- The Washington Times - Friday, January 14, 2000

MODEL: Saturn LW2
VEHICLE TYPE: Four-door wagon
MILEAGE: 20 city, 26 highway

An old cliche, "bigger is better," is Saturn's new outlook. For 2000, this automaker is launching bigger sedans and wagons, called the L-Series.
Staying small would have limited the automaker's growth. The small-car market represents just 17 percent of the total car market in the United States, while the midsize is much larger at 24 percent. Now, Saturn is competing in 41 percent of the marketplace.
Saturn is building the L-Series because loyal owners asked them to, citing an interest to stay with the brand, but needing something larger. As one Saturn executive put it, "Saturn is growing up and we believe we, have earned the right to compete in the midsize segment."
My test-drive Saturn, the uplevel LW2 wagon, shares many of the styling cues of its smaller sibling, the SW wagon. Saturn describes their new model line as "simple, honest, friendly, and international."
The 2000 LW wagon has smooth, clean, rounded lines in the front, and a decidedly more square design in the rear. Engineers are proud of the doors and windshield construction of the new L-Series. As it turns out, this is a big deal in reducing noise. One engineer remarked that "closing the door sounds like a pumpkin dropping into the mud, and we like that." The windshield is thickened to reduce outside noise, and designed to achieve a smoother and quieter air flow. The wagon's coefficient of drag is 0.32.
Adding to the upscale look of the LW2 are the fluid and graceful lines of the instrument panel. I like the soft-touch feel of the climate and audio controls. The new steering wheel features the palm and thumb grips at the 9 and 3 o'clock positions. This is the correct way, and the safest, for handling the steering wheel.
One of the more remarkable interior qualities is headroom. The LW has a high ceiling. In fact, I am told by Saturn executives that the L-Series beat Camry and Accord in this ergonomics area.
The wagon's liftgate is easy to open due to its gas strut counterbalance system. With the second-row seats flipped down, the cargo space is gargantuan. I can easily slip a man's mountain bike in the rear.
The LW2 has a responsive 24-valve, 3-liter, V-6 engine that puts out 182 horsepower at 5,600 rpm. When I need to move the wagon quickly in passing situations, the power is instantaneous. A four-speed electronically controlled transmission is standard in this uplevel wagon. On the base wagon, the LW1, a five-speed manual transmission is standard, and is mated to a 2-liter four-cylinder engine.
At $21,360, my LW2 is very well equipped with heated front bucket seats, four-wheel disc brakes, an enhanced sport-tuned suspension, 15-inch performance tires, leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel, wood-grain accents, and power locks and windows. The L-Series has more space and luxury appointments the midsize buyer is looking for. My tester has the optional $1,095 leather appointments (seats and door panels), which make the interior handsome.
Saturn's first priority with the L-Series is to build a safe vehicle. The body structure, primarily made of steel, is designed to form a safety cage around the passenger compartment, and side structures are reinforced with steel. Front and rear crumple zones absorb crash energy. Dual front air bags are standard, while an anti-lock braking system with traction control is optional.
Saturn's loyal owners' needs are changing because of growing families. Building larger vehicles is a natural evolution for the automaker. Saturn is growing up.

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