Saturns larger front-wheel-drive L-Series sedans and wagon get new styling inside and out for the 2003 model year. The automaker promises that these changes will give the L-Series models a more commanding and refined exterior appearance. The fresh front end includes wraparound projector-beam headlights, a larger grille and a raised hood. Optional fog lamps with chrome bezels are integrated into a new fascia. The sedans also gain new taillights and a revised rear fascia.
Rocker panels and the lower fascia sections are body colored. The spring heights have been modified. European-style seat upholstery is installed, and the instrument cluster gains a silver faceplate.
Both midsize body styles are offered with a four-cylinder or V-6 engine. Only the four-cylinder is available with a manual shift. Based on the European Opel Vectra and introduced for the 2000 model year, the L-Series was modified considerably for the U.S. market and is built at a GM plant in Delaware. Competing against the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, the L-Series comes in L200 and L300 trim levels. Saturn has also introduced the brand-new, smaller Ion coupe and sedan to replace its S-Series.
The L-Series appearance has changed significantly, but the dent- and rust-resistant polymer bodyside panels are still attached to a skeletonlike steel space frame. Saturn has used this construction method since the company began to market cars for the 1990 model year. A revised Saturn badge with a three-dimensional look sits within a chrome frame. At the rear, a chrome strip replaces the horizontal red appliqué that was used on the prior-generation sedan.
Measuring 190.4 inches long overall, the L-Series sedans ride a 106.5-inch wheelbase thats close to the dimensions of the top-selling Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. These Saturn models stretch to 68.5 inches wide and stand 56.4 inches tall. Five-spoke alloy wheels hold 16-inch tires on the L300 and 15-inch tires on the L200.
Seating for five occupants includes front bucket seats that provide ample space for 6-footers and a rear bench. Taller people may not be able to stretch out in the backseat, but space is more than sufficient for two passengers and three can manage. The split rear seatback folds down to add to the trunks 17.5-cubic-foot cargo volume.
Round analog instruments face the driver. Column-mounted stalks operate the lights and wipers, and audio and climate controls are stacked in the center of the dashboard.
Standard features include air conditioning, a tilt steering wheel, an immobilizer alarm, cruise control, remote keyless entry and a CD player. GMs OnStar communication system is available in a Premium Package. A Sport option group is also available, and a console-mounted DVD-based entertainment system that includes wireless headphones is optional in the L300.
Under the Hood
An Ecotec 135-horsepower, 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine goes into the L200 sedan, and that model may be equipped with either a four-speed-automatic or five-speed-manual transmission. The L300 gets a 182-hp, 3.0-liter V-6 that comes only with the automatic gearbox.
Curtain-type airbags that store above the side windows and inflate along the length of the passenger compartment protect the heads of front and rear occupants. Antilock brakes with traction control are offered as optional features. LATCH child-safety seat tethers are installed.