Saturns larger front-wheel-drive L-Series sedans and wagons get new styling inside and out for the 2003 model year. The automaker promises that these changes will give the L-Series a more commanding and refined exterior appearance. Optional fog lamps with chrome bezels are integrated into a new fascia.
The spring heights have been modified. European-style seat upholstery is installed, and the instrument cluster gains a silver faceplate. In mid-2002, the models in the L-Series lineup became available with GMs OnStar communication system and a console-mounted, DVD-based entertainment system.
For 2003, Saturn introduced the smaller Ion to replace its S-Series, but a wagon is not included. Saturn remains known for its one-price, no-haggle sales process.
Like all Saturn models, the appearance of the LW200 and LW300 has changed significantly. These wagons feature dent- and rust-resistant polymer bodyside panels that are attached to a skeletonlike steel space frame. The fresh front end includes wraparound projector-beam headlights, a larger grille and a raised hood. The rocker panels and lower fascia sections are body colored. A revised Saturn badge with a three-dimensional look sits within a chrome frame. Five-spoke alloy wheels hold 15-inch tires on the LW200 and 16-inch tires on the LW300.
Seating for five occupants in the LW wagons includes two front buckets and a three-place, 60/40-split rear bench seat. Cargo volume reaches 79 cubic feet when the backseat is folded down. Opening and closing the smooth-operating liftgate is easy to do with one hand. Taller people may not be able to stretch out in the backseat, but space is more than sufficient for two passengers and even three can manage.
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.
Both wagons have automatic air conditioning, heated power mirrors, remote keyless entry, an immobilizer alarm, power windows and door locks, a cargo cover and net, a tilt steering wheel and a CD player. In addition to a V-6 engine and sport suspension, the LW300 adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel. GMs OnStar communication system is available. A console-mounted DVD-based entertainment system is optional in the LW300.
Under the Hood
The LW200 is equipped with a 135-horsepower, 2.2-liter four-cylinder Ecotec engine that teams with either a four-speed-automatic or five-speed-manual transmission. The LW300 gets a 182-hp, 3.0-liter V-6 and 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 and LATCH child-safety seat tethers are installed.
Even though Saturns midsize wagons set no notable standards for their class, they promise reasonably crisp handling, comfortable accommodations and useful interior space. Four-cylinder performance should satisfy many drivers, but because of their greater weight, a V-6-equipped wagon would likely be more prudent. Wagons with the refined V-6 can take off in a greater hurry and with quick and positive response for passing and merging. Saturns wagons are easy to drive and they ride well on the highway, but the hard bumps found in urban driving may produce some unpleasant reactions.