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Hot rod Saturn impresses
Ion Red Line wins over brand skeptics on News panel

The Detroit News


MILFORD — Steve Varady always thought of Saturn as a “brand aimed at moms.”

But after spending an evening behind the wheel of the 2004 Ion Red Line, Saturn’s first supercharged performance vehicle, the Dearborn resident has new respect for the General Motors Corp. brand that’s long been a favorite of sensible people looking for affordable vehicles with no-****er stickers.

“The seats are awesome, the supercharger is great, the tires are sticky and I love the sound of the engine,” said Varady, 17, a member of the Detroit News Consumer Youth Panel, who this fall will be a freshman at Chicago’s Loyola University. “I only now realize I just had that much fun in a Saturn!”

Varady was not alone in his assessment of Saturn’s little 205-horsepower hot rod. The majority of our panel gave the Ion Red Line, which is on sale now, a thumbs-up rating.

The Red Line brand name refers to a vehicle’s tachometer, which counts the number of engine revolutions per minute, and the line that marks the maximum speed at which the engine can safely be operated.

This performance edition of the four-door Ion Quad Coupe is dolled up with leather-accented Recaro seats, stainless-steel exhaust and 17-inch forged alloy wheels.

“Saturn has built a true performance vehicle,” said James Childs, 29, a Clawson funeral director. “The Ion Red Line is versatile — both a city cruiser and a race car.”

The Ion Red Line faces tough competition in the market, from popular vehicles like the Ford Focus SVT, Dodge Neon SRT-4 and Nissan Sentra SE-R. Two of the panelists, Varady and Cadiz, had driven the SRT-4 and were able to work an informal comparison into their assessment of the Ion Red Line.

Several panelists, like Varady, brought along friends and family members to get second opinions on one of the newest Saturn products. The panelists included enthusiasts like Varady, who attended with his friend Nick Leonard, 18, a freshman at Kalamazoo College.

Varady and Leonard say they like to attend street-racer events such as Hot Import Nights and devour publications aimed at kids who like to customize their vehicles.

“I did not think highly of Saturn before I drove this car,” Leonard said. “But my impression did change. The Ion Red Line has comfort as well as decent speed to match. It’s a good daily driver.”

“When I think of Saturn, I think chick car,’” said Patrick Dolan, a sanitation engineer. “They aren’t manly. But I like the Ion Red Line a lot. It’s got a lot of guts.”

Perhaps the most controversial part of the Ion Red Line is the center-mounted instrument cluster, a feature that can be found on the conventional Ion, too. Childs and Dolan liked the location of the gauges. Varady, Jenkins and Cadiz hated it, saying it was too far away from the driver and too tiny.

“The tach is really bad,” Varady said. “I red-lined several times simply because I found myself searching for the tach.”

Several panelists, including Childs, griped that the visibility was poor due to the rear spoiler and thick rear pillars.

Several criticized the tight-fitting rear seats. The rear seat didn’t seem to be helped by the fact that the Ion Quad Coupe has two small rear-access doors intended to ease entry and exit.

The panel was generally complimentary about the Ion Red Line’s standard equipment, which includes antilock brakes, AM/FM stereo with a CD and MP3 player, power accessories, remote keyless entry and security alarm.

They also liked the engine’s performance. The supercharged twin-cam 2.0-liter four-cylinder makes 205 horsepower, but is not as large or as powerful as the twin-cam engine in the SRT-4. Dodge uses a turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder that makes 230 horsepower.

“Wow,” wrote Childs on our checklist, which included a rating on engine acceleration and power. He also had kudos for the Ion Red Line’s five-speed manual transmission, despite some initial trepidation about the car’s lack of an optional automatic transmission.

“I’m not a manual driver and I had no problem,” Childs said.

As the evening came to an end, Steve Varady seemed reluctant to turn over the keys. As he sat behind the wheel, he compared it to a friend’s SRT-4, a vehicle he’s had a chance to drive.

“The Ion Red Line is a lot easier to drive,” Varady said. “The clutch in this car is easier to modulate. I have to tell you this is a completely different car than I expected. This car performs really well. I love the instant power. The shifter feels so good.

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If he was that impressed by the ion, put'em behind the wheel of a GTO ;) (or even a Grand Prix GTP hell, its got a supercharged V6 and makes 35more HP (pre-'2004, 55 more when using the 2004 GTP (comp G upgrades optional, but recommended)

Now I gotta say it, damn compact tuner people. If you want a race car buy a GTO, Corvette, CTS, Camaro, Fire Bird, or even a mustang... I'm getting tired of people making these little 4cyl cars out to be speed demons. granted some are fast (like the SRT-4) but if you really want power, get a car that has it.
 

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Now I gotta say it, damn compact tuner people. If you want a race car buy a GTO, Corvette, CTS, Camaro, Fire Bird, or even a mustang... I'm getting tired of people making these little 4cyl cars out to be speed demons. granted some are fast (like the SRT-4) but if you really want power, get a car that has it.
These young people can't afford a V8 or V6 car and/or the insurance that goes along with them.

Now, when you see some guy dump $20K into a $20K car to make it compete with a $30K car, you have to wonder, but overall, it's about purchase price and insurance costs.

Mark
 

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Until 2002 you could buy a Camaro z28 for about 20,000 if you only wanted a few options, and after the dealer gave you some off, along with incentives. Those were pretty nicely equipped base, too. A Mustang GT can be had right now for a pretty similar price since they are moving them aggressively. I'm not sure it's about purchase price as much as it is ignorance. Look at how much these idiots pay for Celicas and RSX's!! 25K+ in a lot of instances.
 

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Yah the kind of $$$$ some of these kids are putting into these nose heavy FWD econo boxes to get performance is really ((SILLY!!)) I know a guy whose about 19 who decided insted to buy a used Firebird TA WS6 wile most of his friends do the RICER thing. Only one of them has a car that can tutch the Fbird its a Miata with a supercharger that cost 35K to build. The Fbird owner paid 17K for his allready ((FAST)) slitely used F body. They all made fun of him for buying a pontiac in the begining instead of a Honda but ((NOW)) they think differently! ;) :D
 

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Look at how much these idiots pay for Celicas and RSX's!! 25K+ in a lot of instances.

Not only at how much they pay for the car, insurance for these cars are almost just as much as V8 Mustangs and Camaro's.

If you want a race car buy a GTO

Living in Canada, I'm still waiting for an affordable RWD V8 new sleeper car, we don't get the GTO up here :(.

More on topic, a friend of mine just bought an Ion, not the Red Line but a nicely equipped one and he absolutely loves it. He didn't like driving the family Impala (though I probably would, I like big cars) and found the Ion to be an enjoyable car. How does the Red Line stack up against the SRT-4?
 

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205HP 2.0L compaired to 230HP 2.4L!! (((((((NOT!!))))))) Cobolt SS should have at least 250HP if it wants to compete with/BEAT the SRT4! <_<
 

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205HP 2.0L compaired to 230HP 2.4L!! (((((((NOT!!))))))) Cobolt SS should have at least 250HP if it wants to compete with/BEAT the SRT4! 
No it needs 400hp!!!

So what!

AT 205hp both the Cobalt and the ION have more power than all the other sporty compact 4 bangers except for the SRT-4. The idea is to be in the game, it's not just hp that sells these cars, or I would not see any new Civic Si's or Sentra SE-R's on the street, it would just be SRT-4's. I think that part of the apeal of both the Cobalt SS and ION Red Line are coupes, not goofy 4 doors.
 

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Fact is that most parents will not buy their high school graduate a V6 or V8 car. They may be able to be talked into a boosted 4 banger just because they think that they get better milage and they're safer. Whether or not that's true, it works on a lot of parents.

I really don't understand kids who buy a Honda and try to rice it out to the point where it can beat anything on the street. What's worse is when they go and race all of their friends who have the base version of an eco-car. I wish some of them would actually take them to a drag strip and try to take down a real racer.

Overall, this is a very positive note for GM. They have a car that kids have said they'd love to drive. This hasn't happened in awhile w/ a GM compact. Just think when we get the Cobalt and it's more powerful versions! Whether you like it or not, it's hard to make the argument that GM could go wrong in the performance compact market.
 

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Originally posted by MCGARRETT@Jul 11 2004, 05:57 PM
205HP 2.0L compaired to 230HP 2.4L!! (((((((NOT!!))))))) Cobolt SS should have at least 250HP if it wants to compete with/BEAT the SRT4! 
No it needs 400hp!!!

So what!

AT 205hp both the Cobalt and the ION have more power than all the other sporty compact 4 bangers except for the SRT-4. The idea is to be in the game, it's not just hp that sells these cars, or I would not see any new Civic Si's or Sentra SE-R's on the street, it would just be SRT-4's. I think that part of the apeal of both the Cobalt SS and ION Red Line are coupes, not goofy 4 doors.
Very true. A lot of kids buy a car because they THINK that it's fast. Or they heard that if you put a turbo in it, you'll have 300 HP. Once the reputation for GM compacts grows, they will sell.
 

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No the cobalt is not getting a 205 horsepower motor, Chevy is ante it up alittle more with 250 horsepower they even took the supercharged 2.4 from there website cause there still tweaking it out some more. ;)
 

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Another thing you have to remember about "kids" wanting these cars instead of GTO's or Mustangs or Z28's is the weight. It's not just the pure straight line performance, but the feel that a car is light weight and easy to handle.

Now before someone starts telling me about skidpad numbers..I understand some of the larger, high horsepower cars hold the road as well as if not better than the small compacts. But I have heard many younger compact enthusiasts say they would never buy a car that heavy...it's the fact the smaller cars FEEL lighter, it's a big thing to them.

To a certain extent I can agree with them. I have driven in a BMW X5 SUV that is large and heavy and high off the ground, and even though it's faster than my friends Celica GTS, the Celica GTS I was in gave more of a feeling of performance/speed by being so low to the ground and not pulling as much weight though the turns.
 

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A lot of you guys seem to be missing the big picture here. It should be obvious that the people buying rice rockets instead of cars like the GTO are doing so because they're not interested in that kind of car to begin with. So, instead of GM wasting its time waiting for people to switch from a ricer to a GTO-type car, they're delegating Saturn to make a car that a person inclined to buy a ricer would like. This isn't just a question of performance, it's a question of the entire car and why people like them and if Saturn's successful they'll be hitting the Japanese not their own corporate siblings. It's a win-win situation, ricer-people get a GM car they can like while GM increases its market share over the Japanese. Besides, I'm happy to see Saturn trying new ideas. Don't forget that the "brand aimed at moms" could have just as easily been referred to as the "brand aimed at boring" throughout much of the '90's.
 

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Originally posted by #3Chevy@Jul 11 2004, 06:50 PM
No the cobalt is not getting a 205 horsepower motor, Chevy is ante it up alittle more with 250 horsepower they even took the supercharged 2.4 from there website cause there still tweaking it out some more. ;)
The website still lists the output of the Cobalt SS Supercharged as 205hp. I hope they up it, but for now, that's what it is.

Cobalt SS Supercharged Page
 

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Whoa! What happened to the Cobalt SS?? I was under the impression that there would be both a Cobalt SS and a Cobalt Supercharged SS. Is this new?
 

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Maybe chevy realized two SS models is kinda redundant (and stupid).

About the price/age thing, I'm 20 and My first car had a V6 (granted its a series 1 3800) my next car with be a V8 (LS1 either in a GTO or a 98 WS6 which ever I can get apporved for.. next year.) Its not that hard to get a good V8 car if you know what to look for. (my parents had no bearing on my orginal car purchase.. I wanted a car that was roomy, and slightly luxuary, with decent power. the LeSabre had that. Now I want somthing smaller, and with more power. the GTO has that (and the interior is better to boot..)
 

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As for the Cobalt SS, I read on another message board a "rumor" that there will still be a Cobalt SS with a 170 hp and automatic tranmision, but it is being delayed due to some kind of problem with the new 170hp 2.4 liter engine.
 

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Originally posted by ibechip@Jul 11 2004, 09:23 PM
Whoa! What happened to the Cobalt SS?? I was under the impression that there would be both a Cobalt SS and a Cobalt Supercharged SS. Is this new?
I thought so too. And only one engine is going to be availlable in the sedan? The Fugly Ford Focus at least has a choice in engines.
 

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The reason kids soup up 4-bangers is INSURANCE. An Ion Red Line will be cheaper to insure than a GTO, Firebird or Mustang. Remember the crowd that typically buys these cars--aged 18 to 25. The most expensive people to insure in the nation are kids this age. (I should know. Until last month my insurance on a POS Cavalier was over $200/month!).

Just looking at the sticker is too narrow-minded.
 
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