EXPERT REVIEW

IndyStar.com's view

Saturn Corp. has put a different spin on its coupes for 1997.

First of all, the two coupe models now share the same 102.4 inches of wheelbase possessed by their sibling sedans. That compares to the 1996 coupe’s 99.2 inches of wheelbase.

Offered as an entry level SC1 and as an upstream SC2, the Saturns share common skin and fascias, glass, and head and tail lamps. In the passenger cabin, there is all-new trim and seat appearance, plus a plethora of updated comfort and convenience items.

The most important advancement is more cabin room — courtesy of the longer wheelbase.

There’s no mistaking the new vehicles from their predecessors. Every exterior panel and all the glass and light assemblies have received a makeover.

For the first time, the SC1 and SC2 share common panels all around. The wedge-like front appearance is highlighted by fixed, exposed modular headlights, a departure from the 1996 model’s pop-up lights.

A new roof starts at the base of the windshield A-pillar, extends over the doors, and continues down the rear quarter window C-pillar. Designers have corrected an inconvenience attributed to some roofs by creating a slight inward lip that directs water away from the passenger compartment.

Daytime running lamps now are a standard feature, while at the rear, wraparound tail lamps blend into the body’s upper character line.

On balance, the coupes get high marks for sleek styling, plus laurels for aerodynamic design. The co-efficient of drag is a low 0.310, which assures a low level of wind noise.

In giving the coupes a longer wheelbase, designers had more latitude to work with relative to interior room. The coupes are almost six inches longer (180 inches) than the 1996 cars. As a result, front headroom is increased one inch and rear headroom seven-tenths of an inch by virtue of a higher, rounder roofline.

Other improvements include shifting the driver’s seat back one inch to provide more legroom. The front passenger seat has a new easy-entry design with a mid- track memory to facilitate passenger re-entry.

The modular dash panel, dual-airbag system, and center console are carried over from the previous model. This is a basic setup with primary analog instrumentation — speedometer, tachometer, fuel and temperature gauges and odometer.

In making both the SC1 and SC2 driver’s cars, a five-speed manual gearbox is standard. Optional on both models is a four-speed automatic.

If you want to go, the SC2 is the obvious choice. Both coupes are powered by 1.9-liter (116-cubic inch) four-cylinder engines. However, the SC2’s motor is a double- overhead cam 4, compared to the single-overhead cam powerplant in the SC1.

That translates to 124-horsepower for the DOHC compared to 100-horsepower for the single stick

With 116 cubes on board, you’re obviously not driving a Corvette killer. But a five-speed provides some lively performance, with 0-60 mph for the stronger motor coming in at nine seconds flat.

With the single cam engine, the 0-60 time drops to 10.5 seconds.

The SC2, however, follows the adage, “If you’ve got horses, you have to feel them,” with a fuel-mileage rating of 27 mpg city, 37 mpg highway. For the SC1, its 28 mpg/40 mpg.

Base prices are $12,495 for the SC1 and $13,695 for the SC2.

Other changes include new colors, a low-fuel indicator, in- dash CD player, and an improved front-of-dash mat. Chassis revisions include a revised power steering pump, improved engine mount and torque struts, and non-asbestos organic front brake pads.

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