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1997 Saturn S-Series REVIEW logo 4/5/2017

Con: Heavier, uglier

Pro: Larger interior, larger trunk, optional traction control, optional ABS, composite dent- and rust-resistant side body panels

What’s New: Coupes get a new look inside and out for 1997. No longer stubby in appearance, all coupes adopt the longer wheelbase used by the sedans and wagons, as well as their softer, rounder styling cues. The SC1 and SC2 are now virtually identical in appearance (the SC2's body-color door handles being one of the few differences); both have exposed headlamps and standard daytime running lights. In other news, all models pick up a low-fuel indicator light and can be equipped with a single in-dash CD player. And Saturn has again taken measures to reduce engine noise and vibration.

Review: Hey! Look! Saturn has redesigned its little sports coupe. It looks bigger, doesn't it? That's because engineers and bean counters figured out that moving the coupe onto the sedan's platform would cut waste and make the SC easier to build. Lots of space inside now, since headroom and legroom are increased over the old one. The front seats move further back for tall drivers and front passengers, and shorter people might be able to wear a hat inside, thanks to additional headroom.

This little buzzbox is supposed be quieter inside, now that Saturn troubleshooters have added sound deadening materials to make the motor and tire roar go away. They also redesigned the trunk lid so that water won't run into the trunk when the lid is opened. Only took, what, six model years to address this complaint?

How close is the Saturn plant to the Jack Daniel's distillery? We ask because the front end of this new coupe appears to have been styled by designers who'd been swigging one too many whisky shots while watching Godzilla reruns, except instead of looking to early 60s Chevy Corvairs for inspiration, the monster is all that remained in their imaginations the morning after. Needless to say, in our opinion this new coupe doesn't put forth as pretty a face as the first generation SC did. For the first time, SC1 and SC2 models share styling, which is rather attractive from the front wheels rearward.

Hop inside and check out the large, legible gauges. They've been carried over from last year, along with the rest of the dashboard. Too bad tuning the radio or cranking up the A/C still requires a magnifying glass. Also, the defroster button still feels like a Chiclet that's about to fall right into the top of the dash. Dual airbags come standard though, in the event an inattentive driver in another car misses the overly bright daytime running lights. This year, Saturn installed a low-fuel light for those who don't know "E" means "Empty."

Seats still aren't the most comfortable places to sit, but lumbar support is improved for 1997 so long as leather trim is ordered. SC2 models get new fabric, and door trim has been revised. The front passenger seat now has a memory feature that returns the seat to its setting after a rear passenger enters or exits. Mounted low, getting out of the low-slung SC's seats requires the use of those abs you've been toning lately.

What can buyers get on this car? An in-dash CD player can be stashed in the center console. Traction control and anti-lock brakes are available, which is unusual for the class. Saturn also gave the security system a starter immobilizer, audible alert features, and a panic mode. Then, of course, there is the aforementioned leather seat trim.

This new Saturn seems to be a nice car, and has proven reliable in the past. Dealers are friendly, and don't treat customers like second-class citizens. For those who find the new front styling attractive, the new SC certainly deserves consideration.


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