2009 Saturn Sky Redline
4-cyl. 122cid/260hp DI Turbo
With an experienced team and a lot of data.
Saturn was launched with a $3B splash in 1990. A decade later the division had gained loyal followers but lacked any new cars of significance. Enter retired Chrysler exec Bob Lutz who injected some pizzazz into GM with a Miata-fighter – albeit 12 years late.
GM’s Kappa platform offered a pair of sports car concepts at the 2002 Detroit Auto Show, a roadster and a coupe. They would be marketed as the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky in the U.S., but only Pontiac would offer a coupe. The Sky roadster was sold in Europe as the Opel GT and in Korea as the Daewoo G2X.
The Pontiac Solstice concept was rushed from pen to metal in merely four months on a $250M budget, considered peanuts to launch a new model in the twenty-first century. That was possible in large part thanks to GM’s massive inventory of already available parts. For example, the rear axle came from the Cadillac CTS, the glovebox from the Cadillac XLR, airbag steering column and door handles from the Chevy Cobalt, A/C from the Hummer H3, backup lights from the GMC Envoy, and steering wheel from the Corvette.
The Saturn Sky debuted at the 2005 Detroit Auto show and while it shared the same platform as the Solstice, it lacked the rounded Pontiac styling cues. The shape is much more angular and with Corvette overtones. It was styled by Franz von Holzhausen and Simon Cox along the lines of the UK’s Vauxhall Lightning concept and Cadillac Cien.
The Sky is 3.5 inches longer than the Solstice, with forward-leaning side vents, faux hood vents, multiple grille openings with chrome, and a rear valance with backup light. The Sky's base was $23,690 (About $3000 above the Solstice) and included air conditioning, ABS, cruise, keyless entry, floor mats, an alarm, and OnStar for a year.
Both the Solstice launched as a 2006 model, while the Sky followed for 2007. Two hydroformed rails connected the front and rear control arm suspensions. A central backbone tunnel linked the firewall and windshield frame to the rear bulkhead behind the seats. Both the Sky and Solstice were built at GM’s plant at Wilmington, Delaware. Both came in base trim with a 177-hp version of the Chevrolet Colorado pickup’s 2.4-liter DOHC four, with the truck’s 5-speed refined for smoother shifting. A 5-speed automatic transmission was optional.
The base Sky could manage 0-60 mph in 6.9 seconds, a quarter-mile came up in 15.2 seconds at 88 mph, and top speed was 123 mph. But at 2888 lbs the Sky and Solstice were about 400 lbs heavier than the fourth gen Miata, and notably slower in the key passing zone of 40-70 mph.
Improved performance was addressed in the Saturn Sky Redline and Pontiac Solstice GXP models of 2007 which boasted a 260 bhp, 2.0liter DOHC Ecotec turbocharged four. This brought 0-60 mph down to 5.2 seconds, a quarter-mile to 14 seconds at 98 mph and a top speed of 141 mph. The Solstice GXP cost $2,5995 and the Sky Redline package was $2,975 – not bad for 57 percent more power. A further turbo option could boost power output even further to 290 bhp. Road testers were more complimentary about the Sky than the Solstice. They noted the exhaust was quieter, the top better insulated and the suspension less choppy, with longer travel. But the same interior shortcomings plagued both models. Window buttons and mirror control were too close to operate, the cupholders weren’t convenient, gauges were too small and dark, and the storage locker between the seats had to be opened with the driver’s left hand.
There were several special edition Sky models, but none were coupes like the Solstice. The 2008 Carbon Flash Special edition included a special color, optional silver stripe, and Monsoon audio. Seats and steering wheel had silver inserts. 550 were built. The 2009 Ruby Red Special Edition and Hydro Blue Special Edition offered interior trim and stitching to match the exterior and all had Monsoon stereos. 500 Ruby Red Editions were built, but only 89 Hydro Blue models had been completed when GM declared bankruptcy and both the Pontiac and Saturn brands were put on the chopping block.
As GM wrapped up production in Wilmington, it built 30 final models on the Kappa chassis dated 2010. Eight were Saturn Skys, 12 were Pontiac Solstice Coupes, eight were Solstice roadster and just two were Opel GT roadsters. All eight Saturn Skys were bought by a Minnesota dealer and sold as used cars. A total of 34,415 Saturn Skys were built over its all-too-brief production run.