Hi all. I am a semi-regular lurker and once-in-a-blue-moon poster here.
As of last week, alas, I am a Saturn ringer no more. I traded in my
weathered 2000 SL2 for a 2004 Chevrolet Malibu Classic. Didn't really
want to, but the time had come.
I've driven two Saturns on a regular basis. The first was a 1999 SL1 my
then-live-in lady friend leased. I drove that from fall of '98 through
summer of '99, when she moved on.
Then in April '03 I bought the '00 SL2 used, with 30K on it.
The first time around was a dream driving experience with the brand-new
SL1. (Automatic tranny) It handled well, comfortable ride, great
brakes, crisp steering and great gas mileage. It was a fun, safe,
reliable, affordable car to drive.
The only problems we had with it were horn-related. Right after we got
it the horn stopped working suddenly; turned out to be a common
problem, which the dealer fixed right away and it never happened again.
Also I really hated the goofy horn buttons on the '99; one reason I
limited my search to 2000's and '01's when I needed a reliable
low-mileage used car a few years later. Saturn still topped my list,
The second time around, with the SL2, there were many more adventures
The SL2 was also a fun, safe car to drive much of the time....but also
over the time I owned it---from 30K miles to 68K---it went through most
of the issues I've seen mentioned here whilst I lurked: burning oil,
SES light on for no discernible reason, idling a bit too high,
lower-than-advertised fuel economy.
Also it had an issue I've not seen mentioned here---which really
puzzled the mechanics who worked on it, since they told me it's a
common problem. That was an emissions leak that flunked it for
inspection in May '04, just over a year after I got it. The mechanic
told me he figured there would be a recall issued for it at some point.
It never did pass inspection without some repair work needed.
Also I just had bad luck with it. While driving the SL2 I got into the
only reportable accident of my life---luckily not a serious one; also
got my first speeding ticket since high school; and ran off the road in
the snow for the first time ever.
The car was not badly damaged in the accident---in fact I never had the
body work done, since the estimate was $800+ and the deductible was
$500---but it did not 'feel' quite the same afterwards.
Something else I noticed was the much tighter ride in the SL2; took me
a while to catch on that it was due to the suspension: at first I
thought I did not have the seats adjusted right. In a perfect world my
car would be "suspended" just a hair tighter than the SL1, but nowhere
near as tight as the SL2.
That also made the SL2 a bit worse in the snow than was the SL1, though
both were better-than-adequate and neither great as winter cars. (As
always, tire quality has a lot to do with it.) Anyway, ride quality in
the SL2 was still fine for everyday driving, but it became an issue on
long highway trips.
I really wanted another Saturn when I realized my SL2 just was not
meant for the long haul, but the financing did not work out nearly as
well for any available Saturn I could get 'round here as it did for the
Classic I bought. (My credit score is only fair, even though my credit
history over the past 5+ years is PERFECT; the bad stuff from more than
5 years ago still weighs it down, which really sucks; but that's a
whole other thing....)
Had I gotten another Saturn it would have been a 2002 SL1, preferably
with ABS. I've decided the SL1 is simply a better car than the SL2;
it's most definitely lower-maintenance. The guys at the dealership
where I bought the SL2 and tried in vain to get a decent deal on
another Saturn said much the same thing: The Saturns they get with
200K+ miles and going strong are all SL1's. The SL2 and L series will
also run long and well if cared for "just so," they say---but not as
long as the SL1 and only with more fuss and fretting.
The only advantage to the 2 series that I can see is the tiny bit more
passing and merging power you get from the bigger engine: not enough to
make up for the other issues I went through with the SL2, IMHO. I could
see where a young guy into semi-performance cars but a bit short on
cash could migrate to the SC2, where the tighter suspension might help,
but that was not an issue for me or I would imagine most SL2 owners.
I made the mistake of thinking the "higher-end" trim had to be
better....and paid the price.
Still the price was not too steep. Deep down I'm still a "Saturn guy."
Sort of. In the unlikely event I'm in the market for another ride in
the next year or two I will check out the best of what's left of
lower-mileage '01 and '02 SL1's and maybe even the L series with the
For now, I wish everyone here the best of luck and happiness with their
Saturns, and all else. I will probably lurk here once in a great while
for old times sake.
Happy Holidays and best regards,