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Old 08-19-2003, 08:38 PM   #1
YumDohNuts
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Question Q's about L-Series...might join the Saturn "Family"

Hi everyone, I'm new to the board.

I've been looking for a new (to me) car for quite awhile, and I won't re-hash all of the tales from other forums, so I'll just list the relevant info here:

Want a car that can handle 50-60 miles of commuting a day, return decent (22+mpg) gas efficiency, is reliable and durable, and won't cost me an arm and a leg. Lots of research and discussion has led me here. I've seen quite a few L-Series on the road, always thought they were attractive rides. I just figured they were out of my price range (about 10k, give or take 1k), even for the used ones. Well, as most of you are probably aware, deals can be made for that price. However, when I buy a car, I intend to drive it until there's nothing left to drive (I'm not trading it in, in other words) but want a car that will be fairly inexpensive to drive for years to come.

From what I've read the L-Series seems to be quite reliable, the first model year notwithstanding.

My questions are these:

1. Should I stay away from the 2000 MY L-series entirely? Almost all of the "negative" experiences with the L-series involve that first year, particularly the early builds.

2. Is there anything I should look for specifically on the L-Series to see if it's been mistreated - I have a small battery of tests that I run on used cars, but just wondering if the L has specific items of concern.

3. Ideally, my preferences are as follows: LW (V6), LS (V6), LW (I4) and LS (I4). The LWs tend to be more uncommon, as in my used research it's about a five to one ratio of sedans to wagons. I like either the black or dark blue exterior (though I saw the red and thought that was a unique, nice color) and a black interior, preferably leather. Does anyone know if these color combinations are *not* possible on the 2000-2001 L models? I would think they are...

Thanks for your help, everyone. I plan on getting this car and modifying it in stages - small performance mods, definitely a nice stereo, wheels and tires. You all seem pretty nice, and I'd appreciate any info you can give.

YumDohNuts
(aka Philip)
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Old 08-19-2003, 10:37 PM   #2
SilverNickelQC
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Default Potential L-Series Owner

First, welcome to the boards, lots of informative things here to know about L-Series or any other Saturn for that matter, Secondly, and to answer your question about the most durable car i would have to say 2.2 litre even though this is one of the first cars that the engine was put in and as Edmunds put it it has no history but i can say this there is a guy on this site that had an 02' w/ about 232k on the odometer, it is great on gas and they have more of an aftermarket for that engine as far as mods go.

1. Definently stay away from the first year L's, although there are some people on this site that beg to differ.

2. There is not really much you can do to check to see if there are problems but to get rid of that anxiety you may have you may want to go to a Saturn dealer and purchase certified, that way you will have some type of warranty and if anything were to go wrong you can tak to someone there and also get the service history on it.

3. The resale value holds a little bit more for the LW so if thats what you want it may cost a little more than the Sedan, I haven't seen any L's with interior other than the basic grey unless its leather. I could be wrong on that though.

I personally own the 3.0 version and i like the power it provides but my gas mileage is a little under your requirements but its smooth and fast.

Which ever way you go you'll love the car.
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Old 08-19-2003, 11:04 PM   #3
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The L's problems are not confined to the 2000 model year; the same issues (steering vibration and other steering/suspension issues being the big design problem) persist into all model years. EARLY production 2000's you want to stay away from, since they placed the factory into full-capacity production early in their production cycle and sloppy assembly was the result.

I would get any L you are seriously considering buying on the highway and get it up to the 70-75 mph range. This is where the steering vibration issue will raise its ugly head more than likely. If it's there, I'd avoid it, unless you enjoy holding onto a tuning fork every time you're cruising on the highway.

Other things to look out for: Coolant leak (V6's only) that requires re-seal of an oil cooler that sits in the "V" of the engine block - not a lot of parts cost (just sealant probably, it's not even a gasket) but mighty labor intensive (and thus expensive) to fix. Hot turn signal stalk w/headlights on (supposed improved parts have come along but I can't verify; I was told "it's normal" (read: we know it's not right, but don't want to fix it) and mine is still original at about 42,000 miles - crossing my fingers!). Alignment issues/cupping of tires (haven't experienced this one thank god, since the Michelins I oput on the car are mighty pricey!). Some sort of ticking noise in cold weather (4 cylinder only). Steering rack failures (whistling noises are an indicator of trouble).

Available colors in early model years for the wagon (which you're leaning toward) were only the light gray or tan in leather, don't know if they had black cloth. Sedans had black leather interior available at some point I know (don't know if it was by '01 though). Dark blue/grey leather sounds like the closest you'd get for 2000/2001 wagon and (maybe) sedan, someone with a sedan can chime in about the 00-01 color available. No black wagon in those years AFAIK.
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Old 08-19-2003, 11:31 PM   #4
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Welcome to the board.

We own two L-300/2001ís. Both of these cars have performed very well. We have 36,000 on one and 26,000 on the other. Saturn recalled both cars for tire alignment (Saturn replaced all four tires) and replacement of door materials (cosmetic). Otherwise we have had no problems. These are great cars. I would check with the dealer to be sure the cars have been serviced properly. Buying a certified Saturn is a very good idea. There are tons of deals available. Incidentally, I get about 30 MPG on the highway and about 20 MPG in the city with the V-6. Of course, if you push harder your mileage will be less.

Take a look at this page, which lists many of the Lís problems and fixes.

http://www.saturnfans.com/links/Saturn_Models/L-Series/

Good luck with your purchese. We are about to buy our third.
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Old 08-20-2003, 05:57 AM   #5
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Welcome to the boards.

Any four cylinder L will certainly get you the fuel mileage you're after. I have a 2002 L100 Special Edition, and it will get anywhere from 32-36 MPG on the highway.

As for 2000 Ls, you may want to avoid them, if you can. I have a 2000 and 2002; luckily the 2000 hasn't proven to be much of a problem for me. There are a lot of people with an opposite experience. Also, the 2000 Ls had a small fuel tank. With your commute, you'd be vsiting a gas station more often than with a later model year.

I personally don't think you can find a car with so much for so little money. Either engine is stong, particularly the Ecotec 4 - there is a guy on here going by the screenname if DeliveryMan and he had over 200k on his 4 cylinder L before trading it in.

Kevin
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Old 08-20-2003, 09:08 AM   #6
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I agree the L is a lot of car for the money. After living with 2 L's I think that the L (and Saturns in general) are really for certain types of owners. I would describe Saturn owners as people who want a car for practical reasons and are not caught up too much in status or hi tech performance. L's will give you roomy, economical transportation with excellent dealer backup when problems crop up. They won't give high performance, status, total reliability (mine have both had repairs needed) or very great resale value (so be prepared to keep it forever). I think if you fit the profile you'll be happy with the L.
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Old 08-20-2003, 10:26 AM   #7
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I have an 02 L200, its a good car, I am getting between 25 - 28 MPG. I have had the dreaded Power Steering rack problem, it was just replaced under warranty at 27000 miles, so hopefully that will fix the problems. I have a 75 mile commute every day, and it is worlds more comfotable than my SC1. My only complaint is the placement of the gas pedal, its too close to the console wall and takes some getting used to.
 
Old 08-20-2003, 10:41 AM   #8
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Get the V-6, it's a wolf in sheep's clothing.

Handling
Powertrain
Gearing

Are all pretty agressive for a car that's supposed to be a vanilla grocery getter.

They demand to be driven.

Also, don't totally believe the 182hp rating, it's nonsense.

If it's not, then it's the most efficient sub-200 hp V-6 ever made.

Easily compares to cars making 40hp more.

Drive one, you'll see what I mean.

Also, almost 2 years and still no problems.
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Old 08-20-2003, 11:50 AM   #9
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Attention Get the 2.2

If you plan to drive the car till the wheels fall off the 4 cyl is the way to go for several key reasons. The 6 cyl is more fun to drive and has better resale but for a long term commuter car you most definately should get the 4.

1) The 2.2 has been extremely reliable. The 6 is good but has more problems by far than the 2.2 which has been fantastic. Consider thaat GM has discontinued use of the 3.0 everywhere else but now uses the 2.2 for every 4 cyl application around the world. The thing about the 6 cyl that scares me is the labor involved....

2) The 2.2 uses the same transmission (after 2000 MY) as the 6 cyl so is capable of handling far more power (rated at 205 tq) than it produces. The end result should be a extremely long life.

3) The 2.2 is far less costly to maintain over time. Unless you can do it yourself the 100K tuneup (which you will be doing several times) costs 600-800 for the 6 cyl. For the 2.2 cut that in half. Personally - I wouldn't leave my plugs in for 100K miles and the 2.2 they are easy to change yourself. The 6 is much more labor intensive.

4) Gas milage

5) Because the 2.2 is used everywhere in the event the worst happens and you need a new engine you will be able to pick up a used one fairly cheap because there will be a large supply. Not true for the 6.

6) The 2.2 has plenty of power - I drive one and while its not going to blow you away with its power like the 6 you'll always have enough juice to pass/merge.

Goodluck whatever you decide
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Old 08-20-2003, 02:38 PM   #10
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I've had both a 2000 LW1 and now a 2002 LW200. No major problems with either except for the Affinity tires on the 2000. I wouldn't get a 2000 that was made more than a month before mine (Sep - Oct 1999).


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Old 08-20-2003, 03:51 PM   #11
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I have a 2002 L with the 4 cyl. Got it used with 18k on it now I have 25k no problems so far, I think it's a great car. My only gripe is the the "crapfinity's" which I will soon be replacing. If I was looking to buy another car I would definately look at another L.
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Old 08-20-2003, 04:11 PM   #12
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If buying used from a Saturn dealer, get the extended warranty.
The big issues here are the steering rack & oil cooler on the v6.

BTW, the four cyl. engine is great. Not what you would expect from a four in terms of performance & smoothness. It won't snap your neck, but provides decent acceleration especially with the manual.
Just wish there were more performance parts.
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Old 08-20-2003, 08:52 PM   #13
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There are a lot of program cars available for about 9.5-11k that should have almost 2 yrs. warranty left. I bought an Aerostar program van and put 90k mi. on it before I sold it to a guy I work with. I think you can contact enterprise rental car and check when they will be changing models ( they used a lot of L's). They seem to take good care of their fleet. Oh btw, Welcome to the boards!
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Old 08-20-2003, 09:05 PM   #14
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It sounds like you have already done your homework well.

For more information on the L200/LW200 do a search on SaturnFans forum user "delivery man". He has a 2002 L200 with over 200K miles (so far) and has reported a very good owner experience in his posts here.
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Old 08-21-2003, 09:47 AM   #15
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I have been involved with one aspect or another of building the L-series since it started up in 1999. In terms of quality, the newer, the better. The 01's are way better than 00's. 02's are somewhat better than 01's. 03's and 04's are better yet, if you like the later styling.

I used to get 29-30 mpg commuting with a 5-speed LS1 pool vehicle. I got to drive an '02 L200 captive fleet car for a 2-week vacation and it was great except for the automatic climate control. It worked OK, but I like manual air better.
I also drove a LW300 wagon (pool vehicle) with leather seats numerous times. Nice car.

The 4 cyl. is probably more reliable than the 6 cyl., but the 6 makes for a quicker car. The 6 requires a pricy timing belt change when you get up to some high miles. 90k miles, I think.

I'd avoid the 2000, and I think the 2002 or newer would be your best bet. The incentives on the new ones drives down the prices of used.
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Old 08-21-2003, 12:19 PM   #16
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Welcome to the board!

As I'm sure you've read on this forum, the L-series has had a few problems. Some problems are isolated to specific owners (as ANY car out there has doen the same), while there are a few design flaws in the L.

As others have said, the '02 and newer ones are somewhat better, but the major design flaws I referred to above seem to occur even in the '03 models.

Keep in mind that not everyone has experienced these "design flaws." But, more than a fair share of people have experienced:

*steering wheel vibration (due to crappy tires AND the German wheel lug-stud design).
*weak/defective horns (you can replace yourself with a much better aftermarket one for only $15).
*steering rack "whistle" (whistle caused by SLOW rack fitting leak - not serious if you keep a check on the power steering fluid - Saturn also will replace if you complain loudly).
*the V6 models may have a SLOW coolant leak from the auxilary engine oil cooler (Saturn fixes this with new sealant, but labor-intensive).
*the I4 models have the recall on the ignition system.

That's about it other than some minor things some individuals complain about (REMEMBER - nobody can create a perfect vehicle to make everyone happy).

Test drive a lot of the L versions. If you like them, make sure that you also like the dealer and mention to the service department if they have had many services done to L cars like I've listed above. If they have, ask how they reconciled the problems. All Saturn dealerships are different in how they treat their customers when they come in for service. Make sure you have a good dealer too.

Good luck! I've been a happy Saturn owner (2 cars) for over 6 years now....
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Old 08-21-2003, 01:42 PM   #17
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I have a 2002 L300 V6, and my commute is 60 miles round-trip. I drive down the Dulles Toll Road, get on to the Capital Beltway, cross the Potomac, head north on the 270 spur, and into Rockville. At the end of the day, I go back.

To anyone who knows traffic in the DC Metro area, this is a tough commute, especially on the return trip. Many days I am stuck taking my foot off the brake to move forward, then braking again, for an hour, while rarely ever touching the gas pedal. (that's why I got rid of my SC-2 manual--left leg sick of the clutch).

I have 41,000 miles on my car now, and the brakes are in great shape. The V6 is perfectly suited to the car...it can move.

Now, I've never driven the 2.2, so I can't speak for its performance. Around here, it's not the 0-60 performance that you need, it's the 50-60, or the 35-50 or something like that. This car does great in the middle and top end. I never really take off with it from 0, though...not necessary.

It's comfortable, but I think if I were any taller, it might be a stretch (I'm 6'1").

Oh yeah, and the gas milage: I average a consistent 22 mpg with my commuting. On long trips, I get about 28 (but sometimes my wife is driving, and I think she leaves it in 3rd)

I've driven a Passat (nice, but who wants to have to buy 93 octane?) an Accord (didn't feel as tight as the L) and a Century (nice for long trips, but not good to drive around town with).

Reliability has been great, but I follow the maintenance schedule to a T. I've kept receipts to show this, too. Those things tend to get lost in a trade, however, and if a car went to auction, you're lucky to get an owners manual.

Good luck,
Steve
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Old 08-21-2003, 04:58 PM   #18
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"To anyone who knows traffic in the DC Metro area, this is a tough commute, especially on the return trip."

Agree. Your commute is brutal. Only place I've seen that's worse is LA.

Rockville was somewhat undeveloped when I grew up out there (MD), but that has changed. It used to be that there was much activity on the Beltway above Tysons Corner.
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Old 08-21-2003, 05:43 PM   #19
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I hope we didn't scare this guy away.
Haven't heard from him since his first post.
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Old 08-21-2003, 08:27 PM   #20
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Quote:
I hope we didn't scare this guy away.
Haven't heard from him since his first post.
LOL Forewarned is forearmed!
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