With trucks and sport utility vehicles rapidly growing in popularity, designers of compact cars have been pressured into finding ways of making their products more handy and appealing. Now, the designers at Saturn had just that very goal when they went about creating their latest SC-Coupe. And their solution was as simple as 2 doors +1 = 3.
And when looking at Saturn’s big picture, this simple mathematical equation packs quite a punch. Because not only does it lend credibility to Saturn’s claim of being “a different kind of car company,” this cleverly calculated move also equates into a truly unique car, this Saturn SC2, the world’s first three door coupe. Who would have thought a first grade arithmetic problem could be so heady!
When closed, the third door, located only on the left side of the car behind the driver’s door, is barely noticeable. But when it comes time for stowing that bulky item that would never make it into the trunk, just release the jamb-mounted latch and that barely noticeable door swings out nearly 90 degrees, and becomes quite prominent.
But it really pays off making it easy for adults to get into the back seat of a sporty coupe. That’s gotta be another first! Once there they’ll find firm supportive seats and ample room for around town cruising. The seat backs also fold down to expand the 11.4 cubic foot trunk.
Note too this seatbelt guide that keeps the driver’s belt free and clear of rear occupant egress. That guide is attached to the optional leather trimmed buckets that, for drivers of SC2 coupes like our tester, features manual adjustments for height and lumbar support in addition to the standard fore-aft and recline movements. The seats are comfortable, although several on our staff wanted more thigh support and felt the seat controls were too hard to use, especially when the door is closed.
The driver faces a tilt steering column and a set of clear analog gauges set in an updated but still functional instrument panel for the 2000 model year.
Also very functional are the two smoother and quieter powerplants that propel the SC1 and SC2 coupes. SC1s get a single-overhead-cam variant of the 1.9 liter 4 cylinder that powers both cars. It produces 100 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque. Our SC2 tester comes with the double-overhead-cam 1.9 liter motivator that churns out 124 horsepower and 122 pound-feet of torque. Contributing to its smoother, quieter operation is a new eight counterweight crankshaft, lightweight aluminum alloy pistons, and a new 8mm pitch timing chain.
Both engines can be mated to either an adaptive 4-speed automatic or a 5-speed manual transmission. And when hooked to the 5-speed, our SC2 took us to 60 in 8.4 seconds and to the quarter mile in 16.2 seconds at 85 mph. Our drivers praised the DOHC’s strong, flat power curve, but decried the notchy nature of the shifter.
Government fuel ratings are a generous 27 city and 38 highway for our SC2 5-speed. We actually managed a very strong 34 in everyday driving.
Strong too is the agility demonstrated when tackling the low speed slalom. Turn ins are accurate, side to side transitions quick and controlled, while body roll is virtually nonexistent. The variable effort steering system is nicely weighted and delivers excellent feedback. It really feels like a sports coupe. Holding it all to pavement is an independent MacPherson strut suspension up front, and a tri-link strut at the rear. Front and rear stabilizer bars are standard.
Helping to keep it in one piece are the optional, ABS-equipped four-wheel disc brakes that brought us down from 60 in an acceptable average of 132 feet. The ABS option on the SC2 not only gets you 4-wheel disc brakes, but traction control as well.
Saturn has always advocated a “more power to the people” approach in making cars, and its pricing structure is clearly affordable. Base price on the 2000 Saturn SC1 is $12,975. The SC2 starts at $15,585. With the popular option package, ABS, and CD-player, a car similar to our tester rolls out the door for $17,925. Which just goes to show, innovation doesn’t have to be overly expensive.
While the third-door was optional for the 1999 model year, it’s standard on all 2000 Saturn SC Coupes. But the 2000 model year will be a short one. The 2001 Saturn SC, with evolutionary styling changes, will arrive in January.
Factor all this into that simple 2 +1 = 3 equation mentioned at our start and it’s amazing where one can go with some basic math. Indeed, the three-door Saturn SC Coupe totals up very well. Which leads us to wonder, what could the Saturn folks do with a little calculus?
Engine: 1.9 Liter Dohc 4-Cylinder
Torque: 122 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 8.4 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 16.2 Seconds @ 85 MPH
60-0 MPH: 132 Feet
EPA Mileage: 27 MPG City 38 MPG Highway