Featuring GM's revolutionary turbocharged Ecotec 2.0L powerplant that produces respectable power and previously propelled our test Cobalt SS to Mustang GT level performance with merely a tune. (July 2009). However, in this incarnation the Sky's RWD, hardy five-speed gearbox, standard limited-slip differential, and independent rear suspension, makes the roadster more akin to a Vette than a subcompact.
Like many, I was a bit dismissive of the Sky, until one night at "Route 59," a notorious and unsanctioned automotive event held just north of New York City. It was there the Sky's sharp lines and aggressive, yet well-proportioned stance lured me in for a closer look, where I met Eros Deda and his '08 Sky Red Line. After the obligatory introductions, I asked the diminutive 22-year-old why he chose the Saturn over the slew of imports popular with his peers. "It's got balls and Hondas are like Tampax every [expletive deleted]'s got one," he replied to the chagrin of the many Civic aficionados present. "I was thinking about getting a Z, but this just pulled harder and felt better in the turns, plus I like that you don't see too many around here." When I inquired if he had plans to do some modding he hesitantly replied, "definitely, but it's pretty new, I don't want to do anything that would blow it up."
Thankfully the engineers at GM did their homework before adding boost to the Ecotec mill. Instead of simply adapting the 2.4L mill in the naturally aspirated base model, the Red Line features the LNF Ecotec 2.0t. Cranking out 260 hp and 260 lb-ft at the flywheel, the 122-cid four-banger extracts an amazing 2.1 horsepower per cubic inch of displacement-making it GM's highest specific output engine ever. The engineers were able to achieve this by combining advanced technologies such as a dual-scroll turbo, variable valve timing, and direct injection. Working in harmony, the dual cam phasing complements the turbo system by optimizing valve timing at lower rpm for faster turbo spool and quick torque, while utilizing the injectors' efficient delivery to enhance piston cooling. "There is virtually no lag with this system," said Ed Groff, Assistant Chief Engineer at GM. "Throttle response is immediate. The engine acts like a larger displacement engine."
More robust than its predecessors, the "Gen II" Ecotec block was developed in conjunction with GM's racing division to support increased horsepower and torque. For instance, the cylinder block's bulkheads and the bore walls are enlarged for strength along with a deeper water jacket design for added cooling capacity and improved cylinder bore roundness. With all this in mind, I was curious to find out how GM's newest engine responded to a few typical modifications.
I alleviated any lingering reservations Eros may have held by selecting very light mods made by some of most reputable suppliers in the industry. The hard parts would consist of a K&N Performance drop-in air filter and a Magnaflow cat-back. Also, we again recruited local GM guru Matt Hauffe of Tune Time Performance to perform the installs and recalibration of the Sky's ECU utilizing HP Tuners VCM software suite.