Another ideal companion for the classic male getaway.

by Bob Storck

CROSSLAKE, Minn. - One of the traditional male bonding exercises is the legendary road trip. There are three requirements: some simpatico buddies, an interesting set of wheels, and a worthwhile destination. Come to think of it, the latter can be optional.

With the winter glaciers receding from the upper reaches of the country, there was a cabin to open. When the bulky clothing, supplies and tools were assembled for this National Geographic-style trek, it was obvious that a substantial and capable vehicle was needed. Add to this the need to haul a ski boat, but with 600 miles to cover, no one was looking forward to a rough riding truck.

Leave it to Saab to come up with a solution that melded capability, comfort and performance. When they came up with the swift 9-5 Aero version, the Swedes must have had these journeys in mind. It swallowed three manly men, all the requisite gear, and enough road food to handle a space shuttle mission. (The substantial roof rack was not needed, and a dealer could have supplied an aerodynamic topside carrier if needed).

Long celebrated as the car company that enjoyed breaking the mold, Saab models may seem mainstream until you look below the surface. While the 9-5 is completely new, the styling is distinctively Saab, and Saab's aviation heritage not only shaped their robust structures, but also influenced the styling.

Entirely new in 1999, the Saab 9-5 was a showcase for three world-first technologies; the Saab Active Head Restraint system, ventilated seats, and the innovative asymmetrically turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 engine. This year Saab introduced the 9-5 Aero, a high-performance addition to the line. Featuring a high-output turbocharged 2.3-liter, four-cylinder engine that delivers 230 horsepower, an enhanced sports chassis and improved aerodynamics, this sports sedan builds on the performance heritage of its predecessor, the 9000 Aero.

The all-new Saab 9-5 Aero Wagon goes one step further with the functional back end as well as a sport-tuned suspension, 17-inch light alloy wheels, an Aero-specific styling package and more. Its performance character is complemented by sporty exterior and interior styling changes, including flared rocker panels, a front chin spoiler, a rear valance and a sport steering wheel.

The Saab 9-5 Wagon accommodates both needs by providing performance, exceptional safety, and flexible cargo capacity. An aircraft-inspired CargoTracks(TM) metal load rail system allows owners to transport everything from pets to heavy, oversized packages - all securable with one-grip locks and special belts. A broad range of accessories, like cages, dividers, nets, cargo guards and other securing mechanisms, make the CargoTrack system an extremely flexible transport feature. An optional sliding load floor, able to accommodate up to 440 pounds and extendable to almost 20 inches, makes the loading of very heavy objects easy.

The Saab Aero Wagon handled the trip to Minnesota with aplomb, and with the largest contingent of Swedes in the country living there, it seemed right at home. It almost seemed to be longing for a little snow and ice to challenge it, but we'll leave that for others to test. With the tight cabin and seats that both heat and cool, the Aero wagon is ready for anything this country can throw at it.

In case something dangerous is thrown at it, the Aero Wagon offers an array of safety systems second to none. It uses two-stage, head and chest protecting side airbags, as well as a new force-reducing front seat belt and pre-tensioner design to enhance the 9-5's lengthy list of standard safety features. A belt and tensioner design retards the occupant's forward motion during a collision. The front seats feature a headrest that reduces whiplash forces in an accident as well.

The list of standard equipment is lengthy. The base Saab 9-5s include such customer convenience features as a cooled (45 degrees) glovebox, six powerful windshield wiper nozzles, an in-dash CD player and cassette audio system, dual-zone automatic climate control, four cupholders, double-divided sun visors, and much more. Customers can also choose a leather interior package ($1315), or opt for the industry's first ventilated front seats, packaged with leather seats, including driver- side memory ($1800).

For 2000, Saab takes its first step to introduce telematics services by offering OnStar as an option on all its models. Saab is the first European brand to offer this type of system across its entire model line. OnStar's MSRP in Saab vehicles is $895, which includes three months of the Premium Service Plan.

For all of its models, Saab offers excellent warranty protection that includes four-year/50,000-mile bumper-to-bumper coverage with 24-hour roadside assistance. Perforation coverage extends for six years with no mileage limit. Saab will continue to perform the first maintenance service free of charge.


Price: $40,175
Engine: turbocharged 2.3-liter in-line four-cylinder, 230 hp
Transmission: four-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 106.4 in
Length: 189.3 in
Width: 70.5 in
Height: 58.9 in
Weight: 3530 lb
Fuel economy: 20 city/26 hwy
Major standard equipment:
Air conditioning
Anti-lock brakes
Traction control
Leather memory seats and wheel
Daytime running lights

© 2000 The Car Connection

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