2007 Saturn Aura XE 3.5L pushrod VVT LZE from North America
The Saturn Aura commands total dedication of your time and finances
Connectors on the trunk release switch corroded & soon it quit working, trapping my tools inside. I have spare tools. Then I found out the seatbacks are supposed to fold but the release straps fall into the trunk when shutting. Typical mediocre GM engineering.
Wiring looms crumble into dust if touched. I attribute this to intentional degradation of material quality because this is not the case on old Riviera/Lesabre/ParkAv/88/98/Toronado cars from the same climate.
While refurbishing brittle interior paneling I discovered a lame aftermarket remote gizmo & ripped it. It was draining the battery for the previous owner. Factory security system started to work for a little while: when all doors were power-locked and shut, it would flash the turn signals after 2sec (then it quit).
Heater fan mainline frayed at the bolted BCM connector (3rd up from lower-right corner), flowing out of contact & Resulting in intermittent HVAC control panel. I scratched the melted connector a bit with a small flat-blade and twisted the BCM lead with needle nose. Re-bolted very even & flat, works good now.
Immediately thereafter driver's PW stopped working. Guess why: driver's is on a separate fuse labeled "sunroof", even though it does not have a sunroof. I want to strangle GM's marketing dept. with my dirty hands.
Exhaust long flex pipe previously replaced, forward joint cracked again. I patched the short flex pipe with stainless wrap-clamp.
Wheel bearings are worn out & hub assemblies need replacing. Previous owner replaced 1 + rear coil springs(??) and has had enough expenses.
Using the rear window defroster knocks out FM radio reception.
RF door jamb switch failed resulting in "ajar" message and interior lights. I removed the door panel and removed the signaling wire from the latch plug, grey/white if I remember correctly. Replaced the rotten loudspeaker at the same time.
This car was designed by GM's german discount division Opel as "Epsilon-2" a.k.a Insignia and built state-side from a multitude of german and north american parts. It shares the chassis with G6 and Malibu and all 3 should be considered as option packages of the same car. Saturn is only a marque here and not a producer.
Mine had the glossy "techno gray" color that matched the shape of the body rather well.
Mine came with an aftermarket alum. radiator that leaked due to cheap Chinese aluminum alloy losing tension upon the hot side tank (it is cross-flow). Replaced with OEM rad from junkyard G6 that looked straight and dry. Replaced lower coolant hose (hot) at the same time just because it's impossible to get at with radiator & stuff all jammed into place. This took a total of 5 hours because it is installed in front of the radiator support and the front bumper cover/grille has to come off. It was fairly easy overall, but with many procedural steps to dismantle the front of the car. To save time I cut GM plastic clips with wiring snips and replaced them with reusable Japanese clips from my stash. Broke some rusty bolts and left out silly plastic "skid plates" in the process. They didn't cover wiring on the bottom(!) of oil pan anyway.
Corrected previous radiator swapper's mis-routed wiring, displaced fans and AC condenser, and the hood cable.
Important: use only water pumps with OEM-style hydrodynamic cast impeller, commonly sold as "remanufactured" with 1 year warranty. "New" aftermarket pumps have a steel paddle wheel impeller, which doesn't pump enough through the heater at idle speed and hydro-stalls at high RPM, potentially overheating your engine during a race.
For a modern car this new, it sure has a lot of corrosion on both exterior and interior metals. In industry-wide trends it is not normal to have rusted bolts on 1980-1990s euro.vehicles, but after GM & Ford acquisitions, by the turn of the century they went backwards to cheap carbon-steel bolts and aluminum connectors instead of laton alloys, for max. profitability and low quality. I replaced the rusty fasteners with stainless steel during repairs. Bad electronics I crushed with a hammer to make sure that homeless scavengers aren't tempted to reuse them.
Body control module (BCM) sure eats trunk switches in this car & I've been replacing them with $1 junkyard parts. Like on every new model since Y2K, everything is designed to be non-serviceable. To fix the trunk switch I broke the thin plastic sleeve that holds it to the door panel. I installed a rubber grommet in the hole and forced the replacement switch into the rubber grommet. It looks like it should have come that way from the factory.
Parts discontinued over a decade ago with dissolution of Saturn marketing dept. GM can't be bothered with importing Insignia body parts from Europe. It was meant to be a single-use disposable car, but in the past these Chevrolet pushrod V6s lasted 300k miles (excluding SFI versions). These new versions (LZE, VIN N) were made in China with narrower timing chains, so longevity remains to be proven.
Unplugged the Onstar fuse for a good measure. Onstar module is worth some money to radio hams on eBay because it's a GPS-capable radio transceiver. These devices will be invaluable to humankind after the atomic Judgment Day, so rip it and sell it.
Did you know that the steering column has both tilt and telescoping adjustments? Both controlled by the same lever. Telescope has a sticky-plasticky action so you may have to yank it fore & back a couple of times to loosen. Steering wheel is bigger than on my previous cars, which I like. Safer to drive with one hand.
Installed several junkyard parts thereby achieving magical cerebral atonement. Replaced the missing fuel flap keeper with one from a Nissan Murano - same rectangular hole, just trim the pin ~2mm to match the aerodynamic contour. This is the toggle for the fuel cap's door. Otherwise it was impossible to open without a screwdriver. On the Aura option package it's push to open, push to close, whereas Malibu and G6 had a traditional finger recess.
I was able to do all repairs on the street with a downsized tool set. Much simpler than any Nissans I've owned, though not as serviceable as Chevy Tracker/Suzuki Vitara & Tercel SR5.
Quality of rubber hoses improved compared to 1980s GMs while the protective wiring looms became very brittle.
oDD: transmission cooler is in the hot tank of radiator on the right side, with trans cooler lines running the long way across from the left side. That's an example of design by marketing dept. instead of engineering. Main option package for this car was the Malibu, which comprised about 3/4 of sales, so the premium option packages the G6 & Aura had to utilize as many Malibu components as possible. Malibu option package included a simplified 3.5 V6 without VVT, with conventional bottom-up cooling flow through intake to thermo outlet on upper-left, flowing through radiator left to right. So in the Malibu the trans cooler was in the correct "cool" right tank, which is better for the transaxle. But it was much cheaper to use the same rad and cooler lines without modification in the premium option packages. Coolant flow in 3.5 VVT engines is top-down, which is better for engine's longevity, with thermo outlet on lower-right going to the right rad. tank containing the trans. cooler. They saved significant profits by optimizing for most common production parts rather than engineering perfection.
There's no transaxle dipstick on 4T40e. Instead you have to loosen the oil pan to drain oil from the right end, then fill a precise amount through a small oil cap, and figure it's as close to full as it gets. You have to use a tall funnel with a long slim spout because there's a web of hoses in the way.
Suspension is stiff like on S-Saturns. You better steer around potholes in the city and broken concrete on the freeway. Very jarring ride. Rear suspension produced a mystery clunk going over sharp bumps. I checked all the bushings, links, and shocks but everything was good.
Front seats are comfortable.
Outward visibility is poor. Huge blind spots all around. Roof pillars are like small tree trunks and can block out a family of pedestrians, almost causing you to go GTA. I crane my neck and look around continuously. Ingress/egress is difficult. Roof line rolls down really low over the door, necessitating you to compress your spine to get out. Typical sadistic german quirk. All my previous Nissans had that problem too: Qx4, Murano, Quest. Perhaps because since the 1960s Nissan tended to copy german designs.
Door windows are narrow, making it difficult to reach drive-through terminals. My previous Chevy Tracker was much safer overall than all of the above.
Got rid of de-laminated Onstar rearview mirror that blocked 1/3 of the view and replaced it with older Buick slim mirror 'cos those have the best-quality glass in my experience. Did that a lot previously on Chryslers with dull mirrors, same mounting tab.
Acceleration is impressive and is the best highlight of this model. The engine is quiet and optimized for max.torque between 1500-4000 RPM, but is capable of brisk over-rev to 5000. Cruising on the highway it spins at or below 2k. It is particularly quick when passing on the highway. At 40-45 MPH if I floored the accelerator it would downshift all the way to 2nd and spin the left wheel across lanes. That's unheard of in FWD. It has a very satisfying pull off the line, but WOT VVT mode is yet another level of power. Averaged 24MPG with mostly docile highway driving.
Factory 17" steel wheels were ridiculously massive, heavier than on my previous Nissan SUVs. You would save fuel and gain performance & a little comfort by swapping to 16" alloys with thicker tires off of a Pontiac G6.
On the other hand the road noise is loud due to unibody structure and those flat-profile 17" tires. My previous full-frame Chevy Tracker rode much quieter due to extra layer of rubber bushings between the frame & body, which I highly recommend. Unfortunately, Discount Tire corporation destroyed my Chev. Tracker and wouldn't pay for damage.
If you specifically must have a mid-size sedan then go with 1988-2001 Camry 4 cyl, it's by far the best car ever made. 1998-2005 VW Passat is also very comfortable and almost as reliable as Camry, but costs 1/2 to buy, same as Aura but better.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 5th March, 2022
11th Mar 2022, 09:51
Doesn't sound great, but the car is 15 years old.
12th Mar 2022, 16:01
This is an excellent review. We have this car in the UK as the Vauxhall Vectra, later called Insignia from 2009 onward. I think Buick in the USA make the more modern version of this car for you guys now.
Anyways, wherever you are in the world, it's a pretty average car. Decent to look at and drive, and reliability is average at best, but quality wise as the reviewer points out, this car is bad, just feels so cheap and nasty even sitting inside it, I only bought mine (a 2006 Vectra) as a cheap car to daily drive. Reliable enough, but cosmetically looking awful now, and not worth repairing, they have little to no value. You could say that about a lot of 15 year old cars, but at least others might still be worth repairing and are ultimately better cars, even from Ford's from this time period. GM need to stop cost cutting on part quality, it cannot be profitable if everyone knows they do it.
13th Mar 2022, 03:47
Solid, in-depth review - thank you for the detail :)