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Old 03-26-2017, 11:38 PM   #1
MinnesotaMan
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Default Is the L-Series Really that Bad?

Hi All!

I just got a quick question. I've heard from various websites and a mechanic that the L-Series is a car one should steer away from.

But despite this claim, I see LOTS of L-Series around, probably even more than I do S-Series. So is the L-Series, despite its seemingly bad reputation, really as bad as it's made out to be?

Thanks for your input!

-MinnesotaMan
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Old 03-27-2017, 09:51 AM   #2
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2004 L-Series 2.2L Wagon
2004 L-Series 3.0L Wagon
Default Re: Is the L-Series Really that Bad?

The L-Series cars are one of the greatest cars for the $$$$ on the road. Lots and lots of features. Sure they have their quirks....but so do all other cars.

The L-Series cars were not promoted effectively by Saturn. Did not sell as well as the S-Series and some other Saturn Vehicles. Because of this, I feel this model gets a bad rap. Another reason often given, is Saturn as a car company, never showed a profit

Generally easy to work on, cheap parts and low insurance rates make these cars hard to beat.

To own any Saturn today requires the owner to be a "Hands ON" owner. NOS body parts can be challenge to find new. Lots of used body parts out there however. Mechanical parts are easy to come by both new and used.

In my case, I could not find any car for any amount of $$$ that provided the price value I get with the L-Series Wagons.
...
2004 L-Series Wagon 2.2
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Old 03-27-2017, 03:03 PM   #3
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Default Re: Is the L-Series Really that Bad?

Quote:
Originally Posted by MinnesotaMan View Post
Hi All!

I just got a quick question. I've heard from various websites and a mechanic that the L-Series is a car one should steer away from.

But despite this claim, I see LOTS of L-Series around, probably even more than I do S-Series. So is the L-Series, despite its seemingly bad reputation, really as bad as it's made out to be?

Thanks for your input!

-MinnesotaMan
Welcome to SaturnFans! You're inquiry is an interesting one. I will jump to the "at the end of the day" statement first: much of what any of us will hear or say is anecdotal and there is no fully objective way to answer the question. Now I will give you my explanation and opinion.

I have owned my car for nearly 15.5 years of its 17 year age. Enterpise Rent-A-Car was its first owner and it had a little of 24K miles on it in 2001. My mileage is at the signature line below. Being in SoCal I have no issues with repairs which have been related to road salt and rust as I live in a drier climate. The vehicle has been garaged most of its life. I have replaced the following mechanical items under the hood to date: the water pump and, very recently, the rack and pinion unit. Nothing more. It goes without saying that there have been other parts replaced which are wear items (beyond brakes): struts, front sway bar bushings, front sway bar links, rear knuckle bushings (directly behind the rear wheels), and the factory installed radiator (to address a warm running concern, it did not leak-ever). I've upgraded my rear brakes from drum to disc and am happy I did so every time I drive the car!

There have been other repairs, but what is mentioned above are the biggest items. IMO, the powertrain is remarkably sound. I have never encountered an SES light nor Wrench light illumiting as a warning for needed repair. I have followed the 50K mile servicing of the transmission; the oil is changed at or near the 3K mile mark according to factory recommendations for my particular driving conditions. I've also made a change in the oil weight that I use which is more suitable for the age of the car and where I live. The ECOTECT 2.2L engine in these cars is fairly easy to work on and I do the vast majority of my own repairs.

There was a problem with the ECOTEC 2.2L engines in the first half of M.Y. 2000 resulting in timing chain failures and ruined engines. It was corrected with a T/C oiler nozzle having a larger orrifice to deliver more oil for lubrication of the timing chain. My engine was built with this item in it when new. The timing chain components on my car or factory original to date and my car runs as well today as it did when I bought it in Sept. of 2001. I believe that the "bad rep" given these cars tends be a reflection of the owners who do not take car of basic maintenance. My LS1 has been the most reliable and inexpensive car I've owned.
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Last edited by pierrot; 03-27-2017 at 03:12 PM.
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Old 03-27-2017, 03:21 PM   #4
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Default Re: Is the L-Series Really that Bad?

I would echo what Pierrot said about "previous owners". We are not talking about a car that is available brand new. Your purchasing selection is from the used car marketplace and all that goes with that. A used car says more about the previous owner(s) than it does about the brand or model.

No car is bullet proof and at the end of the day it is a machine, no more, no less. Many cars have design flaws when they are released and are sorted out with recalls, etc. You can check that situation out easily for the L series. There aren't many issues that caused a recall.

So if you buy wisely, do a carfax and look for one with a full and complete maintenance history and it looks in good order and drives the same way, you should be good. The exact same can be said for EVERY car on the market though!
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Old 03-28-2017, 10:31 AM   #5
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Thumbs Up Re: Is the L-Series Really that Bad?

I personally love my L series. It is a great car. Handles well. It's sporty and actually pretty fun to drive in my opinion. This car corners like a champ. The resilience of this car has surprised me most of all. I've got just over 180,000 Miles and I have total faith in the car to go well beyond that. Doesn't burn any oil. You take care of this car this car will take car of you (like most vehicles). I haven't had the luxury of most forum members here with having multiple vehicles. This is my first car. I had a choice between the car I have now and a Pontiac Bonneville when I was in the market. I'm satisfied with my decision on the L. Has done nothing but great things for me.

My L was in an accident where a 16 year old girl was driving an SUV and wasn't looking where she was going. Plowed right into the front driver's side. I thought my car was done for after only having it for 3 months. The headlight was smashed. Her car didn't even touch the bumper of my L because of the height of her SUV. Had to get the frame straightened as it was bent 2 inches back and one inch down making the car "undriveable" according to the insurance agency. I got the car back to factory specs and the car is still going strong. Drives straight and you would have no idea that it was in an accident.

I love my L. Hope to keep it for a while.
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Old 03-28-2017, 03:10 PM   #6
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Default Re: Is the L-Series Really that Bad?

Quote:
Originally Posted by WhiteSaturnL200 View Post
It is a great car. Handles well. It's sporty and actually pretty fun to drive in my opinion. This car corners like a champ. (emphasis mine - pierrot)
Ditto that!

Quote:
Originally Posted by WhiteSaturnL200 View Post
I love my L. Hope to keep it for a while.
I'm wanting to make it over the 300K mile mark. My daughter will become a driver some time during the Summer.
...
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Old 03-28-2017, 10:13 PM   #7
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2002 L-Series 2.2L Sedan
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Default Re: Is the L-Series Really that Bad?

I am in Kansas visiting family and have driven a 2002 Volvo S40 1.9t for the last couple days. It has the same mileage as my L200 at 135k. I really like my L200 better, the Volvo is a nice car but it has more problems than my L. The motor mounts have sagged out and the car vibrates like it has solid motor mounts. I only drove the Volvo for about 15 miles back and forth to town. I have put about 40,000 miles on a couple L series over the last couple years. When I get home I am going to start on my L 200/5, I can't wait to get that car on the road.
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Old 03-28-2017, 10:27 PM   #8
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Default Re: Is the L-Series Really that Bad?

MinnesotaMan -

About the only real bad thing I can say about these cars is the fact that parts are getting more and more difficult to come by. That being said, My dad bought a 2000 LS1 Sedan new and drove the crap out of it. He sold it to me for $500 when it had 232K miles on it. I put some work into it (Transmission fluid and filter change, radiator change/T-stat, Front brakes and got the tires balanced and aligned) and it was in great driving shape after that. I did other preventative repairs, such as replacing both O2 sensors, replacing the spark plugs, replacing the struts, upgrading the rear drums to Disc brakes and a few other repairs that escape my head at the moment.

At no point did the car ever leave me stranded anywhere. It always passed inspection and I never had to try and cajole the shop to 'help me out and let me take it back'. As an added bonus, the car had amazingly crisp handling considering the modest price point/segment the car competed in and the fact that it rides on rather pedestrian 15" tires. It cruises on the highway comfortably, handled city traffic just fine, had a larger trunk than you think, and the power from the 4cylinder was actually respectable. And as icing on the cake, I typically averaged 33-35mpg on the highway with the automatic transmission. After 283K miles, I decided that I really liked the car but I wanted a wagon and a manual transmission. Well, wouldn't you know it, I found one! So I bought that and I am driving that around now. It needs some repairs too but overall the driving persona of the car is very nice considering that this a used car with many miles on it. Many of GM's other mainstream cars from the early 2000's just aren't as nice in my honest opinion. Saturn aimed to build an American car with German inspiration and Japanese reliability and I feel that they largely succeeded with this.
...
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Old 03-29-2017, 12:05 AM   #9
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Default Re: Is the L-Series Really that Bad?

Hi
Honestly In my opinion the L-Series are good cars for the money. They had two engines a 2.2 Ecotec(L61) and a 3.0 v6, L81.
As for the engines the four cylinder is very reliable except for the well known timing chain issue, on my car it broke just under 73 thousand miles. They are interference engines but I was lucky and non of the pistons hit any valves.
The 6 cylinder is kind of rare and doesn't have any known issues as far as I know.

The L-Series does have plastic panels(just like the S-Series) which is good abut also bad in some cases.

The first model year L-Series is supposed to have odometer issues, I believe it has something to do with the bcm

If you plan on getting one I'd go for a 2002 or newer, in 2002 side airbags, 4 wheel disc brakes+abs became standard (mine is a 02' L200 and its well equipped for its age.
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Old 03-29-2017, 10:15 AM   #10
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Default Re: Is the L-Series Really that Bad?

Love my L, it's a blast to drive, but that POS is the single defining reason I'll never, ever buy another GM product. 176K on the odo and I've got a stack of receipts 2" tall of all the stuff I've had to do to keep it on the road, constantly working on that thing. 2 water pumps, 3 sets of struts, 2 oil coolers, ignition coils, passenger side front a arm (I've never had to replace major suspension parts on a car before, ever!) and I'm chasing yet another coolant leak as we speak and this is just the stuff I can remember off the top of my head. First problem I had with the LW was leaking strut and oil cooler at 12K miles, and it's been downhill from there. Just gotta limp it along for 1 more year until son finishes his Bachelors degree.

For comparison:
Daughters driving our old '05 Prius, 178K and I've put a water pump in it.
I'm driving a '10 Prius, 115K and I've put, well, nothing in it.

Previously:
Mazda Protégé 168K leaky (aftermarket) sun roof, bent a rim on a San Diego pot hole and 1 water pump
Mazda B2000 210K 1 alternator, 1 water pump
Mazda 626 128K nothing (totaled by moron who didn't stop at stop sign)
Nissan Maxima 182K 1 door switch, 1 window motor, 1 set of struts.
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Old 03-29-2017, 10:34 AM   #11
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Default Re: Is the L-Series Really that Bad?

Carson:

What's bad about the plastic panels? I personally love the fact that this car will never look like a rust bucket and can be repainted with ease.

My personal story. With my 2002 2.2 eco I actually smoked my brother's 2006 Nissan Altima V6. The get up and go in first gear with this car is quite remarkable for the size of the engine.

I just don't like my parts selections now. They are dwindling. I don't want to be forced to jury rig everything in a couple years.
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Old 03-29-2017, 01:16 PM   #12
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Default Re: Is the L-Series Really that Bad?

While I can attest to some of the benefits while driving my former LW200, handling is great, seating was comfortable, vast cargo storage in the wagon,,,,lots better than the 1998 SW2 owned previously.

However; if there is any negative it would be that IF the OP regularly needs to drive up significant grades or hills, my experience is that the 2.2 is vastly underpowered to the point that it would always stay in 3rd gear and be constantly passed up by everyone else (or hold them up) because it could never crest the a hill doing over 40 in a 55 zone.

Flat ground? The 2.2 is fine.

If you do purchase one, and IF you have hills, either test drive it well, OR look for the 3.0 engine.

OH, one other great point.....since the engine compartment was designed for the larger 3.0 6 cyl, there was like 18" clearance between the engine rear and the firewall....only wish I could have used that space for something useful.
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Old 04-13-2017, 12:23 PM   #13
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Default Re: Is the L-Series Really that Bad?

I'll add a note here too. In the 47 years I've been driving and owned vehicles, my LW300 is the only car I have taken to 170k miles and feel it can still continue for many more miles. I've also towed it behind my motorhome for thousands of miles. Paint still looks new, interior leather looks great except for a little leather cracking on the outside of the driver's seat near the door. This is my daily driver and don't plan on retiring it for a long long time. In comparison, I also own a 2008 Saturn Sky Redline with 112k miles on it. I had to replace the engine at 97k. I don't drive it much anymore, just sits in the garage under a noah cover sleeping.....
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Old 05-02-2017, 09:02 AM   #14
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2002 L-Series 2.2L Wagon
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Default Re: Is the L-Series Really that Bad?

This is the 3rd LW200 we have owned. Our first one, a beautiful silver 2001 was rearended by a SUV going 50MPH when she hit us. Pushed the back in 8 inches and spun it around into the other lane flattening 3/4 tires. Wife and dog survived, car did not. We went and bought a 2002 LW 200 with 82000 miles on it, now has 122,000 on it and I just returned from a trip from Maine to Florida and back in one week. Car ran flawlessly and easily kept up with all the BMW, LEXUS, Mercedes, etc on the interstate travelling 75-80MPH. Oh and did I mention ours has the 2.2 engine? Don't anyone let you tell them these are underpowered. A year after buying this one I needed a car and went looking for another 2002 LW200 with 2.2 engine. Found one with 78,000 miles on it in Mass. and bought it. However that one had some rust issues with rear rocker under the plastic panel and the engine cage was rotting out. Replace the cage with one I got from Arizona (looked brand new) and cut out that stupid plastic triangle from the passenger side which is why it rusted out in the first place. The rust in the rocker was half dollar sized and caused by missing body plug in the rear wheel well. I checked the body plugs on both cars and all were loose or missing. I replaced missing ones and sealed them with a sealant as well as the loose ones.

No major issues other than rusting exhaust system and bad 02 sensor and catalytic converter. I have replaced miscellaneous bushings and that kind of stuff, rear brake pads, tires, normal maintenance stuff. I did have to replace the waterpump in the one with 122000 miles on it and while at it replaced the timing chain, guides, etc.
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Old 05-02-2017, 02:34 PM   #15
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Default Re: Is the L-Series Really that Bad?

^^ I am relating my experience that it is underpowered based on driving it for `15,000 miles.. until its plastic body panels melted, being too close to a house fire. We replaced it with a 6cyl that has no hill-climbing issues.
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Old 05-02-2017, 03:04 PM   #16
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Default Re: Is the L-Series Really that Bad?

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^^ I am relating my experience that it is underpowered based on driving it for `15,000 miles.. until its plastic body panels melted, being too close to a house fire. We replaced it with a 6cyl that has no hill-climbing issues.
That's part of the issue with 4 banger they can and will never compete with aspired 6 for torque. Torque is what pulls weight when needed. Especially putting a 4 in a L-series it has more weight to pulls as compared to if it was in a S-Series 4 banger. What I like is the roomy L-series and comfort when driving long distance I can get 30-32 mpg for a 2003 L300 v6 without having to buy a 2017 vehicle to get that mileage in a v6.

As for my experience with v6 in L-Series I will never get a 4 banger unless it is a S-series or same size auto. v6 has the extra when you run A/C where summer here you can roast a egg(lol) but when you run A/C and need to pass this is where torque and v6 comes into play. Sure parts can be hard to find but that is true of all vehicles but more so for others. I can find parts in JY and eBay so they are there you must make the effort to get them and stock up. I fix parts I can fix so I get the parts ahead of time from JY and let the mechs do the major parts that I don't have time or experience to do. That's how I keep both L300 running and mine is 03 ~230K and parents is 02 ~140K so they are running both strong for this old of model but most are highway miles so that keeps the engine in good shape. And constant washing if possible during salty seasons helps keep the rust under control and they still look in good shape.

Last edited by Russet; 05-02-2017 at 03:09 PM. Reason: revise
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Old 05-02-2017, 09:28 PM   #17
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Default Re: Is the L-Series Really that Bad?

Toggenburg: Glad to hear that you picked up a L with more power under the hood. I still feel that based upon the symptoms you described with your previous LW200, you were having an actual, spark, Fuel, Timing or compression issue. I guess since that car melted, the world will never really know. But even if your 2.2L was running correctly, it might have still been underpowered for you, as I think you are at a higher elevation and/or carrying extra weight than most other 4-cylinder owners.

One thing I have noted between automatic and manual 2.2L engines, is the final drive ratio is definitely shorter with the manual transmission. As I find that I cruise the highway at 60mph 5th gear about 500rpm HIGHER than I did with my automatic in 4th gear on the automatic equipped car.

I have concocted a little theory for myself as to why this is. I believe that during the power train development stage, the decision was made not to offer the V-6 engine with a manual transmission and no other 'performance version' of the L would be offered. I think that the engineering decision was made to put the shorter final drive ratio into the manual vehicles to satisfy the inner enthusiast that most manual transmission drivers tend to be. Any losses in fuel economy would be negated by the lower parasitic losses of the manual transmission.

Another benefit is weight - as most of the 4 cylinder models are not equipped with heavy equipment like, moon-roof, leather, power seats. I know that my wagon weighs approx. 3000lbs on the nose. I do notice a difference in acceleration when I've got people in the car. I would say just not having all that extra equipment would probably save me about 150-175lbs. I'll say this, I took the car up to Lake Placid this past winter with 4 people in the car and the cargo area packed to the roof with 3 sets of hockey equipment (with one of those sets being goalie equipment). We were driving up into the mountains with the car larded up with people and cargo that I estimate to be at least 600 additional lbs. Thanks to that shorter drive ratio, I was able to maintain speed going up sustained inclines. If I needed to drop down to 4th, no problem, I'd be able to increase my speed going up the hill. And in the dead of winter, with all that weight, I averaged 27.5mpg for the trip.

Russet: Here we go with the 'aspire' thing again. No one here has said that the 4 cylinder will out-accelerate or be superior to towing to a larger displacement 6 cylinder. The only point that we are trying to make is that the 4 cylinder makes a decent amount of power being the base engine in this car and for most people this is adequate. Back in the day when I looked at the EPA fuel mileage figures when my Dad bought his LS1, the Automatic 4-Cylinder achieved 32mpg on the highway, while the Automatic V-6 only achieved 26mpg. The V-6 was rated at 50hp more than the 4 cylinder. My father drove a LS2 and the LS1 back to back to see if he could tell the difference. He did note that the V-6 accelerated 'like a rocket', but when he saw that the price was over $3000 more than the similarly equipped LS1, he made the more pragmatic choice. And for him and his purposes, it was the better choice as he consistently achieved 30+mpg on the highway from the car, something he would have struggled to do with the V-6 (I *Still* don't know how you are able to achieve high mileage, but I would say your experience is the exception to the rule). My dad drove the Pi$$ out of that car for 232K miles before he sold it to me. It was chewing up some oil and compression was a little low on cylinder #4 but it still had plenty of get-up and go on the highway. The *only* time it felt underpowered was if I had 4 people in the car, on a hot day with the A/C on trying to pass a truck. Then it felt like it was struggling.
...
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Old 05-03-2017, 12:55 PM   #18
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Default Re: Is the L-Series Really that Bad?

Russett & Deep6:
I compare my LW200 2.2 4cyl to my 1998 SW2 1.9 4cyl.
I owned both at the same time, and would drive the same roads & hills.
The smaller S series weighing a few 100 pounds less than the LW would fairly fly up the same hills consistently that the LW would whimply crest at 15 miles an hour less than all other traffic.

Deep6, no, I did not mention that my new 6 cyl was a Saturn product. If fact it is not. I got a real deal on a 10 year old Malibu Maxx w/60K miles on it...literally driven by a little old lady (87 now) who kept it immaculate.
It's got power....and even (by accident of course) burns rubber with a front wheel drive to boot.
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Old 05-03-2017, 01:51 PM   #19
floridasl22002
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Default Re: Is the L-Series Really that Bad?

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Originally Posted by toggenburg View Post
Russett & Deep6:
I compare my LW200 2.2 4cyl to my 1998 SW2 1.9 4cyl.
I owned both at the same time, and would drive the same roads & hills.
The smaller S series weighing a few 100 pounds less than the LW would fairly fly up the same hills consistently that the LW would whimply crest at 15 miles an hour less than all other traffic.

Deep6, no, I did not mention that my new 6 cyl was a Saturn product. If fact it is not. I got a real deal on a 10 year old Malibu Maxx w/60K miles on it...literally driven by a little old lady (87 now) who kept it immaculate.
It's got power....and even (by accident of course) burns rubber with a front wheel drive to boot.
I think we have been down this (and hill on other threads) where you have recited the driving issues with your own, now melted LW200 wagon. I recall quoting figures recently on another thread, but I will do so again as clearly you have a inaccurate view of what weights your vehicles were. The 1998 SW2 weighs in at 2426 lbs. The LW200 weighs in 3069 lbs in base form. That is rather more than the 'few hundred pounds' you quoted. It's actually 643 lbs, which is a fair chunk of extra weight. That's the equivalent of approximately 300 litres of water.

I don't think anyone will disagree that the L200 2.2 4 cylinder is less powerful than the L300 3.0. The 1998 Sw2 chucks out 124 bhp, the L200 135bhp and the L300 182bhp. They are all cars built as 'horses for courses'. One is more economical, the other more powerful.

Saturn's were never designed, nor sold as 'aspirational vehicles'. They were conceived as basic transportation to compete against the Japanese imports such as the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Unfortunately they failed because GM never gave them the elbow room or money to do it properly, due in no small part to internal struggles with other divisions such as Chevy and Pontiac. When you compete against yourself, never win, only lose.

Lastly, these outputs were when they were new and we all know that as cars get older some of the horses leave the stable. The Saturn''s are no exception. So not only are they going to be less powerful than when they were new, but may be even less if not running tip top.
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Old 05-03-2017, 05:01 PM   #20
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Default Re: Is the L-Series Really that Bad?

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Originally Posted by floridasl22002 View Post
these outputs were when they were new and we all know that as cars get older some of the horses leave the stable. The Saturn''s are no exception. So not only are they going to be less powerful than when they were new, but may be even less if not running tip top.
A great statement, and the care of these cars varies from owner to owner. Beyond how well you take care of a car, it will have its own personality (aka issues).

I've had a 96 SL2, 01 L200, and 06 V6 Vue. Clearly the Vue has the most get up and go with 250 HP, but the L200 and SL2 are pretty comparable. Both do well in the mountains of CO, though the L200 can keep up with traffic with 4 adults in it. The SL just couldn't do that.

I tend to agree that there was something causing Toggenburg's LW200 to be down on power, but that is just me looking in from the outside. My L200 will out run most other vehicles out of the traffic control lights on to the highway. I suppose that is also proof that gearing is as important as power...

And as a final comparison between the SL2 and the L200, the L200 with almost 150K miles on it doesn't burn a drop of oil. The SL2 was up to one half to one quart every 1K miles with a little over 100K on the clock, which is normal for those engines.
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