Saturn Aura XE or XR I-4 with the new 6-speed Auto

Discussion in 'Website news & discussions' started by xcel, Sep 5, 2008.

  1. xcel

    xcel PZEV, there's nothing like it :) Staff Member

    Saturn Aura XE or XR I-4 with the new 6-speed Auto

    Hi All:

    ___I just got off the phone with a GM rep in Chicago and although there are no XFe Cobalt’s and G5’s available in the area just yet, a Saturn Aura XE or XR w/ the 2.4L I4 and new 6-speed auto will be available for the week of Oct. third through the seventh. This will be our first full-review of the latest generation GM product and given the new Malibu/Aura underpinnings, upgraded interior, the latest generation 2.4L Ecotec and the brand new tall geared (and FAS’able ;)) 6-speed Auto, this could make for a very interesting write-up.

    ___A peek at the Aura XR.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    ___Good Luck

    ___Wayne
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2008
  2. MaxxMPG

    MaxxMPG Hasta Lavista AAA-Vee Von't Be Bach

    Go get em! The Epsilons are heavy, but they're low-drag and tall-geared (final drive, that is). So EPA on the '09 Malibu/G6/Aura 2.4L 6sp is 22/33 - respectable for the size/weight/technology. The Hybrid (Malibu/Aura) steps it up to 26/34. The extra MPG on the highway is likely the result of the Hybrid version using the VVT to tamper with the intake valve timing to Atkinson-ize the engine at highway speeds. The 4mpg difference around town shows not only that these cars are heavy, but that the auto-stop and the minor assist of the BAS makes for a good 18% boost in FE. Now prove me right by applying FAS where A/S is done on the hybrid. :)
     
  3. xcel

    xcel PZEV, there's nothing like it :) Staff Member

    Hi MaxxMPG:

    ___On my ride back from the Vid store tonight, I stopped by the Saturn dealer down the road and had a good look over the exterior of the 09 I-4 equipped Aura XE with the new 6-speed Auto. There was an 08 Aura Hybrid w/ the 4-speed auto sitting right next to it with just one more mpg combined. That one is a lot mat for some time to come unfortunately.

    ___The Firestone’s the 6-speed came with were a little odd as they had 40 psi max sidewall’s? I do not remember seeing that rating before but whatever… I will try and do a spec page up on the Aura maybe tomorrow.

    ___As far as BAS is concerned, I never thought of it as anything more than a $1,795 key turner and with the new 6-speeds capability, it definitely will be a highway car. I just hope those Firestone’s will let her roll like the Accord ;)

    ___Good Luck

    ___Wayne
     
  4. MaxxMPG

    MaxxMPG Hasta Lavista AAA-Vee Von't Be Bach

    Those Firestones may be the FR10. When I found the 2009 model BAS cars had an increase in EPA up to 26/34, I went to tirerack.com and checked the OEM tire fitment. It's a good way to unofficially find LRR tires - If the manufacturers choose them, they are usually the best compromise of low price and low rolling resistance. The '09 Malibu Hybrid lists the FR10 as the OEM tire.

    Interesting also is that they fitted the hybrid with 215-55-17 tires, while my Maxx has 225-50-17 OEM. When my wife's Maxx needed tires, I bought a set of Yokos in size 215-55-17 - narrower and slightly taller, to improve FE. With 789revs/mile, compared to the OEM tire's 803revs/mile, the wife is able to drive 101.77 miles for every 100 miles on the odometer. Strangely, when I ordered those 215-55's from Tirerack, they called me and told me they usually don't recommend "such an aggressive fitment". I'm not sure what that means, other than a possible reference to the half inch larger outer diameter. But our snow tires are the same outer diameter, so I knew they'd fit. And they do. And the narrower/taller tire added about .5mpg on the highway, too.

    The BAS costs $1795 but still comes with the $1500 tax credit, so it's a wash in terms of cost, unless you're financing that extra $1795 cost at a high rate for a long time, where interest makes that initial cost steeper. It's no "hybrid" in that it's just a simple motor/generator that lets the car shut down when stopped. In that sense, it is an interesting auto-stop feature, and similar to what more automakers are rolling out in the near future.

    My take on the BAS? For people who cannot or will not shut down at long traffic lights or railroad crossings, it's a great way to bump the around town FE, as the car shuts down for you. For hypermilers, we wouldn't notice much difference, since we're already shutting down with the key instead of the computer shutting it down automatically.

    Some interesting numbers I worked up:
    First, links to the data used:
    Hybrid 4T45E - http://media.gm.com/us/powertrain/e...ansmissions/2009 Automatics/09_4T45_ME7_n.xls
    Stock 6L40E - http://media.gm.com/us/powertrain/e...ansmissions/2009 Automatics/09_6T40_MH8_n.xls

    For the calculation, I'll use a base 790 revs/mile for the average 215-55-17 tire (as quoted in tire manufacturer's databases). Revs/mile multiplies cleanly to engine rpm at 60mph. For those of us who drive at 45mph, multiply those revs by 0.75.

    Hybrid - 0.68:1 4th gear, 3.05:1 final drive: 790 x 0.68 x 3.05 = 1638rpm @ 60mph
    6speed - 0.75:1 6th gear, 2.89:1 final drive: 790 x 0.75 x 2.89 = 1712rpm @ 60mph

    Interesting! The 6 speed revs a bit higher than the 4 speed. Note that the first gear in the 4speed is the same as second gear in the 6 speed.
    The 6 speed has an ultra-low first that will redline the engine at just under 35mph. 3 and 4 in the 4sp are about the same as 5 and 6 in the 6sp. So the 6speed is geared as:
    0 - 1 - low2 - high2 - 3 - 4
    ...where "0" is lower than first (55%, numerically speaking) and is apparently used for doing wheelies.

    For Christmas, maybe we can ask Santa for our own version of the 6L40E with a 2.56:1 final drive, which would allow 1138rpm at 45mph?
     
  5. xcel

    xcel PZEV, there's nothing like it :) Staff Member

    Hi MaxxMPG:

    ___Forget the AFV tax credit as there are few that receive it due to AMT.

    ___I do like the low revs at 60 mph (below my Accord and the AH even!) and will verify the calc’s for the spec sheet thread as well. The main item I like about this new 6-speed AT was a Ford doc that stated it was flat towable. That is the only reason it is on my request list.

    ___Good Luck

    ___Wayne
     
  6. sailordave

    sailordave Well-Known Member

    We talked my mom into getting the Saturn Aura which, at the time, didn't have a 4 cylinder. She's getting much better fuel economy now than when she was driving the van. They, my parents, now use the car to go to the casino and go on trips. The seats are comfortable, it takes the corners well for a car so big and heavy, and it's stylish. We're trying to convince my dad to drive it to and from work instead of the van. Oh well, at least the van gets a bit better mpg than the 1994 S-10 Blazer he was driving before. The EPA rating was nearly the same as the van but the age of the Blazer made the numbers much worse. We're still working on getting him to give up the van for a small commuter car.
     
  7. aca2983

    aca2983 Well-Known Member

    ever since it came out, i really liked the "Moroccan Brown" leather seats in the Aura. I get so tired of gray.

    p.s. try google chrome. i'm likin' it.
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2008
  8. xcel

    xcel PZEV, there's nothing like it :) Staff Member

    Hi All:

    ___I had a chance to speak with an almost year old Aura owner at church this morning. He had nothing but praise and especially liked its quiet interior. Not much else but you could tell he is glad he made that purchase.

    2009 Saturn Aura Specifications

    ___Good Luck

    ___Wayne
     
  9. xcel

    xcel PZEV, there's nothing like it :) Staff Member

    Hi All:

    ___Had the chance to take it for a drive this evening with interesting results... 47.7 per the SG-II and 44.1 per the OEM aFCD for a 13 mile drive. Paddle shifters are only for 1st through 5th and to force 6th, 49 mph or more is needed. She does a little less than the Accord at 50 - 53 mph but at 35 mph, it appears she may be holding onto 55 to 60 mpg. The Accord won't touch that. Any city and she tanks just like any mid-size w/ an AT.

    ___This XR has the exact interior as pictured above. The black plastic pieces are not up to Honda's interior but the plastic wood grain is tasteful Armrest is a cheap POS however.

    ___I cannot wait to do some highway speed tests tomorrow. Temps are in the high 50's/low 60's so it is not optimum but good enough for now.

    ___Good Luck

    ___Wayne
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 3, 2008
  10. xcel

    xcel PZEV, there's nothing like it :) Staff Member

    Hi All:

    ___Second drive back home was not as fun :( 40.5 via aFCD and 43.7 via SG-II… FAS'ing works fine as the aFCD freezes but updates on the next start. There are periods when the AT reengages slowly but I seem to have found the rhythm and did not feel it on the drive home. Tomorrow we will get some real numbers. Steering is very heavy under a FAS but it handles extremely well. Pulled an empty parking lot corner at 35 + and there was not even a hint of over/under steer or slip. Glides well too but sucks down a lot of fuel during any accelerations.

    2009 Saturn Aura XR – Minutes after it arrived.

    [​IMG][​IMG]
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    Basic iFCD---------------------------------------------------------------------Basic aFCD
    [​IMG]

    ___Good Luck

    ___Wayne
     
  11. Right Lane Cruiser

    Right Lane Cruiser Penguin of Notagascar

    Pretty nice! Is this one of those dual clutched transmissions? If not, what are the flat tow restrictions?
     
  12. phoebeisis

    phoebeisis Well-Known Member

    Maxxmpg/Wayne,

    1600 AND 1700 RPMs at 60 mph- it this with a 4 cyl?? I've never heard of any 4 cyl turning so few RPMs(except the Prius of course)!!My5.7 V-8 Chevy turns 1725 at 60 mph. I always wondered how it would do with taller gearing. I noticed that GMs new "XFE type" pickups have tall -3.07 I think- rear ends instead of the usual 3.7 or so.
    I wonder if they added flywheel weight/diameter? If not, then these 4 cyl were always capable of turning these low RPMs without lugging.I've always been curious just how few RPMs a 4 cyl could turn at 60 mph(while pushing a 3400 lb car) without lugging; guess we know now.I wonder if Honda will gear up some of its 4 cyl? Honda is so proud of its revvy little 4's; it makes it tough for them to turn out appliances . They could certainly give us 6 speeds with a big jump to 6th gear.;5 closed spaced gears, and 6th with double spacing.

    In the late 70's early 80's tall gearing(high 2's frequently) was the first trick the BIG 3 added to improve FE in 1/2 tons.

    GM is finally getting smart . With the crummy economy there is zero chance any car manufacturer will attempt to backtrack on FE. Even $2 gas wouldn't allow them to sell many 25 gallon/wk vehicles, and with $3.50 gas ($90 week for a guzzler) is waaaaay out of the question.
    Thanks,
    Charlie
     
  13. xcel

    xcel PZEV, there's nothing like it :) Staff Member

    Hi Sean:

    ___Flat tow capable up to 65 mph but this is a std. 6-speed that both GM and Ford developed together. GM did a really nice job with it too!

    ___Charlie, I think GM was playing with the ICE tuning as there is no loafing. Even while accelerating form a steady state 6th gear cruise. She drops down on a whim however so you have to be careful on the accelerator pedal. I will watch ignition timing a bit more but the Aura/Malibu will run a touch over 1,500 at 60 and it does so amazingly smooth. The Accord is pushing a touch over 2,000 R’s at that point but the Aura feels really smooth up there. I have to head out after some news items are posted and will get a better feel for it but right now, I love this low RPM highway thing going on with this 4-banger just as I do with the Prius and HCHC-II and their really small and detuned 4-bangers :D

    ___Good Luck

    ___Wayne
     
  14. MaxxMPG

    MaxxMPG Hasta Lavista AAA-Vee Von't Be Bach

    What makes the low-rpm cruising possible is the 6 speed, although to be fair, they can gear a 4 speed for low highway revs but the wide ratios lead to wider ranges of rpms during high throttle launches.
    As Wayne noted, it will drop out of 6th any time you sneeze. To be fair, though, it is adaptive and it can learn to hang onto 6th a bit longer. GM learned a lesson on the Lambda crossovers, having spent the last two years fiddling with the shift algorithms to address complaints of delayed downshifting. Aiming for best FE, they originally programmed it to hang onto 6th with the claws out and a kung-fu grip. People didn't like it. So with the light-duty variant of the Lambda's 6AT in these sedans, they make it more willing to kick down a notch to keep the engine from churning. With half a dozen ratios to choose from, and clutch-to-clutch smoothness, most people don't realize it's shifting. You have to watch the tach to see what's going on.

    Even though it's a 4cyl, remember it is a 2.4, which is a big Four. And with VVT, the valve timing can be tweaked while underway to do the almost-Atkinson trick like the hybrids, and to optimize torque output for the given engine speed. And with the electronic throttle, the computer can shift the transaxle even as the engine speed begins to climb, so downshifts are available on demand but the computer has other options to maximize engine load in the current gear.

    With my 3.5L V6 and 4AT in the same platform (size/weight but 10% more drag), I'm hitting low 40s at a steady highway speed (1500rpm at 50mph), so I am thinking that these sleeker 2.4L 6ATs should be good for upper 40s on the open road without too much effort.
     
  15. phoebeisis

    phoebeisis Well-Known Member

    MAXX/WAYNE - Wow, 1600-1700 RPMs at 60 mph with a 4 cyl in a 3400 lbs "full sized" car.Yeah, not EPA full sized , but a biggish car that can honestly carry 5 USA sized adults. I can carry 5 adults in the Prius, but they had better be 135 lbs females.

    What will it get doing 60 mph ,level highway with the cruise control set? 38-40 mpg maybe?

    I'm happy GM is finally getting smart. With the crummy economy folks aren't going to be interested in guzzlers, not with gasoline unlikely to go under $2.50.

    Thanks,
    Charlie
     
  16. xcel

    xcel PZEV, there's nothing like it :) Staff Member

    Hi Charlie:

    ___I have been trying to get away from the darn keyboard all day but still have some more News items to attend to. When I finally get out, you will have the steady state numbers ;)

    ___Good Luck

    ___Wayne
     
  17. xcel

    xcel PZEV, there's nothing like it :) Staff Member

    Hi All:

    ___Some good and some bad… Topped off and went out with the wife for a long overdue Saturday of errands. We drove out to Lake Geneva, WI to do some window shopping but it was to crowded. Turned back and stopped at a fancy bar/restaurant, stopped at an apple/pumpkin stand, stopped at a Nursery, stopped at a large grocery store in Kenosha, WI (Woodman’s) and drove home. 84 miles in total and only 44.2 mpg on the OEM aFCD/49.0 on the uncalibrated SG-II.

    Column1Column2Column3Column4Column5Column6Column7
    DateOdometerTrip A (miles)OEM aFCD (mpgUS)SG-II aFCD (mpgUS)SG-II Tank FE (mpgUS)Notes
    Oct. 4, 20083,547 (Start)8444.249.049.057 to 59 degrees F and rain. First drive from tank top off.
    Oct. 6, 20083,631 (Start)13743.748.247.554 to 61 degrees F.

    General Commments

    Although the interior looks nice, the black plastic is typical “Old School” GM. Not quite the Camry and Accord but a lot closer. Bezels and plastic wood grain look great but the hard back plastic feels out of place in a mid-sized sedan with some upscale amenities.

    The Armrest/storage is a bit of a mess. The armrest itself slides forward and has a reasonably soft cover so they got that one right but the clips to open the top and bottom compartments are already FUBAR. In a vehicle with a little over 3,500 miles, this is out of place.

    Sun rood sunshade. When pulled back, it rattles :( In all other positions it is fine but when fully opened, it will drive you crazy. Sun roof when in its cracked open position howls too.

    Mirror adjustment is on a small switch pod mounted on the A-Pillar. Way to far to reach.

    No gas door lever. The gas door flush mounts but you simply push in to open the release and push close to latch it. It works very smoothly.

    This one was truly an eye opener and thank you GM!!! When you fill up, her first click away is only .3 gallons from topped off. No more of this 5 minutes to top off to get close to a real accurate fill as with the Honda’s and Toyota’s we are all familiar with! How did they get this so right even though some of us love the extra 2 to 4 gallons on our fills :)

    The paddle shifters in Manual do not allow up shifts when you would like, only downshifts and even those are programmed to minimize revs to less than 4K. Probably a good thing but no upshift control like I would like.

    When moving to Manual control of the 6-speed, all the FCD info is gone. You have your gear selections M1 through M5 shown (I have not seen M6 yet???)

    You must reach 49 mph for 6th to lock in. Once below 46 mph, it drops out and you will have to reaccelerate back up to 49 to get it back :(

    It appears 50 mpg at 50 mph is available similar to the Accord (SAHM) with IGN running between 30 and 37 and LOD< 55%.

    Something really unique. The rear trunk lid is sprung and has dampers attached. These do not intrude into the luggage compartment however so there is more usable space than most other trunks where the trunk supports encroach into the trunk space. Nice job on this detail GM! They also include netted side section on both rear sides of the trunk. Great for grocery hauling separation as it was used today. The trunk opening is not as wide as most mid-sized sedan trunks but the depth is huge! We had 3 flats of perennials in the back seat and 7 grocery bags including 6-gallons of bleach in the trunk with even more room to spare. GM knows how to do trunks and big storage :)

    Ergonomics

    GM has never been out to lunch wrt ergonomics and the Aura is close. One nit pick however. The wheel even when telescoped out is about ½ an inch to short for my frame. Very close but just a ½” to short.

    Controls

    A/C and ventilation controls look good but A/C is controlled with a button labeled with a snow flake? I had to verify that in the manual with that one?

    Tomorrow I will run the SS cruise control tests so I do not know about its actions yet.

    Instrumentation

    aFCD does not update during a FAS but upon next ignition, updates to the new and much higher FE.

    iFCD is severely damped. Let off at speed and it takes a few seconds to ramp up to its peak 99mpg.

    Just like the iCDTi, to view the aFCD, you have to cycle through a whole slew of Trip data, Oil life, DTE, Trip A and B distances and LF/RF and LR/RR tire pressure screens.

    Non-Calibrated SG-II is running almost 10% high vs. the OEM. We shall see?

    ICE

    A bit to early to make much comment but I can say GM’s shift logic really pushes the taller gears. A good thing imho :) FE while climbing appears to be lower than that of the Accord. The Accord can climb at 30 – 35 mpg. The Aura appears to be climbing in the 25 to 30 mpg range on similar inclines at similar speeds.

    Ratios

    GM’s fifth and sixth gear are down very well. Best I have seen in a 4 banger to date! The Prius can work magic in SHM but the Aura will hold that 6th gear through thick and thin and even while climbing if you are gentle.

    Handling

    I entered an empty parking lot at 35 mph into a hard left before I could break it loose and when she did, all four were just beginning to loose their grip but in a very controlled manner. No understeer or the over steer with the rear end breaking loose. Very controlled. What it does not have is a traction control action. Its Stabilatrak stability control system was not present when approaching its limits but their was little yaw to evoke that anyway?

    Nuances

    Because of its DRL and Fog lamps, you have to sometimes manually shut these down after any re-ignition. You can watch Battery Voltage fall to 11.9 from 12.3 in < a minute if you forget :(

    When you have the windows and sun roof closed, it is as quiet as most mid-sized sedans I have been in. Nice job. With the windows cracked or that sun roof open in any position, you are in for a long and uncomfortable drone until you button things back up.

    The interior front lamps have two LED’s lighting up the controls. A touch I have enjoyed in the Accord for years and it was nice to see GM include it in the Aura.

    FAS’ing action. Now that I have the feel for it, this might be the best FAS’able AT I have ever driven. It beats the previous “Best in Class” Accord on reengagement at any speed, faster reengagement, and it drops out as fast as you can maneuver the gear shift. What is missing however is an indication anywhere that you are indeed in D vs. M (Manual) or N (Neutral) and they are pretty close to one another.

    The Parking brake is a foot actuated one vs. a hand lever. I sure wish it was a hand lever myself.

    The A-Pillar is a bit thick and constricts front corner views a bit.

    ___Good Luck

    ___Wayne
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2008
  18. sailordave

    sailordave Well-Known Member

    The arm rest and center storage was also my mom's complaint. She loved the styling, smooth quiet ride, and comfortable seats. Our family never gets a sun roof. No matter how well built they are they will always begin to leak over time and we try to keep our cars until we practically have to push them back to the dealership. It's a great highway car for them with the V6.
     
  19. phoebeisis

    phoebeisis Well-Known Member

    Wayne,
    Sounds good. Does the Aura outweigh the Accord? Gm never seems to make vehicles as light as Honda or Toyota.

    GM is finally in the ballpark. Now if they just make a longer roofline hatch version , or maybe an actual stationwagon? A MAXX type vehicle would be about right.

    Thanks,
    Charlie
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2008
  20. xcel

    xcel PZEV, there's nothing like it :) Staff Member

    Hi All:

    ___Took the Aura to church this morning. One of those short cold jaunts through 3 stop signs and 5-lights over < 2 miles. Even got lucky with 75% of the lights while throwing the book at it. It was ugly. 31 mpgUS there and 28 mpgUS back. Pulled the OEM aFCD (tank) down to just 43.0 mpg :mad:

    ___About that Stabilitrak again as I have been thinking about it since I posted yesterday… That thing should have taken control before the wheels came close to letting loose into the empty parking lot yesterday. I will try it again with the ICE-On next time and verify if it was live or not inside a FAS.

    ___Good Luck

    ___Wayne
     

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