2009 Saturn Aura XR4
2009 Saturn Aura XR4; photo by Jil McIntosh. Click image to enlarge

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General Motors Canada

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By Chris Chase

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The Saturn Aura was introduced in 2007 as the brand’s new mid-sized sedan, and the replacement for the L-Series. While the Aura was a completely redesigned car, it, like its predecessor, could claim some European lineage, as both cars were built on platforms shared in GM of Europe’s Opel brand.

The 2007 Aura was available with either 3.5-litre or 3.6-litre V6 engines (224 and 252 horsepower, respectively), while the Green Line hybrid model used a 2.4-litre gas engine paired with an electric motor, for a total of 164 horsepower.

Transmission choices were a four-speed automatic in 3.5-litre and Green Line models, and a six-speed automatic with the 3.6-litre engine.

2007 Saturn Aura Green Line Hybrid
2007 Saturn Aura Green Line Hybrid; photo by Greg Wilson. Click image to enlarge

In 2008, Saturn added a 2.4-litre four-cylinder gas-only model to the Aura line and in 2009, the 3.5-litre engine was dropped, and the six-speed automatic was made standard in all gas-only Auras, while the Hybrid continued to use the four-speed.

Note that the Aura’s arrival in 2007 foreshadowed the 2008 Chevrolet Malibu, which was virtually identical, mechanically, to the Saturn.

Natural Resources Canada’s fuel consumption ratings for the Aura are 8.5/6.2 L/100 km (city/highway) for the hybrid model; 9.4/5.9 L/100 km for the gas-only four-cylinder (with 2009’s six-speed transmission; consumption is a little higher in older models with the four-speed); 11.5/7.2 L/100 km for 3.5-litre cars, and 12.2/7.8 L/100 km for models with the 3.6-litre V6.

The Aura seems to be holding up well reliability-wise (though, at the time of this writing, the oldest Auras are only three years old), but a number of GM’s usual suspects are showing up in official reliability data and in online communities dedicated to the Aura.

2009 Saturn Aura XR4
2009 Saturn Aura XR4; photo by Jil McIntosh. Click image to enlarge

A well-documented problem with the intermediate steering shaft (ISS) crops up here, just as it has with many past and present GM cars that share the Aura’s Epsilon I platform. The symptom is a grinding and/or clunking sound heard when the steering wheel is turned. Lubricating the shaft is a temporary solution, while replacing it is the more permanent fix, though some owners posting at SaturnFans.com say they’ve had to have the same part replaced multiple times. Click here, here and here for some recommended reading on the subject.

Another problem shared with other GM models is poor brake component longevity, most likely due to low-quality parts. Symptoms here are brakes that squeak and wear out prematurely, and a brake pedal that pulsates due to warped brake discs. For more info, click here and here.

2007 Saturn Aura Green Line Hybrid
2007 Saturn Aura Green Line Hybrid; photo by Greg Wilson. Click image to enlarge

The electronic module that looks after the tire pressure monitoring (which was only installed in U.S. models, where such systems are mandatory) and keyless entry/power locking systems is suspect, and the keyless remotes themselves are known to be troublesome, due to bad battery contacts inside the key fobs themselves.

I came across a few mentions of bad wheel bearings on SaturnFans.com, but can’t say whether this is a widespread problem.

The Aura earned “good” ratings in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) frontal offset and side impact crash tests. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the Aura its highest five-star rating for all seating positions in both frontal and side impact tests. Front-seat side (torso) airbags and side head curtain airbags were standard on all Aura models, in all model years.

2009 Saturn Aura XR4
2009 Saturn Aura XR4
2009 Saturn Aura XR4; photo by Jil McIntosh. Click image to enlarge

According to the Canadian Black Book, used Aura values range from $12,875 for a 2007 XE model to $20,975 for a 2009 XR V6 model with leather and a power sunroof (or $19,775 without those options). I suspect that Saturn’s departure from the marketplace and steep discounts on new models are affecting resale values of newer models: in a little more than a year, that 2009 XR V6 has lost more than $12,000 – or more than a third – of its value compared to its MSRP.

The Aura is a nice-looking, nicely-built, roomy car that’s also quite pleasant to drive, so its low resale values and decent reliability (so far) make it a strong used car value. I’d avoid the hybrid model, though – its extra complexity and potential for pricey out-of-warranty repairs isn’t worth the car’s lacklustre fuel consumption. Used hybrid values fall in between those for XE and XR models.

If fuel efficiency is a priority, look for a regular four-cylinder model, particularly a 2009 model with the six-speed automatic transmission. Note that the 2009 four-cylinder Aura could be had in uplevel XR trim: such a car is worth less than $19,000 (compared to a nearly $28,000 MSRP), while the more basic XE model is worth about $17,000.

Judging a vehicle’s long-term reliability after just three years on the road is a tough prospect, but if the Aura’s reputation thus far holds, a well-maintained model could prove almost as dependable in the long-term as its well-known Asian competitors, for far less money. As always, look for a car that comes with detailed service records, ask for evidence that the common problems mentioned in this article have been addressed and always get a prospective purchase checked by a trusted mechanic.


Black Book Pricing (avg. retail) January, 2010 (values valid as of date of publication):

Price today
Price new
Aura XR four-cylinder
Aura XE V6
Aura XE V6

2007 and 2008 used values include optional power driver’s seat and alloy wheels.

Online resources
  • SaturnFans.com was the only Saturn-centric site with an Aura discussion section busy enough to be worthwhile.

  • Transport Canada Recall Number: 2009076; Units affected: 31,458 (includes other models)

    2009: On certain vehicles, the transmission shift cable adjustment clip may not be fully engaged. Should this occur, the shift lever and the actual position of the transmission gear may not match. As such, the driver could move the shifter to PARK and remove the ignition key, but the transmission gear may not actually be in the PARK position. This could allow the vehicle to roll away, possibly causing property damage and/or personal injury or death. Correction: Dealers will inspect and, if required, replace the shift cable.

    Crash test results
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
  • Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)

    Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.

    For information on recalls, see Transport Canada’s web-site, www.tc.gc.ca, or the U.S. National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA)web-site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

    For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

    For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.

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