There is so much to love about the Saturn Sky Redline it makes it even harder to accept the things that detract from the overall package.

It's absolutely beautiful, first of all.

Not merely a good-looking, proportionate car -- but a stunner. A Baywatch bikini model, curvy and tight in all the right places. Long, wide clamshell hood that swoops up over the front wheels, ever so provocatively. Artfully cut side scallops. A great tail. The chopped-looking, low-profile roofline that seems to cant forward where it meets the steeply raked front glass. Those twin "speed cones" that taper behind each headrest to the rear deck.


No, more than that.

It is perhaps the best work to come out of a GM styling studio since the early '60s and the StingRay Corvette. And it has the same power to turn heads as a '63 split-window coupe.

Indeed, the Sky Redline makes the current Corvette seem almost plain-looking. It's much more aesthetically coherent and "finished" than the ultra-performance Z06 version of the 'Vette -- a great performer marred by the gratuitous addition of ticky-tacky bits of what look like glued-on bits of plastic crapola purchased out of some low-budget aftermarket "tuner" catalog. Can you say "Guido"?

Bottom line, the team that designed the Sky's exterior should get an award -- or at least, a huge raise. And everyone at GM should have to go to classes taught by these people -- and listen hard. If you think that's excessive praise, window shop a Sky next to a Mazda Miata or Honda S2000; even a BMW Z4 or Porsche Boxster. Not one of them can claim superior presence or curb appeal or ability to draw admiring rubberneckers.

The inside of the Sky Redline is equally sharp -- with detail touches that include a body-colored shifter plate, "piano black" trim and the graceful use of chrome for accent purposes. A three-spoke steering wheel with meaty grips and voluptuous contrast-colored red leather wrap (in my silver test car) is, once again, incredibly appealing on a tactile and emotional level.

And it runs, too.

The Redline is defined by its souped-up powertrain -- a 260 horsepower, turbocharged version of GM's 2.0 liter "Ecotec" four vs. the standard Sky's 2.4 liter, 177-hp non-turbo four. With almost 100 more hp available, the Redline can do muscle car-style launches and nail 60 mph in about 5.5 seconds. That is as quick as anything in the segment, if not more so.

And for those who prefer an automatic, you can get one of those, too. Some cars in this segment, like Honda's S2000 roadster, don't offer an automatic -- in part because their engines don't have enough torque to work with one. No such issues with the Redline. You can turn off the traction control and power brake the tires down to the cords through the standard limited slip differential -- if you like that kind of stuff. The smoke you'll produce will have onlookers swearing on stacks of Hot Rod magazine that you must've put a V-8 in that thing.

While not as razor sharp in terms of its steering response as the S2000 or Z4, the Sky Redline is nicely balanced and has high levels of lateral grip. Tail-out power slides are its specialty. Feels good at triple digit speeds (unlike some other short wheelbase roadsters, which begin to get "darty" above 100 mph).

It absolutely kills the Miata in a straight line -- and will muss the 'do of both the Z4 and the S2000. Even a Porsche Boxster, for that matter.

OK, ready for the hair in the soup?

Wind noise, even at moderate speeds, is simply obnoxious. This was a problem with the first Sky I drove -- and it's still a huge problem with the Redline I just got out of. I am not especially noise sensitive and it takes a lot to bother me. But you can't hold a normal conversation in this car at anything much over 40 mph. And with that much of the outside environment seeping through wherever those air gaps are, can water leaks be far behind? What happens, five years, down the road, when door gaskets and weather seals shrink a little bit -- as they inevitably do? This is a brand-new car and it sounds like a '69 MG inside the thing. It's a huge defect. Even if it is perfectly water-tight.

Next, the "ergos" (ergonomics; how the car fits you; its ease of use, etc.) simply suck. For example, the switches for the power windows are placed so far back on the door panels that is extremely awkward to reach them, even while the vehicle is stationary. If you're the driver, you find yourself using your right arm to reach over yourself to root around on the door panel. Terrible. Why not just mount the switches on the console? There's room. It makes no sense -- and adds a degree of gratuitous frustration to driving the Sky that just should not be there. Ditto the completely useless twin cupholders -- which are mounted behind you, on the very rear part of the center console, between the two seatbacks. Good luck trying to access your cup of coffee.

There are some smaller niggles as well -- for example, the standard manual transmission's only a five speed in a segment where six-speeds are virtually givens. And the optional five-speed automatic has no manual gear select function. Getting the top down also takes some work -- especially relative to the one-handed motion that's all you need in a Miata. The car must be stopped -- and you have to get out to do the deed.

But it's the drafty cabin and and tortuously located power window switches that are the genuinely serious obstacles to ownership. They make the Sky feel cheaply put together (wind noise) and just plain annoying in day-to-day use (windows; cupholders -- the tiny fuel gauge burrowed so deep in the dash it's sometimes very hard to read the fuel level - etc.).

As pretty as she is, it's sort of like a hot but very high-maintenance girlfriend (or "Himbo," if you're a female). Fine for a night on the town -- but it gets old after awhile. Looks draw you in -- but it's compatibility that makes for a successful relationship.

Happily, the Sky's defects should be very fixable. No reason why GM can't design a convertible top that feels tight as a snare drum (the current Corvette's is). Those godawful power window switches could be switched to a better location -- like the console area. And if BMW can figure out a way to put an at least plausibly usable cupholder in a Z4, then surely GM can do it, too.

No one expects a roadster to be a paragon of practicality -- but a snug-fitting roof and switches you can use without Yoga-like contortions of your upper torso shouldn't be asking too much.

In a $28,425 vehicle like the Sky Redline, they ought to be givens.

Take care of these small but significant details, and this car would be a three-run homer. That they're there to begin with is a genuine tragedy -- an automotive kneecapping of a basically superb design concept. GM has a bad habit of doing that -- from the Pontiac Fiero to the Cadillac Allante. It's almost like a death impulse. Makes you wonder.

One of these days, they may finally get it right from the get-go.

Meanwhile, marvel at the beauty; enjoy the power. Both are so abundant you may forget about the rest.

At least, for awhile.