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SKY PILOT
Spending a little time in Saturn’s hot new roadster

By Bruce W. Smith - Special to GCN

A warm breeze wafted through the cockpit as the twisting road we were driving wound through the valleys and hills, snaking its way past one Napa Valley vineyard after another. Although the country road was narrow and the turns, at times, tight, the drive was pure pleasure.

There’s nothing like driving a quick, smooth rag-top roadster with the top down on a beautiful day. The experience sweetens even more when the car has the head-turning styling and performance of a 2007 Saturn Sky.

Saturn is a GM brand that, for all intents and purposes, has been relatively invisible when it comes to making statements in design and performance.

But all that has changed. The company has suddenly taken center stage, introducing four brand new vehicles for 2007. The two-seat Sky rag-top is the most eye-catching of all—and it’s sure to put a bite on Mazda MX5 sales.   

With dynamic design and quick, agile performance, the Sky roadster, which will retail for $23,690 for the 2.4L, 177hp, 5-speed manual version, delivers a bold message about the next generation of vehicles from Saturn.

The Sky, which will be showing up at dealers any day, is the first Saturn to feature the brand’s European-influenced design, which will carry forward to future products.

As we build on our reputation for great customer care, Saturn is introducing a bold new design and level of refinement with Sky,” says Saturn General Manager Jill Lajdziak. “The Sky represents the future of the Saturn brand.”

The Sky is an all-new vehicle that shares the same underpinnings as the new Pontiac Solstice. Both are built on GM’s new global rear-wheel drive compact performance platform in both manual and 5-speed automatic ($24,540) versions.

HEAVENLY BODY

Sky has a unique body and interior not shared by the Solstice. The suspension is also tuned differently, giving the Sky a slightly softer, but no less agile and stable feel. It carves corners like it was born for twisting country roads, putting both driver and passenger totally at ease.

Those around take note as well; the Sky’s  aggressive, edgy and sharp lines gives it a distinctly European look and commanding road presence noticed by all.

Aside from the cool body, the Sky features 18x8-inch five-spoke aluminum wheels, Goodyear Eagle RSA P245/45R18 96V, high-performance all-season tires with a large, wide sport appearance and aggressive tread pattern that enhances the stance of the car.

The combination offers excellent all-season performance, excellent longitudinal grip that contributes to best-in-class stopping distance (60-0 mph in 116 feet) and road gripping ability with a maximum lateral acceleration of approximately 0.90g. Chrome five-spoke wheels are available.

It gets down the road like it looks, too. It is equipped with a 2.4L, 177-horsepower DOHC Ecotec engine with variable valve timing. EPA fuel mileage is rated at 20/28 for the manual model, 22/26 for the automatic.

As mentioned earlier, the base Sky comes with a short-throw five-speed Aisin manual transmission or 5-speed automatic.

We loved the manual version; the Aisin five-speed, which is also found in the GM Colorado/Canyon pickups, takes little more than a flick of the wrist to change gears. The gates are precise and shifts velvet smooth.

Sky roadsters also feature electronic throttle control (ETC) for remarkably precise engine control response.

In fact, the new Sky feels that way in all aspects. This is a car purpose-built to be a sporty roadster.

“The Sky’s performance pays off on its dynamic design,” said Tom Wallace, vehicle line executive for GM performance cars. “We carefully selected the powertrain, suspension and handling components to provide agile, yet refined, performance.”

INTERIOR REFLECTIONS

At first glance one would think the cockpit would be too small to be comfortable. Not s. The seat design and interior layout offers a surprising amount of long-distance comfort for those with long legs or short.

There’s no door sill to slide over, so entry and exit, even with the top up, is very easy. The center console is at the perfect height to rest one’s arm while keeping a hand on the shift lever.

Those into automatics will find similar comfort. The automatic can be shifted manually or left in the auto mode. It responds quickly to shift changes, so there’s still plenty of “sport” in the driving if you are in the mood.

Storage space is the only downside to the Sky. The roadster is small and the trunk even smaller. There’s just enough space inside to throw a small overnight bag and a couple jackets. Nothing more.

But who needs luggage when it’s the driving experience that brings the smiles. Top down or top up, the new Saturn Sky is a delight to drive.

Oh, and just in case you like a little more muscle in your roadster, the turbocharged Saturn Sky Redline will be forthcoming this fall. Under its hood is a 260hp turbocharged Ecotech four-cylinder that is said to hit 0-60mph in less than six seconds.

Driving that would definitely make you a Sky Pilot.—Bruce W. Smith / GCN

SATURN SKY SPECIFICATIONS

Overview

Models: Saturn Sky, Sky Red Line
Body style / driveline: 2-passenger, 2-door roadster; front-engine, rear-wheel drive
Construction: lower dominant, integral hydroformed tube and stamped steel body structure with enclosed central tunnel
EPA vehicle class: two-seater
Manufacturing location: Wilmington, Del.
Key competitors: Mazda MX5, Honda S2000

Engine

 

2.4L Ecotec (LE5) 2.0L Ecotec Turbo (LNF)
Type: 2.4L DOHC I-4 2.0L DOHC I-4
Displacement (cu in / cc): 145 / 2384 122 / 1998
Bore & stroke (in / mm): 3.46 x 3.86 / 88 x 98 3.39 x 3.39 / 86 x 86
Block material: cast aluminum cast aluminum
Cylinder head material: cast aluminum cast aluminum
Valvetrain: dual continuous variable valve timing. Overhead camshafts, 4 valves per cylinder – intake and exhaust dual continuous variable valve timing. Overhead camshafts, 4 valves per cylinder – intake and exhaust
Ignition system: individual coil on plug individual coil on plug
Fuel delivery: sequential multi-port fuel injection with high-pressure injectors and electronic throttle control direct injection with a variable high-pressure rail and electronic throttle control
Compression ratio: 10.4:1 9.2:1
Horsepower (hp / kw @ rpm): 177 / 132 @ 6600 260 / 194 @ 5300
Torque (lb-ft / Nm @ rpm): 166 / 225 @ 4800 260 / 353 @ 2500 – 5200 rpm
Recommended fuel: premium recommended but not required premium recommended but not required
Max engine speed (fuel cut-off): 7000 rpm 6300 rpm
Emissions controls: close-coupled catalytic converter; Quick-Sync 58x ignition system; returnless fuel rail; fast-response O2 sensor close-coupled catalytic converter; Quick-Sync 58x ignition system; returnless fuel rail; wide range O2 sensor
Estimated fuel economy (mpg city / hwy / combined): 20 / 28 / 24  manual

22 / 26 / 24 automatic

21 / 30 / 24 manual

19 / 27 / 22 automatic

     

Transmission

Type: 5-spd manual (MA5) 5L40-E 5-spd automatic
Gear ratios: (:1):

 

 

First: 3.75 3.42
Second: 2.26 2.21
Third: 1.37 1.60
Fourth: 1.00 1.00
Fifth: 0.73 0.75
Reverse: 3.67 3.02
Final drive ratio: 3.91:1 (LE5) / 3.73 (LNF) 3.91:1 (LE5) / 3.73 (LNF)

Chassis/Suspension

  Sky Sky Red Line
Front: independent short/long arm, with 27.2 mm hollow stabilizer bar independent short/long arm, with 33.3 mm hollow stabilizer bar; unique Red Line coil springs
Rear: independent short/long arm, with 24.2 mm stabilizer bar independent short/long arm, with 25.4 mm hollow stabilizer bar; unique Red Line coil springs
Steering type: hydraulic power rack-and-pinion
Steering ratio: 16.4:1
Steering wheel turns, lock-to-lock: 2.7
Turning circle, curb-to-curb (ft / m): 34.9 / 10.6

Brakes

  Sky Sky Red Line
Type: four-wheel disc, ABS with dynamic rear proportioning four-wheel disc, ABS with dynamic rear proportioning and Electronic Stability Control (ESC)
Rotor diameter x thickness (in / mm): front: 11.7 x 1 / 297 x 25; vented

 

rear: 10.9 x 0.5 / 277 x 13; solid
Swept area (sq in / sq cm): front: 243 / 1570

 

rear: 189 / 1221

Wheels/Tires

  Sky Sky Red Line
Wheel size and type: 18-inch x 8-inch five-spoke flangeless painted alloy (chrome finish optional) 18-inch x 8-inch five-spoke flangeless polished aluminum alloy (chrome finish optional)
Tires: P245/45R18 Goodyear Eagle RSA 96V P245/45R18 Goodyear Eagle F1 GS2 96W
Max lateral acceleration (skidpad): 0.90g 0.90g

Dimensions

Exterior

 

 

Wheelbase (in / mm): 95.1 / 2415
Overall length (in / mm): 161.1 / 4091
Overall width (in / mm): 71.4 / 1813
Overall height (in / mm): 50.1 / 1273
Track (in / mm): front: 60.7 / 1543

 

rear: 61.4 / 1560
Estimated curb weight, base (lb / kg): Sky:
2933 / 1330 man
2963 / 1344 auto
Sky Red Line:
2990 / 1356 man
3024 / 1372 auto
Weight distribution (front / rear): approx. 52 / 48

Interior

 

 

Seating capacity: 2
Headroom (in / mm): 38.4 / 975
Legroom (in / mm): 42.7 / 1085
Shoulder room (in / mm): 52.7 / 1339
Hip room (in / mm): 50.6 / 1284

Capacities

EPA interior volume (cu ft / L): 54 / 1529
Passenger volume (cu ft / L): 50 / 1416
Cargo volume (cu ft / L): 5.4 / 153 (top up); 2.0 / 56.6 (top down)
Fuel tank (gal / L): 13.6 / 51.5
Engine oil (qt / L): Sky: 5 / 4.7 Sky Red Line: 5 / 4.7
Cooling system (qt / L): Sky: 7.9 / 7.5 Sky Red Line: 7.9 / 7.5

Performance

(estimated, when equipped with manual transmission)

 

  Sky Sky Red Line
IVM - 60 mph (sec) 7.2  5.5
IVM – ¼ mile (sec) 15.7 13.9
IVM – ¼ mile (mph) 89 100

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