Saturn ION

Saturn Ion
Saturn Ion
A division of General Motors and a brand of automobiles, the Saturn Corporation began on January 7, 1985 as a wholly-owned subsidiary of GM. Active almost exclusively in the US and Canada, GM began manufacturing Saturn vehicles in 1990. GM has moved the brand upmarket during the first decade of the 21st century, to the mid-price segment that was once occupied by Oldsmobile. Similar to Vauxhall Motors in the UK, Saturn is currently becoming the US brand for Opel vehicles.

Named after the rocket that originally took American astronauts to the moon, Saturn's first motto was ‘A different kind of company, a different kind of car.' Saturn's vehicles have become known for their emphasis in quality control along with product reliability.

A compact vehicle sold by the Saturn marque of American Automaker General Motors, the Saturn Ion used the GM Delta platform. Replacing the S-Series as Saturn's signature compact sedan and coupe in 2003, the Saturn Ion featured a roomy interior, plenty of cargo space and a more powerful engine. Starting out with promise and enthusiasm with the Ion, Saturn unfortunately failed to make the necessary adjustments for interior materials and engine noise. The ION was the longest compact sold in North America as of 2006. On March 27, 2007, production of the ION ended.

Featured standard with a 140 hp DOHC engine Ecotec I4 engine, the 2003 ION had an instrument panel that was mounted on the top center of the dashboard instead of behind the steering wheel. Available in either sedan or coupe forms, the ION coupe is called a ‘quad coupe' because of the two smaller rear opening ‘suicide doors' behind the front doors. The ION is the first four-door coupe that was ever produced.

An Aisin AF23 5-speed automatic transmission was available, along with a GETRAG F23 5-speed manual. The Aisin was unique in the fact that the transmission lacked an overdrive and allowed for five forward gears to be packaged in the size of a typical four-sped manual gearbox that provided close gear ratios for improved acceleration and fuel efficiency while eliminating the heat and parasitic loss that was generated by planetary gearset. ‘Fill-for-life', the unit did not need to be serviced for the entire length of life of the vehicle. VTi continuously variable transmission was available on the 2003 and 2004 IONs.

Super-sizing the Ion, the Saturn Ion Red Line entered the lineup with a powerful 205 hp I4 supercharged engine in 2004. The Ion Red Line also had a stronger F35 5-speed manual transmission, stiffer springs with a lowered ride height, re-valved shock absorbers, performance sway bars, Recaro racing seats and a special ground effects package.

The Red Line model utilized a 2.0L version of GE's Ecotec engine that was dubbed the ‘LSJ' and was developed with GM's Performance Division and track tested at Germany's famous Nürburgring Nordschleife.

A limited production ‘Special Edition' model was featured in 2004. Simply a Saturn Ion 3 Sedan with upgrades, the Special Edition featured two-tone leather interior, ultra-bright machined face wheels that came with unique lug nuts and center cap. Embroidered floor mats, an automatic dimming rear-view mirror with both compass and temperature displays and a chrome-tipped exhaust pipe were also showcased on the unique model. Available in three different colors, the Special Edition Sedan came in Black Onyx, Chili Pepper Red, and Electric blue and was marketed to bring a premium presence to the sedan and appeal to various consumers.

New sound systems were featured for the 2004 Saturn, along with upgraded Interior Materials, and re-calibrated electric power steering.

For 2005 both the Aisin 5-speed automatic and the VTi CVT that were used in quad-coupes from 2003 to mid-2004 were deleted and replaced b y GM's 4-speed 4T45-E. The only automatic transmission available, the 4T45-E was less technologically advanced then the earlier versions, but was a long term proven design.

The ‘hockey puck' style steering wheel was replaced in 2005 with the design used in the '04 Red Line model that became standard on all models. Halfway through 2005 the seats in the base ION1 model were upgraded with brand new fabrics and a height adjustment feature. To help with sound reduction, the introduction of ‘quiet steel' multilaminate technology was introduced for the '05 model. A much larger grille opening was featured along with the front fascia of the sedan was upgraded. To reduce engine noise, an acoustic engine cover was added. The ECU was moved from a speed density system to a mass air system.

For 2006 the long-awaited 170 hp 2.4 L I4 engine with variable valve timing was made available for the ION3. This new engine produced 170 hp and 162 lb·ft of torque.

The following year featured an increase of power in the 2.2 L Ecotec engine from 150 hp to 145 hp at 5600 rpm. The torque was increased from 145 ft·lbf to 150 ft·lbf at 4200 rpm. The 2.4 L Ecotec engine also increased in power from 170 hp to 175 hp at 6500 rpm, and the torque was increased from 162 ft·lbf to 164 ft·lbf at 4800 rpm.

Black leather-appointed seats with passenger sensing systems replaced the Recaro seats on the Red Line.

The ION was scheduled for a redesign for the ION in 2008, but GM discontinued the vehicle in March 2007 and replaced it with the European-built Saturn Astra hatchback. The Astra is a rebadged Opel Astra.

By Jessica Donaldson