'Aura' encourages another look at Saturn

What's that sound from auto row? Your local Saturn dealer might just be trumpeting the arrival of this sedan. The 2007 Aura reaches for a little long-elusive parity with cars from Japan and Europe, and – whoa – it all seems there: the tightness of build, the responsiveness, the design (it's fair game for GM to borrow from its German Opel subsidiary). Even interior quality is good.

Aura – kin to the Pontiac G6 and new Chevy Malibu – feels large for a mid-size, but in all the right ways, with a down-and-away dash and welcoming ergonomics (plus simple touches, including seat-heat switches on the seats themselves). A surging 3.6-liter V6 (in the XR trim model we tested; a smaller powerplant is available and a hybrid is coming soon) is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, with "TAPshift" paddles on the steering wheel for when your inner Corvette driver takes over. Aura delivers on the promise of its "performer" looks, crouched on 18-in. rims. (No spine-jarring low-profile tires, though, thank you.) A twin-tipped exhaust juts from its stern. Aura's cabin is quiet and its trunk is deep. Electronic stability control and antilock brakes come standard.

Optioned to the hilt, our tester listed at under $27,000. We scored 21.5 m.p.g. during a week of driving that included some hard acceleration, creeping commutes, and cold-weather starts. Overall, an American beauty.

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