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Published on Mon, Nov 17, 2003

By: The LACar Editorial Staff


By Contributing Editor DAVID GARDNER

Call me shallow, (“You’re shallow,” echoes around SAAB showrooms across America) but while I know and appreciate that the 9-5 Aero is a sophisticated, high performance saloon with a truly spectacular acceleration, I cannot help but be struck by the genius of a “Cooled Glove Box.”

I have had a soft spot for Swedes ever since I sneaked in to see my first naughty movie, “Secrets of the Swedish Sex Slaves” and spent countless nights fantasizing over Britt Ekland as a teenager. Any country with such a cool attitude to sex in such a cold country must have their priorities in order. So I can only assume that the cooled glove compartment, situated as it is in direct line with the chest, is designed to harden the nipples of any woman passenger with an incisively arousing blast of icy cold air. That should be worth the $39,465 list price right there. Then again, repeatedly asking your wife or girlfriend to get you some more ice cream from the icebox can get you the same effect for little more than the cost of a cookie dough Haagen Daas.

Although it took me a while to discover the secret use for the nipple cooler, the virtues of the 4-door/584 become clear just as soon as you push your foot down on the pedal. I knew little about SAABs when I picked up my “Laser Red” Aero other than the fact that a friend once drove around one of those big, distinctively ugly old SAABs and loved it so much we would either pick him up or go by train because he wouldn’t stop going on about how great it was if he was driving when everyone patently knew no self-respecting poser, for that is what we were, would drive such a pig ugly machine. This one, frankly, looked more boring than ugly. But, man, when you whack that 2.3 liter, 250 HP high output turbo engine into first gear and let it go, you are flying. I was slightly irritated by the momentary delay in acceleration, but the push was so strong that it was hard to be all critical and finicky.

I took a carload of kids to Knotts Scary Farm and I swear they were more frightened of my driving than the rides. The Aero has the same maneuverability as the Mini Cooper, continually tempting you to cut in and out of the traffic a la The Italian Job, but with so much more power. I do not lie, it sometimes felt like the damn car was going to take off. Forget the glove box – my nipples were throbbing as I threaded down the I-5.. For a mid-size car it is undoubtedly expensive. You get 30 miles per gallon on the freeway with 22 mpg around town, but it compares well with any BMW I’ve ever driven. The Volvo V70 may be a few grand cheaper, but it doesn’t come close to the punch of the SAAB.

The hardware is impressive. It has an electronic stability program and traction control system to harness the power, 225/45 R-17 tires with alloy wheels, front wheel drive, 4-wheel power assisted disc brakes with ABS power assisted rack and pinion steering. The 5-speed manual transmission is perfect for would-be boy racers and the multi-link independent rear suspension gives a good, smooth ride. Perhaps they are used to lots of pile-ups on their icy roads or maybe the Swedes are just dodgy drivers (sorry, Mia!), but SAAB doesn’t stint on security features. As well as the usual front airbags, you get active head restraints and head and torso side airbags, a safety cage with front and rear crumple zones, 5 mph self-restoring bumpers and an OnStar security system with 12 months of paid service.

It has an onboard computer and a Harmon Kardon audio system and those who have read my past reviews will know how important cup holders are to me. Well, this one’s a doozy. Press a button in the dashboard and it pops right out from nowhere – the perfect size for a Starbucks, smoothie, supersized coke, Budweiser, whatever gets you through the commute. My Aero came with Xenon headlights ($500) and the SAAB touring package ($795), which pushed the price up to $41,435 with the destination charge. Are they worth the money? Dunno. But even though they might look a bit docile and flaccid at first, Super Aroused Arctic Breasts grow on you. They really do.

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Price: As tested $ 41,435 Engine type: 2.3L displacement double overhead cam (DOHC) inline 4 cylinder configuration gas engine 16 valves turbo Horsepower: 185 hp @ 5500 rpm Torque: 207 ft-lbs. @ 1800 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine / front-wheel drive Transmission type: 5-speed manual transmission Front suspension: independent suspension, stabilizer bar Rear suspension: independent suspension, stabilizer bar Wheels and tires: alloy 16 in. rims P215/55R16 tires all season tire Brakes: Front: vented disc Rear: solid disc 4-wheel ABS, Traction control, stability control Overall length: 190.1 inches Overall width: 70.5 Overall height: 57.0 Curb weight (lbs.): 3,620 EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway: 21/30 mpg

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