The 2008 Saturn AURA XR is my first new American / GM vehicle after 30 years of Honda ownership and this AURA rides one heck of a lot smoother and quieter than any Honda Accord we've owned. I missed that oft-associated-with-big-American-car quiet and smooth ride and AURA delivered what I had hoped it would in a much more compact vehicle than our 70's "land yachts" such as the Chevy Caprice or Pontiac Bonneville. Based on my current experience with the Saturn AURA XR, I'm near-certain our next new vehicle will also be an American made GM (Chevrolet Impala or Buick Regal).
Incredibly attractive. The 6 Cylinder XR with the chrome door handles and side molding gives the AURA a real touch of class. Sporty body styling without being too overt.
I find the interior very nice. Most magazine reviews criticize the interior for its "hard plastic" surfaces. I would strongly agree. A couple of my friends own Acura's and their entire dashboard is made of hard plastic. The AURA's is much nicer and soft to the touch. There's no comparison between the two. The only gripes I've got about the interior is that there's no armrest for the rear seat passengers, no handles for the passengers to grab onto and no locking glove box.
Plenty of power and very quiet, smooth ride. Shifts smoothly and no hunting for gears. The V6 is incredibly quick during acceleration.
Excellent safey features and high safety rating by NHTSA. Outstanding.
When I visited a Saturn dealership two years prior to purchasing my AURA XR, I knew right then and there that IF I purchased the AURA, it would be the Ocean Mist color. No regrets on my choice. When it's clean, the metallic paint gleams in direct sunlight and appears to have different hues to it.
The color choices for the AURA were ok. However, GM's color offerings for Chevrolet and Buicks have been and continue to be extremely disappointing. Usually the offer 2 different shades of white, red and black. C'mon GM - how about giving every potential buyer a break!
Reliability & durability
I believe it comes down to how well owners maintain their AURA. Get the niggly things taken care of by the dealer under warranty as soon as they pop up. Do routine maintenance and, overall, the AURA should do very well. After 5 years of AURA ownership, I feel more confident that the AURA will hold up equally as well as our 3 Hondas have over the past 30 years.
My fuel economy stinks. I drive pretty much local roads in a heavily congested suburban / metropolitan area. I haven't broken the 20 mpg barrier in 5 years of owning this car. Then again, it's a V6. it's going to be somewhat more thirsty than my old Honda 4 banger. Highway mileage on a trip to NC was outstanding. 33+ mpg on a 600+ mile trip at avg. speed of 65 mph.
Super quiet as it has laminated glass.
Brand reputation & image
This is the first GM vehicle I've purchased in 30 years. My previous GM's weren't all that reliable but the Saturn AURA just blew me away. it is everything I had hoped for in an American-made GM vehicle. Ride smoothness, quietness, quick accerlation, interior, all met my hopes. Based on my experience with this vehicle and my newer GM vehicle, I'm relatively certain I'm going to stay with GM vs. any of the European or Japanese imports.
Controls and instruments
Everything laid out logically and, generally, easy to read. Night "accent" lighting is nice but GM could've really done something about the amber lighting for it's radio and instrument display. My parents 80's Chevy had this same amber lighting and everytime the sun hits it, you can't read any of the displays.
Price or payments
I received a GREAT deal on my AURA XR as I purchased it during GM's "employee price" sale. I saved ~$5k on my model vs. what it would've run without the sale pricing or the new model year.