Imagine--the editorial department of european car giving an advertising guy a car to schlep some clients up to Mammoth for a weekend of skiing.
I was looking forward to a few days in the 9-5 Aero wagon (please, GM, don't mess with this too much) after having just ended a lease of a Saab 900, which I was quite pleased with though it had its usual "Saab quirks." But, isn't that what Saab is all about?
When I picked up the 9-5 Aero wagon, it came nicely equipped with roof rack and plenty of neat options--especially the fans in the front seats, which I will get to a bit later. Four adults--all good sized--with three pairs of skis and full luggage fit quite comfortably.
Considering the added weight, I was very impressed with the 230-bhp turbo four. I had my concerns before going up Cajon Pass toward Victorville, but the turbo kept the engine at optimum torque at the right time and did not struggle a bit as we cruised close to 80 mph.
I have always admired the communication between steering and road in previous Saabs. The 9-5 wagon is even better. With its lowered, sporty stance, exceptional looking BBS wheels and low-profile radials, the handling and feel for the road was truly European.
The seats are the best in the business for general all-around comfort. The 6-hour drive kept both me and my copilot refreshed, and the rear passengers commented on their area's roominess and comfort.
Still, fans in the front seats? This somewhat amusing concept is, I must admit, terrific. While we cruised up north on the 395 toward Bishop the weather was warm, and the cooling action from the fan was a pleasant surprise. It's an option I would definitely order. The client kept his on for the whole trip, he loved it so much (It is very important to keep a client happy).
I have spent much of life experiencing winter weather, what with growing up in Norway and living 20 years in Aspen, but the snowy weather we encountered coming up to Mammoth was as challenging as I've ever seen it. About 2 ft of new snow fell--on April 19; it was supposed to be spring skiing!--and the Saab was riding on performance tires without chains. I thought to myself, "This isn't a problem for the trusty Swede...is it?"
The last 6-mile stretch of road up to the base of Mammoth Mountain is pretty steep, and it was very icy with lots of new snow. Many motorists were surprised by the storm's effects, but the Saab took it all in stride. What a car in the snow! I passed several European-bred cars stuck on the side of the road as the 9-5 crawled and fought its way up the hill. The traction control worked beautifully, and the engine managed its rpm range so the non-winter tires would not slip. It took some work and patience, but we made it up, and that is more than I can say for the lonely few stuck on the side of the road. Even the concierge at the hotel was impressed!
After 900 miles in this loveable Swede (What am I saying? We Norskis are not supposed to say nice things about our Swedish neighbors, but I can't help myself!), I was sorry to give it back. I love this car. It's one of the most appealing wagons on the market, offering performance, comfort and versatility. There are not many vehicles which can conquer the snow and offer such a blend of comfort and performance in the same package.Hey, Greg, can I borrow this car for my next Aspen trip?
It's A Daily Driver, Too
You can see the questions on their faces as you're sitting at a stoplight. "What's that? A Saab?" You hear the comments in the grocery-store parking lot. "I didn't know Saab made a wagon. Has it always made one?"
I frequently encounter the puzzled countenances of passers-by when I'm out and about in our long-term Saab. And, nine times out of ten, their final response--without qualifiers--is either a nod of approval and/or the remark, "It sure is a good-looking car."
It never occurred to me that our 9-5 wagon would elicit such responses--I didn't expect it to create quite the furor it has. But then I realized that a good-looking wagon, especially one from a car company known for its quirky design, is still considered an anomaly in the U.S. Wagons are supposed to be functional and boring.
Used as a daily driver, the wagon is perfect for getting groceries, carrying plants from the nursery or hauling the magazine's entire staff to lunch. It's ideal for dance shows, too, as it can hold the four members of my dance troupe, plus all the prerequisite props, costumes, music, etc. The front heated seats are especially appreciated after a particularly long performance, as they help soothe aching muscles. (The only problem is who gets to sit in them.)
While ec's Saab 9-5 Aero Wagon is definitely functional, it is the antithesis of boring. Its high-output turbo engine (230 bhp at 5500 rpm and 243 lb-ft of torque from 1900 to 4600 rpm) enables the wagon to pull away from a dead stop with surprising quickness. (You should have seen that souped-up Honda driver's startled expression.) Press the pedal to the floor while at speed and the Saab leaps forward with a minimum of shift and turbo lag. Engage the four-speed automatic transmission's sport mode and the shift lag is even less.
The interior is well laid-out, stylish and thankfully not beige. The various shades of gray are soothing to the eye without being downright dull. In addition, the eight-way adjustable seats are some of the most comfortable I've ever sat in.
The only nits I have to pick so far are the wagon's overly solicitous climate-control system--it switches to defrost mode automatically at startup when it's dark out (a small annoyance at best)--and one's inability to hear the rear speakers with the cargo-area cover in place, completely or partially.
All in all, the Saab 9-5 wagon is a fantastic daily driver. And, considering how much I like it, our ad guy may never get the chance to take to Aspen. Sorry Mads. --Sherri Collins