2003 Saturn L200 Sedan (415)


This week I drove the 2003 Saturn L200 Sedan. Cool car? Not necessarily. Cool is a Lamborghini Mercielago on an overcast day cruising up the coast anywhere in the world. Italy would be cool. The all-new Lamborghini features a 580HP 6.2L V12 Motor (which propels the car from 0-62 in only 3.8 seconds!), 6-speed transmission, All Wheel Drive, and Carbon Fiber Body.  Inbound MSRP $281,100.

At the end of the day and in the real world, the Saturn is cool enough. It’s been said, “If it Flies, Floats or … motors up the coast for about $281,000 – Rent it!

In the meantime, when home in “Your” castle, it is comforting to know you can spend time with the kids, go out to a ball game and drive home at 32 miles per gallon versus 3.2 miles per gallon in a car that won’t even accommodate the kids.

I’ve driven several Saturn’s over the years, some Ferrari and Lamborghini’s too, but I’m a practical kind of guy who considers simplicity for everyday life to be more important. If you want to fly, try an airplane. Cars don’t need to be that fast. In fact, for the price of the Lamborghini, buy and airplane and take lessons.

Another reason I’ve been impressed with Saturn is the low-pressure way they sell their cars, which is very different than the stereotype “Car Salesman” approach. I hope they continue with that approach, which is reason enough for developing a relationship with the people who will help a car owner maintain this important investment.

Handling & Performance:

Saturn won’t do 0-62 in 3.8 seconds but for normal driving I found the 135 horsepower inline 4-cylinder responsive. Horsepower ratings for this group of competitor’s ranges from 135 to about 200 with a V6. If you will be climbing lots of hills and like to travel in the fast lane you will need to look at the L-300 with a V6 at 182 horsepower.


Unexciting, some say, but mid size passenger cars pretty much are designed for pound it out reliability and normal transportation day in and day out. Most styling is computer aided and this limits design options. Aerodynamic features are common with most cars these days to improve gas performance. Vast differences in car design ceased about thirty years ago when computers took over and as gas prices went up. Take a look at cars over the past 100 years and you go from boxy to cigar shapes. All this is boring to some, while practical to others.

Fit and Finish:



The highlight of economy cars is they are affordable to purchase and to operate, and this Saturn is as good as they get.

Consumer Recommendation:

Most families require two cars for working mom’s and dads. Here’s a great car to keep the overall transportation cost down.  It is worth your time to test-drive this economy mid size car.

New Developments:

Technology never ceases to amaze me. Last week (Buick LeSabre review) we talked about the “Black Box” that has found its way from planes to cars. Now another recent development from Mercedes Benz called “Pre-Safe” seeks to prepare us for an impending crash up to five seconds before it happens. Actually it anticipates an accident from analyzing various data, like a skid that sometimes is a precursor to rollover. It prepares for the anticipated accident by closing the sunroof, bringing your seats to upright positions and tensions the seatbelts. Now that is cool.

The Competition: * (in order of ranking)

(1) Saturn L-Series Sedan $18-21,000, (2) Ford Taurus $19-23,000, (3t) Mercury Sable $20-22,000, (3t) Toyota Camry $19-25,000,  (4) Honda Accord $16-26,000, (5) Nissan Altima $17-23,000, (6t) Chevrolet Malibu $18-20,000, (6t) Mitsubishi Galant $18-24,000, (6t) Volkswagen Jetta $17-27,000, (7t) Subaru Legacy $19-25,000,

(7t) Dodge Stratus $18-22,000, (8) Pontiac Grand Prix $21-26,000.

 * – Ranking is based on cost, cu ft, number of features, warranty and gas mileage.

Good News:

Dent resistant, great gas mileage, economy at its best and it is ranked above number 1.

Bad News:

Unexciting design.

Standard Equipment: 

2.2 liter 4-cylinder engine, 4-speed automatic transmission, front wheel drive, air conditioning, stereo with CD player, power locks and windows, cruise control, tilt wheel, lockout protection, fold down 60/40 seat, dual front and side air bags, 3 rear latches for child seats, theft deterrent system, remote access, auto door lock, dent resistant doors and fenders, power mirrors.

Gas Stats:

24 City and 32 Highway MPG.


MSRP $18,430.
Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com
Copyright © 2002 – An Automotive Love Affair

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