1991 Saturn SL
Contrary to popular belief, the Saturn automobile was named after NASA's moon rocket, not the planet that floats serenely through the heavens.Whether the Saturn Sedan and Saturn Coupe will float serenely along America's highways still is to be determined. But overall, the new General Motors Corp. subsidiary that builds the car is putting forth a gung-ho effort to manufacture a quality product.To date, reviews of the automobile have been mixed. But they have leaned toward favorable. The design of the Saturn is a mixture of state-of-the-art and advanced technology. And it can be considered a formidable representative of American efforts to compete with the imports.From the standpoint of body construction, there is a steel space-frame structure and dent-resistant thermoplastic exterior panels.Under the hood is one of two versions of an all-aluminum 1.9-liter, four-cylinder engine. These mate to either a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic. And there are encompassing design parameters like front-wheel drive, four-wheel independent suspension, optional anti-lock brakes and full instrumentation.Delivered at an affordable price, it makes a good package.In upscale SL2 form, it provides pleasant driving. Freda Lockhart, the Saturn of Indianapolis dealer, provided a test car.My first encounter with the test SL2 Sedan clearly indicated that Saturn Corp. kept its promise. The car was well-made. Everything fit. There were no squeaks, groans, rattles or leaks. And the optional SL2 equipment package that took in accessories like air conditioning, power windows, power locks and cruise control dressed up the model in a first-class manner.The engine was Saturn's double-overhead-cam, 16-valve motor rather than the less-powerful single-overhead-cam, eight-valve version. It's the much preferred power plant, as it is a quick-revving four-cylinder with good acceleration characteristics.However, it tends to be a little noisy, and the noise increases when the engine is cold.The sedan is rated as a five-passenger, but if the passengers are big, four are going to be more comfortable than five.If you're a six-footer, it pays to duck getting in. But once inside the seating is comfortable, and the driver quickly adapts to the controls. And the chassis exhibits no quirky mannerisms in fast corners.Overall, handling characteristics are pretty good, keeping in mind that this is a sedan, not a sports car. The SL2 has sufficient size and weight to provide a ride commensurate with other compacts on the market.The Saturn is the newest automotive kid on the block, and as such attracts the glare of the spotlight. The car competes in a market that has no dearth of product. But off the starting blocks, at least, it gives ample indication it will give a good account of itself. 1991 Saturn SL2 Sedan Base price: $10, 990As tested: $13, 095Type: Front-engine, front drive, five-passenger, compact sedanE ngine: 1.9-liter, 16-valve, 123-horsepower, fuel-injected, four-cylinderMileage: 23 mpg (city), 32 mpg (highway)Acceleration: 0-60 mph in 9.3 secs.Length: l76.3 inchesWheelbase: 102.4 inchesCurb weight: 2, 439 poundsOptions: SL2 equipment package, stereo with cassetteArea dealers: Saturn of Indianapolis
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