The Lowest Priced Aura

By: Anthony Fontanelle

The efforts made by General Motors to revitalize its Saturn brad is working well as the brand becomes the fastest growing brand in the United States auto market. By partnering the German car manufacturer Opel with Saturn, the company has come up with a new lineup for Saturn which is attracting more and more car buyers into Saturn dealerships.

One of the most notable vehicles in Saturn's lineup is the reigning owner of the North American Car of the Year title - the Saturn Aura. The Aura is actually based on the Opel Vectra. The Aura is offered in three variants - the XE and XR trim levels and its hybrid version.

Of the three, the least expensive in terms of MSRP (or Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price) is the XE model. But the hybrid version of the Aura, called the Aura Green Line, is also being considered the cheapest in the Aura lineup. This is because the disparity in the price of the Green Line and the XE trim level can be justified in the fuel economy of the hybrid Aura.

The fuel saving capability of the Aura is complemented by tax breaks offered by the government on hybrid car buyers. Tax credits for as much as $1,300 is being offered in certain states and with that incentive, the Aura Green Line would only be $400 less than the base XE. That $400 disparity can be recovered by savings on fuel consumption within a year.

According to General Motors, the hybrid powertrain that the Aura Green Line is equipped with consumes 30 percent less gasoline compared to the V6 engine that comes with the Aura XE. This is because the Green Line's internal combustion is significantly smaller than that of the XE. This means that it will consume less fuel because its power is augmented by an electric motor. With a system, the fuel efficiency of the Green Line, or the XE for that matter, can be increased.

The fact that General Motors can offer a hybrid vehicle for a price significantly lower than its competition is due to the hybrid powertrain used by the Aura Green Line. What the hybrid Aura uses is the "mild hybrid" powertrain developed by General Motors prior to the development of its two-mode hybrid system.

The mild hybrid powertrain is not as fuel efficient as the two-mode hybrid powertrain or Toyota's Hybrid Synergy for that matter. This is because using a mild hybrid powertrain means that the electric motor used by the Aura cannot power the car alone. It is only used to provide additional power. The result is, of course, a Toyota Camry Hybrid that is more fuel efficient than the Aura Green Line.

While the Camry Hybrid is more fuel efficient than the Aura Green Line, it is priced thousands of dollars more than Saturn's Aura. Another strong selling point for the Aura Green Line is its European styling. The new Aura incorporates European styling and has increased interior space - a fact that it will surely be appreciated by American car buyers. Of course, the fact that the midsize sedan is the reigning North American Car of the Year will help. Currently, Saturn dealerships are offering their customers the chance to test drive the Aura side by side with the Camry and the Accord.

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