More stories related to 2005 NAIAS DETROIT – It just might turn out to be this year’s showstopper.

General Motors Corp. plans to take the wraps off its ’07 Saturn Sky roadster – a galactically styled sonic land speeder that obliterates the division’s humdrum design reputation – here Jan. 9 at the 2005 North American International Auto Show.

While it is named after a less dramatic Saturn roadster concept from 2002, the Sky is inspired by the Vauxhall VX Lightning concept created in 2003 at GM’s Advanced Design Studio in Birmingham, U.K.

“For Saturn, the Sky is not the limit,” says Saturn General Manager Jill Lajdziak. “It’s only the beginning.”

’07 Saturn Sky

Signifying the division’s new design direction, Saturn’s traditionally stacked front end and horizontal headlamps are ditched for the Sky in favor of fender peaks and stretched sheetmetal.

Consider it Corvette Jr.

“The Sky’s exterior conveys a sense of technical harmony – combining taut, controlled lines with fluid surfaces to create a dynamic feeling,” says Ed Welburn, GM North America-Design.

Sky bows at NAIAS with the Saturn Aura midsize sedan concept car. (See related story: Saturn Hopes Aura Causes Sensation)

The roadster shares GM’s Kappa small-car rear-wheel-drive platform with the ’06 Pontiac Solstice. Both cars will be built at GM’s Wilmington, DE, assembly plant. Starting price for the Sky is expected to be less than $25,000.

The 2-door droptop is equipped with GM’s 170-hp 2.4L DOHC Ecotec 4-cyl. engine featuring variable valve timing. It is paired with a 5-speed Aisin manual transmission; a 5-speed automatic is optional.

“The Sky’s performance matches its impressive styling,” says Lori Queen, vehicle line executive-GM small cars. “Powertrain, suspension and handling components were carefully selected to provide quick and agile performance.”

Sky sits on a 4-wheel independent short/long arm suspension and coil-over Bilstein monotube shocks. Rack-and-pinion power steering is hydraulically assisted, and 4-wheel disc brakes provide stopping capability. Antilock brakes are standard.

Sky’s exterior design features a wide stance, gaping air tunnels, short overhangs and corner-hugging 18-in. wheels. Sheetmetal creases and lines slice the Sky’s body with light-saber precision.

The styling theme is carried through to the interior. Piano black splashes the armrest and the center console, which features three plump climate control knobs above the stereo buttons. Chrome finishes are used on the gear shifter, steering wheel and door handles. Exposed stitching is used on the eyebrow above the instrument panel gauges as well as on the optional leather seats.

bcorbett@primediabusiness.com