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2001 Saab 9-5 Aero Wagon Road Test

2001 Saab 9-5 Aero Wagon - A Fine Mix of Common Sense and Wild Abandonment

With its 3-spoke 17" rims on low-profile tires and blood curdling red paintwork over slippery sheetmetal, accented by aerodynamic ground effects, I catch many an envious eye as I lay rubber to tarmac, stoplight after stoplight. Screaming like a banshee, I rev its 230 horsepower turbocharged, 4-cylinder engine to 6,000 rpm between shifts... Hold on! I'm driving a wagon? Wagons don't behave like this! Well, not until recently anyway. Wagons are all the rage these days. Whether an SUV crossover or pure performance machine with a bent on practicality, they're showing up everywhere.

Saab's entry is a formidable player, with on road acrobatics that run rings around most automakers sport sedans. What sets the 9-5 Aero Wagon apart from the sport wagon crowd (BMW excluded) is the addition of a manual transmission. Although this isn't the most precise shifting 5-speed to slip into my right hand, it's not an automatic. Like most performance driving enthusiasts, I'll take any manual over any automatic, any day of the week (except Friday afternoons in rush hour traffic).

Fortunately, while you're biding your time in the fast lane of slow moving cars, you can at least enjoy the 9-5's dynamic 200-watt audio system that incorporates 9 Harmon Kardon speakers, a single dash mounted CD player, cassette and AM/FM stereo (optional 6-CD stacker can be dealer installed). Another bonus is that you won't have to peel your eyes away from the bumper in front of you as the svelte Swabian comes with audio controls on the steering wheel. If you forget where you're going and get lost in an inner city borough while debating your favorite talk show host, don't worry. GM's OnStar wireless telematics service will help you with directions. Even lost you'll be sitting in comfort, with either the 3-way heated seats warming your derriere or a 3-speed fan blowing an air-conditioned wind through perforated holes in the leather seat cushion - the overall sensation is strange but effective.