In 1991, General Motors launched its new division called Saturn, which is said to be a different kind of automaker that’s separate from the high-end car company. Saturn was created to attract import economy vehicle buyers and was the first to offer no-haggle pricing through its dealers. One of the first cars produced under the company was the Saturn S-Series SL2. This trim did much better than the SL and SL1 in terms of engine and bumpers. After 10 years in production, the SL2 and the rest of the series were last sold in the year 2002, featuring an optional head-curtain airbag that was exclusively available in luxury sedans. Even though it lasted only two generations, the Saturn SL2 was one of the top-selling economy cars in the market.
The First Generation: 1991 to 1995
The first lineup of the series left the Spring Hill, Tennessee factory on July 30, 1990, and was available in maroon with a tan interior. The SL2 trim level featured a double overhead camshaft (DOHC) 1.9-liter I4 LL0 engine that was rated at 124-hp (92 kW), with a fuel economy of 24/34 mpg for city and highway. This version—along with the others in the series—also had a standard five-speed manual transmission. As for options, a four-speed automatic and an anti-lock braking system (ABS) were provided.
The Second Generation: 1996 to 2002
The second-generation SL2 was introduced in 1996 with a huge redesign and an updated appearance—the sedan had a more curvaceous look, giving a slight increase in cabin room and doorway size. In terms of its engine, however, there was very little change compared to the previous model. The only notable update was the inclusion of the OBDII PCM in 1996 models and onward. The OBDII PCM was the car’s self-diagnostic and reporting capability that worked through the engine control unit.
The 1999 models were given improvements to both SOHC (single overhead camshaft) and DOHC engines without affecting the power output. Instead, these improvements smoothed out some of the harshness caused by the two engines. Other changes to the 1999 models included revised pistons, connecting rods, and crankshaft counter weights, among others. Their fuel economies were also refined, resulting to a measurable improvement.
In 2000, the SL2 was given a face-lift with its interior and exterior polymer panels redesigned, giving an addition of 1.2 inches to the car’s overall length. Its engine, however, was not changed. These features remained until the last model was manufactured in 2002.
Even though the SL2 had long been discontinued, many will still remember the page that Saturn marked in automobile history, for providing high-end options to economy car buyers.