you're right skyman - I work for GM and when we were setting up the lids on the sky we noticed they do vary in spec from the solstice specs
 

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Nice Review
 

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mynewsolstice said:
I guess the trunk lid is not a body panel cause it is exactly the same!
Actually the Aerofairings on the SKY are different, making the trunk lid different. They had to redesign the windscreen accessory because of the differences
 

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Yes, it's a reconstituted Pontiac Solstice. GM needs to amortize the cost of its global chassis architectures, so every one of them must do double, triple, or quadruple duty.
That's a rather stupid remark - no auto manufacturer could possibly afford to
develop a new chasis architecture for a car that sells 30,000 per year and is priced under $25K. ALL manufacturers' chasses are shared by several models.
How many models share the Camry chasis between Toyota and Lexus? - and that chassis sells hundreds of thousands per year.
 

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That's a question of personal taste. But based on the spontaneous, if statistically irrelevant feedback we received from the Amelia Island locals and vacationers, the Sky is the hands-down fave.
That's also pretty dumb - how can you tell which car is more attention getting if you only have one of the cars? Anyone want to answer that one?
 

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While the chassis and all the hidden parts are virtually unchanged from those of the Solstice, not a single body panel is carried over, with the exception of the windshield surround and the mirrors.
MT was told that by a GM source - MT wouldn't have had a clue as to which parts were the same across the model lines.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
GMguy said:
That's also pretty dumb - how can you tell which car is more attention getting if you only have one of the cars? Anyone want to answer that one?
perhaps the fact that they previously tested the Solstice?

hmmm... no leap of logic there to me.... :D
 

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GMguy said:
That's also pretty dumb - how can you tell which car is more attention getting if you only have one of the cars? Anyone want to answer that one?
seeing I have parked next to a Solstice at a cruise in and saw in person that the Sky drew more attention.....I would say they were right on with that statement... And the owner of the Solstice saw it too, in fact even he said that the Sky was a nicer looking car... :thumbs:
 

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