SCOTTSDALE, Arizona, U.S.A. — Some might call it borrowing from the parts bins, but the folks at Saturn call it “leveraging.”
That's what they did to add a midsize model to the Saturn lineup in order to offer something for the current Saturn-owner base of 2 million loyal customers to move up to.
The L-Series is a pair of midsizers, a sedan and a wagon, with a couple of engine choices including an all-new 2.2L designed by Saturn engineers and built at the revamped Tonawanda, New York, U.S.A., engine plant.
This aluminum “world engine” is unique to Saturn for now, with its lost-foam casting manufacturing, but it will see life in plenty of otherCorp. and Adam Opel AG models in the future.
The up-level 3L powerplant in the LS2 and LW2 is borrowed. It comes from Ellesmere Port, U.K., and currently is used in the Opel Omega, Cadillac Catera and Saab 9-5.
Transmissions also come from other GM applications. The 5-speed manual for the 2.2L comes from Saab. The 4-speed 4T40E electronically controlled automatic in the 2.2L began life in GM's Cavalier, Sunfire, Malibu, Grand Am, Alero and Cutlass.
And the 4-speed automatic 4T45E in the 3L is in use on Cavalier, Sunfire, Grand Am and Alero. Both transmissions are built in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
The original platform, conceptually, for this big Saturn also is borrowed. It comes from the Opel Vectra. But Saturn team members are quick to point out that this is not a rebadged Vectra. Vehicle Chief Engineer Grant Carithers explains that early discussions on adding a larger Saturn led to talks with the folks at Opel. “But the intent was never that this car would be a rebadged Opel. The Vectra doesn't use either of the powertrains we use on this, nor do they use the same transaxles,” Carithers says.
Not to mention that the Saturn uses plastic body panels on a space frame. And it's also longer and wider than the current Vectra and comes with 38.1 cm (15-in.) wheels vs. the Vectra's 35.6 cm (14-in.).
Styling on the L-Series, both inside and out, is uniquely Saturn. But a European GM look also seeps through, especially in the LS sedans, with vague similarities to Catera and the old Saab 9000.
The LW wagon styling is clean and distinct from the sedan — unlike competitors Accord and Camry, with roof and rear door lines that look like an afterthought. The L-Series wagon offers a solid, serious European estate image, somewhat Volvo-like, which will not hinder its curb appeal.