Saturn Corp., which built a reputation for plain-vanilla family cars, now wants to woo a new group: gearheads.
The automaker is launching a performance series called Red Line that will debut on the 2004 Saturn Ion coupe and Vue.
Red Line models feature more powerful engines and suspension and styling enhancements for "go and show," says Doug Parks, Ion chief engineer.
Saturn aims the Ion Red Line at two groups, says Jill Lajdziak, Saturn vice president of sales, service and marketing: buyers interested in "performance-to-go, if you will, from the factory" and buyers who want to build their own tuner cars. Sales begin in the first quarter of 2004.
The 2004 Ion Red Line will be equipped with a supercharged 200-hp-plus, 2.0-liter Ecotech four-cylinder engine producing an estimated 200 pounds-feet of torque. Final figures will be available in the fall. The 2003 Ion's engine produces 137 hp and 142 pounds-feet of torque.
Modifications include a heavy-duty rear axle, higher capacity radiator and fuel pump, larger brakes, and performance-tuned springs and shock absorbers. Also, the car has restyled front and rear fascias and an optional rear spoiler. Sales are estimated at 5,000 units annually.
As part of Saturn's plan to attract gearheads, it is working with aftermarket companies to produce performance equipment for all Ion coupes.
Meanwhile, a Honda 3.5-liter V-6, producing 250 hp and 242 pounds-feet of torque, will be available on all 2004 Vues. The engine replaces General Motors' 181-hp, 3.0-liter V-6.
The Vue Red Line will have the Honda engine, stiffer springs, 18-inch wheels and recalibrated steering for better road feel. Exterior changes include restyled front and rear fascias. Vue Red Line sales are estimated at 3,000 units.
Honda can provide as many as 50,000 V-6 engines annually for the Vue. Production begins in December.