Saturn joins the midsize segment with the 2000 L Series sedan and station wagon. The front-drive LS (sedan) and LW (wagon) are derived from the German Opel Vectra, one of General Motors' European models, but have different styling and are built at GM's Wilmington, Del., plant. Operating as a separate company within GM, Saturn is on a mission to attract buyers of import-brand cars.
Like all Saturns, the LW has dent- and rust-resistant polymer side-body panels attached to a skeleton-like steel space frame. Styling on the new sedans show a strong family resemblance to the smaller Saturn S Series sedan, including a prominent crease that runs the length of the body side.
The LW's overall length of 190 inches is 8 inches less than the Ford Taurus wagon and 4 inches shorter than the Volkswagen Passat wagon.
The LW seats five with two front buckets and a three-place bench that is split 60/40 and folds to expand the cargo area. Saturn lists cargo volume at 29 cubic feet behind the rear seat and 71 cubic feet with the seat folded. Opening or closing the smooth-operating liftgate can easily be done with one hand.
Air conditioning, power steering and a tilt wheel are standard on all models. A power driver's seat is a new option for Saturn.
Under the Hood
The LW1 uses a new 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine with 137 horsepower that is not currently shared with other GM brands. The LW2 has a 182 horsepower 3.0-liter V-6 produced by GM of Europe, and versions of this engine are used in the Cadillac Catera and Saab 9-5. Both come only with a four-speed automatic transmission.
Anti-lock brakes and traction control are optional on both.
Though the LW offers crisp handling, comfortable accommodations and decent utility at a reasonable price, it sets no new standards. Just being good may not be good enough in such a competitive market.