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SEE ALSO: Saturn Buyer's Guide

Saturn continues its philosophy of evolutionary improvement. Its cars pack a lot of technology in an affordable package. The 1995 SL2 four-door sedan aptly demonstrates the Saturn way by adding a host of new features this model year while still maintaining its value and individuality.

Saturn is the newest company in the General Motors fold, established just 10 years ago. Site preparation on a 200 acre facility at Spring Hill, Tennessee began in 1986, and by 1990 the first production models started through the 4.1 million square foot manufacturing complex. In five model years over 800,000 Saturns have been sold. In June of 1994, thousands of Saturn owners and their families from across the country participated in "The Saturn Homecoming" event in Spring Hill. Even though it rained it did not diminish the enthusiasm of satisfied owners.

Saturn produces four-door sedans and station wagons, and two-door sports coupes. All are offered in at least two trim levels, with the sedans available in three versions. The basic SL and more fully-equipped SL1 share a 100-horsepower 1.9 liter single-overhead cam engine. The top-of-the-line SL2 has a 124-horsepower twin cam version of the Saturn engine and an comprehensive list of standard or optional features. We tested the SL2 with the automatic transmission.

A week long road test in a variety of road and weather conditions developed these impressions of the SL2 family sedan:

APPEARANCE: The SL2 retains its distinctive, contemporary styling and unique construction. A steel "space frame" chassis is the heart of the car. Body panels are not load-bearing and the fenders, door panels, quarter panels, and front and rear fascias are made of smooth, dent-resistant thermoplastic material. The hood is the only body component made of steel. The result is a clean, aerodynamic design with a large cabin and plenty of glass for good visibility. The window trim and side mirrors are black, while the wheels sport Firestone Firehawk touring tires.

COMFORT: The Saturn sedan is an honest, unpretentious small family car with all of the basic features for comfort and convenience. Interior materials and finish are of good quality. Manually- adjustable front seats are comfortable, with near-European firmness, and all controls are placed in a logical manner. The instrument panel has been redesigned this year to add a passenger-side air bag, and features more rounded, padded styling and a new instrument cluster. The rear seat will comfortably hold two average-sized adults and a small child in the center position. The rear seat folds down with a 60% / 40% split for increased luggage capacity or trunk access. Access to the good-sized trunk is enhanced by the low-liftover deck lid. As a bonus for non-smokers, the front seat ashtray can be converted into an additional cupholder.

SAFETY: Motorized shoulder straps are thankfully a thing of the past. The SL2 now has both driver and passenger air bags and three-point shoulder harnesses for front and outboard rear seat occupants. The steering wheel and column, and instrument panel are designed to deform and absorb energy in an accident. The steel spaceframe has front and rear crumple zones and cross-braced door beams for impact protection. Antilock brakes are optionally available, with disc brakes on all four wheels. Also available is a traction control system that works with the automatic transmission and antilock brake computers.

ROADABILITY: The Saturn SL2 is at its best around town and on smooth highways. Its ride is firmer than is traditional in American cars, but this makes for better maneuverability. Four-wheel independent suspension and variable-ratio power steering add to handling control. Engine noise and vibration have been tamed considerably in the years since the car's introduction.

PERFORMANCE: The SL2 is equipped with the Saturn 124-horsepower 1.9-liter, dual overhead cam, 16-valve, four-cylinder engine. The aluminum alloy block and head, and nodular iron crankshaft are made with a unique lost-foam casting process. A new tuned composite-material induction system has been added this year. Our test car was equipped with the optional electronically-controlled four-speed automatic transmission. This transmission is unique in its class in its ability to automatically downshift on steep grades in order to utilize engine braking. All of this high-tech hardware gives the SL2 solid, sprightly performance around town or on the highway.

CONCLUSIONS: In a few short years, Saturn has made quite a mark in the American auto industry. The SL2 sedan shows why.


       Base Price             $ 12,815
       Price As Tested        $ 16,585
       Engine Type            I-4, dohc, 16v, mpfi
       Engine Size            1.9 liter/116 cid        
       Horsepower             124 @ 5000
       Torque (ft/lbs)        122 @ 4800 
       Wheelbase/Length       102"/176"
       Transmission           four-speed ECautomatic w/overdrive
       Curb Weight            2440  
       Pounds per Horsepower  20
       Fuel Capacity          12
       Fuel Requirement       Unleaded regular (87 oct)              
       Tires                  Firestone Firehawk FTX P195/60R15 M+S
       Brakes                 ABS optional, disc/disc standard
       Drive Train            Front engine/front drive 
       EPA Economy - miles per gallon   
         city/highway/observed        24/34/25.3
        to 60 mph                     9.7 sec  
       1/4 mi (E.T.)                  17.8 sec 
       Coefficient of Drag  (Cd)      .34