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.
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.”
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
(estimated, when equipped with manual transmission)