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PUSHING THE ENVELOPE

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, May 23, 2004

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

PUSHING THE ENVELOPE

By JOHN GRAFMAN

Both my intrepid co-pilot and myself are hurling along twisties in the Cleveland national forest as if every moment was our last. Well if either of us screwed up enough we would have done a gainer head long into one of the massive out-croppings of boulders. Very fortunately, that didn’t occur.

It is amazing how two individuals who have never met before can navigate a car, neither of which has driven before (more on this later) following a map across countryside we haven’t driven, at an impressive clip and somehow managed not to freak each other out. As hard as we pushed Saab’s new foray into the sport wagon market, the car ate up whatever was dished out. We literally had our life in the hands of this car, and we feared not. ‘Seems someone has done their homework.

The Southern California desert on a day such as we had is as picturesque as it gets. Rocks, cacti, windy, arid roads with few other cars to slow our travels. We really got a sense of our travels as we noticed an over-abundance of patrol vehicles with roof-mounted light bars. Normally, we associate that with the California Highway Patrol or the regional police department. In this case, however, the local mounty just happens to be the U.S. Border Patrol. Nonetheless, we moderated our speeds so as not to offend them. But the real surprise, or maybe lack thereof, was the Saab itself. In reality, the 9-2X starts life as a Subaru and it’s then Saabified into our ride for the day. From the A pillar forward, the exterior sheet metal looks wholly Saab. Very distinct and attractive. The rear has also been tweaked with the rear hatch and bumper being unique. However, the disguise is but a thin veil still easy enough for even the novice enthusiast to see through.

Unlike the big brother, Saab’s 9-3, the 9-2X has to emerged onto the market with somewhat less lead-time prior to design, hence the quasi-Saab. Now while others will no doubt see the same thing, the execution of the concept was handled cleverly and effectively. The interior, although up-market from the Subaru’s target market, was still not appointed with materials that lead me to believe this is indeed a vehicle far removed from its Japanese counterpart. In particular, the plastic that fails to give the impression of metal in the center console and the styling of the seats are detractors. While the initial looks don’t really win me over or lose me, the road-going capability of this four-seater is impressing me. Saab took the naturally aggressive nature of the donor mechanical and ever-so-deftly improved on various suspension and steering components to make this a car for all ages. The Saab is a pleasure to drive on all surfaces. The drive is smooth, yet without any wandering on both highways and streets. The steering proved to be sharp and accurate. A high percentage of the refinement is attributed to the purpose-built Bridgestone tires. While they do prove quiet along with being very grippy, they seem to erode rather fast. In the tires defense, we pushed the 9-2x as hard we could - not just in the real world conditions, but on a coned track set up for evaluation. Only a long-term, real world test will show just how durable the rubber truly is.

The uprated tires that are found on the Aero take some of the credit for the faster lap times on the track. The base model Linear has a normally aspirated (non-turbo) engine, which also held it back in the timed laps. When pushed hard, really hard, the tail can get a little light if the braking isn’t completed prior to entering a turn. Again though, weird behavior can be expected in anything that is brought to the limits. In this case it is more a factor of driver error than a problem with the car itself. We nearly forgot that the 9-2X was indeed a turbocharged car as it was seamless and smooth as any normally aspirated vehicle. The Aero model had plenty of go power propelling all four wheels, proving itself more than capable in our numerous changes of elevation. Even power at lower RPMs were well within the acceptable level.

While getting in on what Saab perceives as a growing market early in the game is important, did they dilute the Saab image just a bit? Certainly with so many of the parts stamped with a ‘made in Japan’ label, one would think the diehard Saab fans will be a little confused by some of this. But, once behind the wheel, Saab believes most will see the positives rather than the shared bloodline from a distant General Motors relative. Saab has made a rather intelligent decision on building its brand. Whenever possible, grab the best parts you can get your hands on. Also, get in on the ground floor of the development of any new and useful platform being developed by GM. Always remember what a Saab is supposed to be.

While pushing the envelope on the convoluted roads in our travels, I for one can appreciate their decisions, particularly the grabbing of the best parts around. I think my insurance company feels the same way.

For more on Saab please go to www.saabusa.com

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Price: Base Linear $22,990, Base Aero $26,950 Engine type: Aluminum alloy block, 4-cylinder Horizontally Opposed, SOHC, 4-stroke gasoline engine, Dual Ignition/ Multi-point fuel injection; Linear 2.5 liters, Aero turbo 2.0 liters Horsepower: Linear 165 hp (123 kW) @ 5,500 rpm, Aero 227 hp (169 kW) @ 6,000 rpm Torque: Linear 166 lb.-ft (225 Nm) @ 4,000 rpm, Aero 217 lb.-ft (294 Nm) @ 4,000 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine / all-wheel drive Transmission type: 5-speed manual, 4-speed automatic Suspension: Front: MacPherson strut type Rear: Independent, Dual link strut type Wheels and tires: Front: 16” x 6.5” alloy 5-spoke 205/55R 16 all-season tires, , optional 17” 5-spoke twin alloy wheels, 215/45 R17 hi-performance tires Rear: 16” x 6.5” alloy 5-spoke, 205/55R 16 all-season tires, optional 17” 5-spoke twin alloy wheels, 215/45 R17 hi-performance tires Brakes: Front: Linear 10.7 in., Aero 11.4 in. Rear: Linear 10.3 in., Aero 10.3 in. 4-wheel hydraulic disc with power assist, 4-channel ABS and EBD (Electronic Brake force Distribution), ventilated front discs Overall length: 175.6” Overall width: 66.7” Overall height: 57.7 Curb weight (lbs.): Linear 3070, 3110 (auto); Aero 3179, 3225 (auto) EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway: Linear 22/29, 23/29(auto); Aero 20/26, 19/25(auto)

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