Ion Red Line Supercharges Sport Compact Market

With a snarl in its exhaust note, an imposing stance from its racetrack-tuned suspension, and the immediate rush of its Ecotec 2.0-liter supercharged, 200 horsepower (estimated) engine, the 2004 Ion Red Line has a character like nothing else to come out of Saturn.

Affirming its intention to create expressive performance-tuned vehicles, Saturn announced the production version of the Ion Red Line at the International Auto Salon. "The 2004 Ion Red Line will introduce Saturn to sport compact enthusiasts," said Jill Lajdziak, Saturn vice president for sales, service and marketing. "We have pulled no punches with the Ion Red Line. It's a serious performance vehicle."

Production of the Ion Red Line is scheduled to begin in early 2004. "Performance-tuned vehicles are an important component of Saturn�s expanding portfolio," said Lajdziak. "Saturn vehicles inspire fun while driving. And while the Ion Red Line delivers a unique driving experience, it does so in different ways."

Highlights of the Ion Red Line include:

  • 2.0-liter, supercharged and intercooled version of the Ecotec four-cylinder engine
  • Five-speed transmission with increased torque capacity, close ratio gearing and short-throw shifter
  • Beefier, equal-length halfshafts
  • High-flow, performance-tuned exhaust and air induction system
  • Large four-wheel disc brakes (with standard ABS)
  • Racetrack-bred suspension tuning, including revised springs, shocks, bushings and stabilizer bars
  • 17 x 7 inch, five-spoke forged alloy wheels Continental 215/45 W-rated performance tires
  • 10-mm lower ride height
  • Unique front and rear fascias, rocker moldings and a family of available rear wings
  • Performance front seats and steering wheel

"The supercharger provides instant response and a dramatic feeling of performance when you�re behind the wheel," said Doug Parks, Ion chief engineer. "But the Red Line is not simply an Ion with more power. From its visual features, such as the aggressive wheels, to components you can�t see, like the equal-length drive shafts, which are used to limit torque steer, it�s a comprehensive package developed to recast the entire car in a performance mold."

In addition to outstanding performance, Ion Red Line incorporates many technological firsts for Saturn, including the supercharger, an air-to-water intercooler and the use of electronic throttle control (ETC). ETC utilizes an electronic signal, rather than a traditional cable between the gas pedal and engine, for immediate throttle response.

"Ion Red Line is a street car that is also at home on the racetrack," said Parks. "Customers have told us that ride-and-handling is their favorite attribute of Ion; with the Red Line we've built on that strength."

Inspired by the "tuner" cars popularized in Southern California, Ion Red Line was developed with assistance from the GM Performance Division, an in-house center designed to explore potential enthusiast-oriented versions of production models. "The Ion Red Line was designed for enthusiasts seeking a ready performance vehicle," said John Heinricy, GM Performance Division director. "The base Ion was systematically enhanced to deliver uncompromising performance, function and style � traits that will make it extremely competitive in the sport compact market."

Engine, Cooling and Exhaust

An Eaton helical Roots supercharger was selected because of the immediacy of its horsepower delivery and its relative ease of implementation. Engineers also added an air-to-water intercooler to reduce the temperature of air entering the engine. This cooler air enhances the effectiveness of the supercharger. In the Red Line, the supercharger and intercooler system produces a maximum boost level of 12 pounds. "The supercharger provides instant power," said Tracy Thueme, Ion Red Line program engineering manager. "Coupling the supercharger with an air-to-water intercooler was a simple, effective way to build even more horsepower."

Engineers did not simply add a supercharger and intercooler to the existing Ion 2.2L Ecotec engine. The Red Line engine is a special 2.0L Ecotec engine, built with lower-compression pistons and other components necessary to handle the unique requirements of a supercharged application. A high-flow air intake and a high-flow exhaust manifold are tuned to move air quickly through the engine. Along with the new engine, the vehicle�s cooling system is upgraded with a larger radiator core and larger cooling fans.

When it came to exhaust, engineers maintained the "move air quickly" ideal with a 2.25-inch exhaust system that incorporates a low restriction catalytic converter and low restriction muffler. The system lowers backpressure from the engine, enhancing the performance of the supercharged engine and giving the Ion Red Line a distinct note from its large, chromed exhaust tip.

Transmission and Driveline

The five-speed manual transmission is new to the Red Line and has a higher torque capacity to withstand the increase in output from the engine. Its gear ratios were selected specifically for this application. The gears are spaced in even increments to keep the engine in its "sweet spot" between shifts. A short-throw shifter quickens the shifts and provides a more positive feel, too. The shifter�s travel is approximately 1 inch shorter than the shifter found in standard Ion models.

Another heavy-duty item is the Red Line's driveline, which has a higher torque capacity than a standard Ion driveline. Equal length half shafts are utilized to limit the tendency of torque steer in this powerful, front-drive application. A final drive ratio of 4.05:1 was selected to complement the supercharged engine�s power.


Ion Red Line is the first Ion to feature four-wheel disc brakes. The front disc rotors measure 11.6 inches in diameter, which is approximately 1 inch larger than the rotors on standard Ion models. Along with the larger rotors, engineers incorporated larger, five-bolt wheel hubs, brake calipers and brake pads. The larger calipers and brake pads allow greater braking capacity and are proven performance parts found in other high-performance GM vehicles.

The rear disc brake rotors measure 10.6 inches in diameter. They are mounted on an all-new rear axle assembly that incorporates revised suspension geometry.

Suspension tuning is being refined on the racetrack, including spring rates, bushing rates and stabilizer bar size. The rear shocks are larger in diameter than those found on a standard Ion, and the Red Line has a 10-mm reduced ride height.

Connecting the Red Line to the road is a set of Continental 215/45 W-rated performance tires mounted to 17 x 7 inch, six-spoke forged alloy wheels. Forged alloy wheels are stronger than cast alloy wheels that are typically found on production vehicles.

Additionally, Ion�s electric power steering efforts have been tuned for the Red Line to provide increased driver feedback.


The Red Line's expressive exterior styling complements the performance built into the vehicle. All-new front and rear fascias were designed by GM Performance Division�s Kip Wasenko. The front fascia features a large, deep air inlet and the rear fascia has a cut-out for the large, chromed exhaust tip. Along with revised rocker moldings, the enhanced bodywork of the Red Line visually lowers the vehicle 1 inch.

Ion Red Line comes standard with a rear spoiler, but a family of large, stylish rear wings is available. Also, a mesh-screen grille is available to further accent the vehicle. Red Line badging is located on the deck lid. At the onset of production, Ion Red Line's exterior colors will be Black, Blue or Silver. Click here for photos of the Ion Red Line Quad Coupe.


All Red Line vehicles come with a black interior. Standard performance seats complement the sporting environment and enhance driver control. A new sport steering wheel and gearshift knob also are part of the interior package. "When developing the Ion Red Line, we built in all of the elements that are important to compact performance enthusiasts," said Thueme. "It's a comprehensive package which functions as well as it looks."

2004 Ion Red Line Specifications


  • Ecotec 2.0-liter DOHC inline 4-cylinder
    • 8-bolt steel crankshaft
    • Oil jet cooled pistons
    • High strength rod and piston assembly
  • Eaton helical Roots supercharger @ 12 pounds boost
  • Air-to-water intercooler
  • New engine control module coupled with electronic throttle control
  • High-flow intake manifold and throttle body
  • High-flow exhaust manifold
  • High control engine mounts
  • High-capacity radiator and engine cooling fans
  • 200 horsepower (estimated � final figures available in fall 2003)
  • 200 lb.-ft. of torque (estimated � final figures available in fall 2003)

Transmission & Driveline:

  • Heavy-duty five-speed transmission
  • Close-ratio gearing specific to Ion Red Line
  • Short-throw shifter
  • High-capacity clutch
  • Equal length, heavy-duty half shafts
  • 4.05:1 final drive ratio


  • High-flow catalytic converter and muffler
  • 2.25-inch diameter exhaust tubing
  • Chrome exhaust tip


  • 4-wheel disc brakes with standard 4-channel Bosch ABS
  • 11.6-inch front rotors (approx. 1 inch larger than standard Ion front rotors), 10.6-inch rear rotors
  • Larger calipers and brake pads
  • 5-bolt wheel hubs


  • Independent strut in front, semi-independent torsion beam in rear
  • Performance-tuned spring rates and damping
  • Larger-diameter rear shocks
  • Increased diameter stabilizer bars and tuned suspension bushings
  • All-new, heavy-duty rear axle adapted to mount rear disc brakes
  • 10-mm lowered ride height


  • Electric power steering tuned for increased driver feedback

Wheels & Tires:

  • 17 x 7-in., 6-spoke forged alloy wheels
  • 215/45-series W-rated Continental high-performance tires


  • Specific front fascia with large air inlet
  • Specific rear fascia with exhaust outlet
  • New rocker moldings
  • Available mesh-screen grille
  • Available family of rear wings
  • Red Line badging on deck lid
  • Vehicle colors: Black, Blue, Silver


  • Performance front seats
  • New steering wheel
  • Sport shift knob

Source: Saturn

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