- The Washington Times - Friday, May 11, 2001

MODEL: Saturn
VEHICLE TYPE: Four-door sedan
PRICE-AS-TESTED: $20,175
MILEAGE: 25 city, 33 highway

Driving the 2001 Saturn is both enjoyable and comforting. This sedan is enjoyable for numerous reasons, and it is comforting just knowing I had "head curtain" air bag protection.
Saturn has introduced a new head curtain air bag as an option on the L-Series sedans and wagons designed to reduce head and neck injuries caused by side-impact collisions. The bags are stored in the upper roof rail behind the headliner and are activated by electronic sensors. Fortunately, I had no use for their deployment, but it is reassuring to know that if I had an accident, I probably would have come out unscathed.
The Saturn people point to statistics that indicate side-impact collisions account for about 30 percent of crashes in small and midsize cars and that about half of these crashes involve head and neck injuries.
This Saturn is loaded with the expected protective features, such as air bags and safety belts, including a shoulder belt for the mid-rear-seat passenger. This car also has crumple zones both front and rear to absorb energy in a crash.
By midyear, the trunk will be equipped with an emergency release that will glow in the dark; the car has daytime running lights; there are top tether anchors for child seats. My L200 model had traction control and anti-lock brakes. Even the horn button is in the more natural location for convenient use, and cruise controls are handily located on the steering wheel.
Safety is just one selling point for the 2001 Saturn; the other is its luxury treatment. For example, it's comforting to sit upon heated leather seats with two elevations: warm and warmer. Speaking of elevations, even the seat itself can be elevated to the driver's comfort using six-way power controls.
The Saturn is available with either manual or automatic transmission and the choice of a 2.2-liter four-cylinder or a 3-liter V-6 engine. My tester had a four-cylinder with the stick shift a delightful combination. The 135-horsepower engine was smooth and quiet, yet had plenty of pickup, and the shifter was fluid and easy to manage. This combination allowed me to drive the car in a fashion similar to that of a sports car.
Aiding the sportiness of the car was its stable suspension. With its 15-inch wheels, it had good road adhesion, yet the ride was not harsh.
On the other hand, with the leather trim and a few of its niceties, this Saturn approaches the luxury standards which is a good reason for opting for an automatic transmission.
Like most other cars, the interior noise level is low, ideal for listening to a CD or FM. My tester was equipped with the optional CD/cassette radio system that had automatic tone control and eight speakers. The car also had other options such as anti-lock braking system and traction control, 15-inch alloy wheels, leather seats with six-way power, and driver's seat lumbar adjustment, taking the base price of $16,750 up to $20,175. The L100 has a base price of $14,495, and the L300 with a V-6 engine starts at $19,495.
There isn't anything exceptional about the exterior design; nevertheless, it has good eye appeal. What I found amazing was the size of the trunk. The far wall was beyond my reach, and, if needed, the rear seats could be lowered for carrying long cargo.
I also appreciated such amenities as the fade-away theater lighting, tilt steering wheel and the spacious interior. All things considered, the comfort and enjoyment of Saturn L-Series should make this car a good candidate for consideration when shopping for a midsize sedan.
MOTOR MATTERS



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