The Saturn LW, also known as the Saturn L-Series, was a five-door station wagon produced from 1999 to 2003, selling as 2000 to 2004 model years.
Saturn Background and L-Series Introduction
Saturn was a unique brand from the start. The General Motors subsidiary created an entirely new lineup that was sold at Saturn-specific dealerships and featured many customized mechanical components and unique body panels for all of its vehicles, rather than leverage more of the existing GM pieces. The results were fairly positive, leading the the 1990s relative success of the Saturn S Series lineup, and as a result, Saturn decided to expand its offerings and the Saturn L-Series was part of that expansion, coming at the tail end of the 20th century. While the Saturn Ion was introduced to replace the outgoing S-Series, the L-Series was first introduced in 1999, sold as a 2000 model year, as a larger true sedan offering with more interior and trunk space, plus a more powerful engine and softer ride. The L-Series was available in a four-door sedan body style, sold as the Saturn LS and later as the Saturn L100, L200, and L200. But the Saturn LW was the five-door station wagon, offering the most interior room and cargo space out of the entire L-Series lineup.
Saturn LW Model Names and Engines
Like the LS, the LW station wagon was first sold as the Saturn LW in the LW1 and LW2 models, referencing the available trim levels. In 2000 for the 2001 model year, the naming convention of the L-Series lineup changed, and the LW1 switched to the LW200 while the LW2 moved to the LW300. In 2004, the name was again changed, but this time the sedan and station wagon shared the same model name, moving both the LW200 and LW300 station wagons of the past to the L300 model name for all station wagon variants and the higher-level trim four-door sedans. To put it mildly, Saturn had a hard time sticking to one model name for the L-Series in general, but specifically for the LW station wagon variants, body style, and trim levels. There were two engines available in the Saturn LW. The less-powerful base option was a transverse 2.2L L61 Ecotec inline-4 used in a front-wheel drive layout. It produced 137 horsepower and 135 lb-ft of torque at the LW's introduction, then later increased performance in 2001 with a torque increase, before reaching its peak in 2004 at 140 horsepower and 150 lb-ft of torque. It used a cast aluminum cylinder head and block with an initial compression ratio of 9.5:1, later bumped up to 10:1 with a more aggressive camshaft. The other engine available, mostly used on the higher-level LW2/LW300/L300, was a larger 3.0L L81 V6 gasoline engine, initially producing 175 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. This gave the station wagon a bit better performance, especially if the cargo area was fully loaded. The compression ratio of this engine varied from 9.5:1 to 10.8:1, and while a turbocharged version was produced for the Saab 9-5 model, it was not offered in the less luxurious Saturn LW station wagon. The engines were paired to a five-speed F35 manual transmission or a four-speed automatic transmission, first using the 4T40-E, then switching to the upgraded 4T45-E.
Later Updates and Overall Sales
Despite only going through one generation of design, the Saturn L-Series received some updates through its production years. In 2002, side curtain airbags improved safety, and then in 2003, a more significant redesign was released. It updated the front and rear ends of the vehicle, dropping some of the usual Saturn sharp front nose in favor of a more blunt and popular look, along with a switch from a problematic taillight assembly that stretched from side to side (later recalled in some vehicles due to problems) in favor of two separate units. The Saturn L-Series failed to meet Saturn's and GM's sales targets and face multiple recalls and serious consumer complaints focused on the taillight assembly and more significant issues with the 2.2L engine's timing chain. While about 406,300 units of the L-Series were produced, the brand couldn't quite hit its desired goals and came to be discontinued in 2004. The Saturn LW was dropped one year earlier, in 2003, with the 2004 model year being the last Saturn LW station wagon produced. The Saturn Aura took over the midsize sedan lineup for the automaker.