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Saturn L300 Sedan (2001)

SEE ALSO: Saturn Buyer's Guide

By Matt/Bob Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 21,360
     Price As Tested                                    $ 24,725
     Engine Type              DOHC 24-valve 3.0 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 184 cid/3000 cc
     Horsepower                                   182 @ 5600 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               190 @ 3600 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  106.5"/69.0"/190.4"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     3357 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  15.7 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                         P205/65R15 performance
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
     Domestic Content                                        N/A
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.31


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            20/26/23
     0-60 MPH                                        8.5 seconds
     1/4 (E.T.)                          16.0 seconds @ 89.5 mph
     Top-speed                                           120 mph
                 * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

(The "big" Saturn sedan is an all-American entry into the burgeoning mid-sized market, according to Matt Hagin. Bob Hagin says that may be true but he thinks it has a slight German accent.)

MATT - Almost from the beginning, Saturn dealers have wished for a step-up model to round out their product availability. Their S-models did a pretty good job of staying up with the imports for quality and reliability albeit with a few rough edges. And their no-haggle pricing was and still is a refreshing change from the pressure they get at many other dealerships selling other brands. Their customers also seem to be pretty happy with the friendly shirt-sleeve reception they get from the people who work there. But one of the things that these dealers lacked was a bigger, pricier car to put their loyal owners into when they needed to step out of the somewhat-cramped small Saturn and into a mid-sized sedan or wagon. These buyers had to shop elsewhere.

BOB - To make this new product, Saturn management abandoned its from-the-ground-up credo and went shopping for mid-sized hardware from other General Motors divisions. The in-house design and production plan was cost effective back when the company launched its small import-fighter since GM didn't have anything small enough in its other brands to fill the bill. But the Opel Vectra from G.M. of Germany seemed to fill the mid-sized slot quite well. It had to be 'massaged' by Saturn and was made a bit longer, wider and softer to fit American mid-sized tastes and to get away from the Vectra's sports sedan persona. The result was the L-Series four-door sedan and station wagon that hit our market last year.

MATT - The big Saturn is available with two engines, one of them being an all-new 2.2-liter, four-banger with twin cams and all the latest technology. It's not a spinoff of the 1.9-liter unit that is used in the small Saturns and it's lots smoother running too. It puts out 135 horses, which is OK, but the star of the S-series lineup is the 3.0-liter V6 that's in our L300. The engine has an international background in that it's built at a G.M. plant in England and variations of it are used in the Cadillac Catera and the Saab 9-5 as well. For use in the our Saturn L300, it's been toned down a bit to put out 182 horses and 190 pound/feet of torque, which gives it good pulling power down low on the rpm range. And not to be overlooked is the fact that although it's got twin cams on each of its cylinder heads and other trick stuff, it's not fussy and can be fed a diet of 87-octane fuel.

BOB - The L-Series that carries the four-cylinder engine can be had with either a five-speed stick-shift or a four-speed automatic but I guess that the Saturn people don't want the V6 version to be taken for a road-burner sportster so it can only be had with the automatic. The tires on the V6 unit are a bit wider that the four-cylinder version, but otherwise, the chassis are identical. The Saturn L-Series can be had with an anti-lock braking system as well as traction control, both of which are worthwhile options. The ABS can lop off as much as eight feet of stopping distance in a panic stop, which can sometimes be the difference between a close call and a tragedy. The suspension is pretty standard fare but the L300 V6 has disc brakes at all four corners, where the four-cylinder versions use drum brakes in back.

MATT - The exterior of the L300 is pretty fancy for such a sensible sedan and buyers in The Rust Belt won't have to worry about the bottoms of the doors and fenders being eaten away, since most of the Saturn body panels are made of a polymer plastic. The rest of the undercarriage is steel, though. Our car had heated leather seats as well as a moonroof. I found it interesting that, in its publicity brochure, Saturn points out that the L300 should enjoy somewhat lower insurance rates than others in its class by virtue of the lower instance of accident statics given to the brand. In all, the L300 is a neat package.

BOB - That's true and the only thing that Saturn lacks as a brand is a comprehensive and catchy advertising campaign. Maybe the company thinks the cars are so good they'll sell themselves.