The real Saturn sky consists of molecular hydrogen, 1,120 mph winds, at least 62 moons and those famous icy rings. The 2008 Saturn Sky consists of classic roadster proportions, 18-inch wheels, a low price and an available 260-horsepower turbocharged engine. Neither, of course, has anything to do with the other besides a common ability to attract attention with their stunning good looks -- which the car does in abundance and without the need for a telescope.
While its mechanical near-twin, the Pontiac Solstice, has set hearts aflutter since it debuted, the classier, less-sensational Sky looks arguably less like a toy and more like an athletic driver's car. There are two varieties: the regular version with its rather pedestrian 177-hp inline-4, and the Red Line, which features a turbocharged inline-4 that produces a massive 260 hp. It doesn't take a master logician to figure out which Sky we prefer, as the Red Line is not only almost 2 seconds quicker from zero to 60 mph, but its stiffer suspension tuning makes it handle better on twisty roads than the base Sky. However, neither is as involving as the Mazda Miata, which, despite having less power than both Sky models, offers much better steering and a more intimate relationship between driver and car. The Sky is entertaining up to a certain point, but more demanding drivers will be frustrated by its slow throttle response, numb steering and bland exhaust note.
The Sky also loses some points to the Miata in everyday operation. There is very little interior storage space, and the trunk is difficult to access (the lid is rear hinged) and rendered almost useless when the top is down. The top is also an ergonomic nightmare, as it requires the driver to turn a latch on the windshield, pop the rear deck lid with a button in the glovebox, then get out of the car and manually fold the top down into its well before slamming the rear deck closed. It's not difficult, but it seems like a Rube Goldberg experiment compared to the MX-5's one-handed, in-car operation.
Of course, the Sky's styling is its ultimate selling point, and no amount of ergonomic glitches or numb steering will spoil the ownership experience for those folks who just have to have one in their garage. Buyers can now even customize their 2008 Saturn Sky with any exterior and interior color combination they choose, such as the Ronald McDonald special with bright yellow paint and red leather. This combo may display a colossal lack of taste, but it's certain to attract more attention than 62 moons and some icy rings.
The 2008 Saturn Sky is a two-seat roadster available in base and Red Line models. Standard equipment includes 18-inch wheels, a limited-slip differential, a manual cloth top with a glass rear window, automatic headlights, full power accessories, air-conditioning and a six-speaker audio system with CD/MP3 player, auxiliary jack and satellite radio. There is an upgraded seven-speaker system with in-dash CD changer available. The optional Premium Trim Package adds leather upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, and metallic interior trim. The Carbon Flash Special Edition also adds those items plus 18-inch chrome alloy wheels and Carbon Flash paint.
The Saturn Sky Red Line is equipped similarly to a regular model with the Premium Trim Package, but has special interior and exterior details, a sport-tuned suspension and performance tires. The Red Line Carbon Flash adds the chrome wheels and unique paint. Customers can opt to mix and match interior and exterior colors in any way they want for an additional charge.
Though dainty roadsters aren't typically known for having roomy cabins, the 2008 Saturn Sky is better than most in terms of offering enough room for large occupants to stretch out. The dash is modern and attractive, with comfortable, well-bolstered seats. Ergonomics and materials quality leaves much to be desired, however. Also, the transmission tunnel is unusually wide, which can put the squeeze on larger drivers while eliminating any possibility of center storage space. The Sky's trunk doesn't help either, providing just 5.4 cubic feet of space with the top up and practically none with it down, and an awkward lid that opens rearward.
The base-model 2008 Saturn Sky comes with a 2.4-liter inline-4 engine that makes 177 hp and 166 pound-feet of torque. The Sky Red Line has a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with direct injection capable of a very strong 260 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. Both cars send their power to the rear wheels through a standard five-speed manual transmission or an optional five-speed automatic. In our performance testing, the regular Sky went from zero to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds, while the Red Line challenges the Porsche Cayman at 5.8 seconds. Both tested models were equipped with the manual transmission.
When thrown into a corner, the Sky tends toward safe understeer unless provoked with the throttle. Most drivers will find the car's substantial lateral grip and quick steering enjoyable enough to make the Sky a fun and engaging twisty road companion. Ride quality is quite acceptable for normal day-to-day use, and the Sky is a better highway cruiser than the Miata. The base 2.4-liter engine, which is pretty much the same as what's found in a multitude of GM economy-oriented products, is merely adequate in terms of acceleration and refinement. Thankfully, the Sky Red Line is a more serious performance car thanks to its powerful engine and stiffer suspension tuning. It's impressively quick in a straight line, but numb steering and an imprecise throttle prevent the driver from obtaining a true connection to the car when driving hard on curvy roads.
Antilock disc brakes and stability control are standard equipment, as is OnStar, GM's telematics system. Side airbags aren't offered on any Sky roadster. In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash testing, the Sky scored four stars (out of five) for both frontal- and side-impact tests.
Stability control, a limited-slip differential and satellite radio become standard equipment on all 2008 Saturn Sky roadsters. Customers now have the option of specially ordering any exterior and interior color combination they choose. A new special-edition trim known as Carbon Flash debuts on both the base and Red Line models.