1999 SL2 New Car Test Drive
We can't help thinking that Saturn would have revolutionized the car-buying business if the unique plastic-bodied cars it introduced in 1990 had driven as well as a Toyota Corolla. This year, with a redesigned engine lineup, they're a whole lot closer to the benchmark.
Saturn's no-nonsense lineup consists of a coupe, a sedan, and a wagon, all based on the same platform. Each body style is distinguished by a base model and a more-powerful model. It's useful to think of the numbers in the model line as standing for the number of camshafts in the engine. The SL1 sedan comes with a single-cam engine, while the SL2 is powered by the more-powerful twin-cam. The prices of the sedans are reasonable, and we think the quicker, pricier SL2 is worth a look even for budget shoppers.
Saturn has been winning accolades for high resale values. Its cars are also known for their low maintenance and repair costs. But Saturn is best known for the enthusiasm of its workforce. Buying and servicing a Saturn is designed to be a pleasant process; the company has been named best overall nameplate in sales satisfaction by the J.D. Power research firm for four consecutive years.
The only thing diluting all this good value is that, in the past, the cars have been perceived to be unrefined and, well, cheap. Most of this can be blamed on the previous noisy engine and drivetrain.
To address this, both Saturn engines have been completely redesigned for 1999. The new engines are vastly smoother. Power output remains exactly what it was last year, which is 100 horsepower for base cars (SL1) and 124 horsepower for higher-priced (SL2) models, but fuel-efficiency has been improved.