There is a design flaw on the timing chain tensioner. Anywhere from 80k miles to 150k miles, it usually breaks. This is a 30.00 part. But if you don't know about it, and you don't fix it, the car will "jump time", and when this happens, it almost certainly will destroy the top part of your engine. This will cost about 2k to fix. If you own one, get it down to the shop and get that part changed. You will be sorry if you don't. In my town, the junk yard is full of these L series Saturns. They all look nice, but they are sitting there rotting. I had a S series, and it was the best car I ever owned. This L series, not so much!
If your thinking of buying this model vehicle DON'T. Hands down the worst car I have ever owned. It WILL suck every penny you have out of you. These cars have the weakest commuters in any car I am aware of. Just change a battery, alternator, or just put a battery charger on it and you can burn out the BCM (Body Control Module). Diagnosing the problem will be the first problem then there is the $600 to replace it. Subframe built by SAAB with a curved muffler $400 for muffler only. Poor design on the oiler that keeps timing chain oiled+interferance motor=t-chain jump & replace motor, used $1000, new $2500. Heater fan,switch, and repair melted under sized connector in the dash $400. Just say NO
I needed a new car, and heard a lot of good things from other Saturn owners. We took delivery of this car with just under 17k on the odometer. For the first 21/2 years it was a very reliable car. There were 2 recalls on this car and this was taken care of with no problems. We did oil changes and all suggested maintenance on time. One day I was driving to work and the car was acting a little sluggish but did not seem to be running rough or anything. I parked the car at work and when I came out it would not start. I had it towed to the deaer and was told that it was the timing chain and would cost $1100 to fix. Many other Saturn owners have had this problem at around 70 to 80k miles
Worst Car Ever. Cons: Breaks worked great after I spent a lot of money to get them fixed. The windshield breaks very easily. The exhaust was horrible. The battery never held a charge, I bought three batteries. Headlights were very dim and break lights broke all the time. The tires went bald fast. Pros: Great gas mileage, plastic body, fairly cheap parts.
Upon purchasing this car I found that the previous owner had replaced the engine. I heard of this engine having issues yet I doubted it would actually blow due to the list of issues that plague these engines. After one year of ownership, the engine blew due to a random rod busting through the block. The second engine only had 40,000 put on it upon purchase and then another 30,000 put on by me during the year. Awesome car besides the shoddy craftmanship.