After having put the new midsize 2000 Saturn LS2 sedan through its paces in Scottsdale, Ariz., we have had a chance to play with the new midsize Saturn LW1 wagon in Chicagoland. The
sedan was powered by the new 3-liter, 182-h.p. V-6, a fairly responsive modified version of the engine offered in the Cadillac Catera. The wagon arrived with the new 2.2-liter, 137-h.p. 4-cylinder that focuses more on mileage than performance.
You'll see more GM vehicles using this 2.2-liter 4. The 2.2 is quieter than the 1.9-liter 4-cylinder in the smaller Saturn compacts. And the mileage rating is a pleasant 23 m.p.g. city/32 m.p.g. highway with automatic. Saturn had high hopes
that the wagon would account for 20 percent of sales. It's more like 12 percent. The reason for high hopes is that if all goes well, the midsize wagon will set the stage for a midsize Saturn SUV, just like the compact Saturn wagon will set the stage for a
compact SUV in the 2002 model year. When the compact SUV arrives, the compact wagon will go. Probably the same for the midsize wagon, when a midsize SUV arrives. For 2000, Saturn added midsize front-wheel-drive LS, LS1 and LS2 sedans and
LW1/LW2 station wagons. It had offered only compacts since it began selling cars in the 1991 model year. Saturn used the Opel Vectra platform from GM of Europe to come up with the newest addition to the lineup. We tested the LW1 wagon, with the 1
designating that this comes with the 4-cylinder. Unlike compact Saturns, which have black bumpers on "1" models with base engines and body-colored bumpers on "2" models with the top-of-the-line powerplant, the midsize LS and LW sedans and wagons
have body-colored bumpers. To tell a 1 from a 2 you can get in and step on the pedal or look for dual exhaust tips and chrome wheels on the V-6 versions. Another difference is that the LW1 comes with the smaller 15-inch radials designed to
provide a more cushioned ride while the LW2 comes with a wider-profile, 15-inch radial designed for more sure-footed handling with slightly firmer ride. As with all Saturns, ABS teamed with traction control are a $695 option. And, like all
Saturns, the LW1 comes with dent-resistant and rust-free plastic body panels (except rear quarter panels, roof and hood.) Inside, you enjoy good cabin room and, of course,
good storage space. Though as with the compact Saturn wagon, protruding wheel wells rob some cargo capacity. The upcoming Ford Focus wagon does without the wheel-well protrusions. One major problem with the new midsize Saturn wagon is the
positioning of the power seat controls. Many cars place those controls low alongside the seat facing outward, which makes them harder to use. For easier usage, Saturn's controls are located very high, but too close to the cushion. And they face up
rather than out. When you stop the car, open the door and swivel your body to exit, your weight pressing against the seat bottom puts the cushion in contact with the power seat back control. The result: The seat back reclines while you sit there and
watch. Moving the controls along the driver's door panel would eliminate the reclining seat back. The LW1 wagon we tested starts at $18,835. Add $695 for ABS with traction control, $1,095 for leather heated seats with the pro ble
matic six-way power driver's seat at $325, $70 for carpeted floor mats and $440 for freight. As for the rest of the Saturn lineup, the compact sedan and wagon get modest new cosmetics for 2000, and the compact coupe more of a styling upgrade after
the first of the year when it comes out as a 2001 model.