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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2004 Saturn L300 Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2004 Saturn L300 Overview

A European Wolf in American Clothing

When Saturn SL owners need to move up into something bigger, they have two choices: the VUE SUV or the midsize L sedan. If they choose to go with the L-Series, they will actually be getting two cars for the price of one. That's because Saturn looked to its European cousin Opel to provide the basic foundation for the L, giving the big sedan a European road sensibility coupled with American styling and comfort.

The new look for the L-Series includes a stretched front end that features a broad new grille and larger projector beam headlamps. The front hood has been raised and the springs and shocks revised to take away the wedge-like image projected by last year's car. This more formal look gives the L-Series a rather suburban flavor, which may or may not appeal to buyers who were previously attracted to Saturn's European-like styling. The L-Series also gets a redesigned rear end with large jewel-like red tail lenses and new 16-inch alloy wheels (L300 V6 models.)

For 2004, Saturn has dropped the L200 and LW200 designations, leaving only the L300 name to cover both the sedan and wagon. The base L300 is powered by a peppy 2.2-liter engine teamed to a four-speed automatic transmission. Though not terribly fast, the L300 can certainly keep up with traffic, and its automatic transmission does a pretty good job of milking the little 2.2-liter for all its worth. The L-Series a blast to drive and encourages you to make the most of the car's taut suspension and direct steering. Sadly, the lovely five-speed manual offered in last year's car is no longer available. The L300 V6 models gets a 182-horsepower 3.0-liter engine that is really the best match for the L's size and weight; you'll find that the V6 moves the L300 with a considerable sense of urgency. The V6 is offered with the same four-speed automatic; the transmission features adaptive technology that can adjust its shift patterns to suit your particular driving habits.

One of the L-Series strongest assets is its fun to drive quotient. You won't find a chassis like this on any other family sedan, save perhaps the Passat. The L-Series returns a firm, controlled ride while simultaneously offering its driver immediate feed back via the heavily-weighted steering. Push the L hard into a turn, and the body roll is checked at once by the independent suspension. Though the V6 makes it easy to overpower the front wheels-thus resulting in understeer-its onset is gradual; gently backing off the throttle will quickly return control of the vehicle to the driver. Four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and traction control are now standard on every L300 sedan.

Inside, the handsome interior gets a slight freshening with chrome and brushed aluminum accents and new silver-faced instrument gauges. We've said before that we really like the L-Series' front seat design and that comment still holds true. The seats are bolstered in all the right places and provide hours of backache-free enjoyment; all-new seat coverings succeed in imparting a more luxurious feeling to the interior, especially the leather option. You'll appreciate the placement of the power-window switches that are mounted on the center console and fall within easy reach of your right hand; you'll also like the center stack that neatly places the audio and heating/ventilation controls squarely in the sites of both the driver and passenger. The steering wheel spokes sit low enough to comfortably rest your thumbs yet don't block the instrument panel or stalk-mounted controls. On the safety front, every L-Series sedan and wagon comes standard with three-point safety belts for all passengers and a side-curtain airbag that protects both the front and rear-seat occupants.

Rear seat passengers will find they have a bit less room than those up front; even with the front seats moved up, two adults will still find the accommodations snug. For those seeking maximum interior volume, the L-Series wagons should definitely be given consideration over the sedan. They have all the features and abilities of their four-door counterpart but add an additional 79 cubic feet of volume when the rear seats are folded down.

One other option worth mentioning is the DVD-based entertainment system for the rear-seat passengers. No other vehicle in this segment features this and it may be a great way to keep the kids content on long trips. Another Saturn first.

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