2006 Saturn Preview

Continuous improvement has always been a hallmark of Saturn, and for the 2006 model year things are no different. Automotive News reported earlier this year that Saturn informed retailers at the North American Dealer Association's (NADA) annual convention that both the Ion and Vue will be "refreshed" for 2006 to help make them more competitive and appealing.

The move comes as Saturn struggles to keep its Spring Hill plant running, and retailers battle above average vehicle inventories on their lots. Saturn has had to shutdown the plant numerous times this year because of the Ion and Vue slow sales. Sources tell SaturnFans.com that the changeover to both '06 models will happen in June, a couple weeks before General Motors' annual summer shutdown in July. The models will continue to feature their trademark polymer body-side panels, and will receive Saturn's new "piano black" stereos. The new radios will feature a front facing auxiliary port that will allow drivers to plug in portable music devices, such as an iPod.

Even though the Ion sedan received a host of significant interior, exterior, and chassis improvements for the 2005 model year, continued slow sales have prompted Saturn to make even more changes. On the outside, the both the Ion sedan and quad coupe are expected to receive new front-end treatment that will give them more of a family resemblance to the 2007 Aura concept and Sky roadster. Under the hood, the long-rumored 170-hp 2.4L powerplant will finally be available on mid- and uplevel Ions. The 2.4L has been in production at Spring Hill for some time now, and is used in a variety of other GM vehicles.

Still bigger and more exciting changes are expected for the 2006 Vue. Like the Ion, all Vues will receive a facelift. The fascia will sport new headlamps along with Aura- and Sky-inspired front grilles. V6 powered Vues will now feature body-color bumpers. Gray plastic bumpers will continue to be standard issue on 4-cylinder models. Base models are also said to receive a boost in performance. Today's 140-hp 2.2L motor will reportedly be replaced with the same 170-hp 2.4L 4-cylinder engine that will be used in the Ion. Honda will continue to supply Saturn with 250-hp 3.5L V6 engines. The hybrid Vue is expected to be available mid-year. The Vue's interior will get a major overhaul. The instrument panel has reportedly been redesigned and will feature much richer materials along with black trim and chrome accents. The overall presentation is much more classy, upscale, and sophisticated. Taking a page from the Ion Red Line, Saturn will install Recaro front bucket seats in all Vue Red Lines. In addition, Red Line Vue interiors will only be offered only in one color: black.

Later in the model year, the Relay is expected to receive a more powerful, optional powerplant. At this time, its not clear what engine will be offered in the minivan. There have been rumors that all future Saturn will only feature DOHC motors, leading to speculation that General Motors new 3.6L 250-hp V6 will be made available. Other sources say that GM plans to make the 240-hp 3900 V6 an option in all of its minivans.

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