SANTA FE, N.M. — Nose strips? Check. Nasal spray? Check. Saab Aero wagon? Check.
Armed with everything we needed to breathe and travel without puffing in the exalted 7000-ft altitude of Santa Fe, N.M., we set out in Saab's 2000 9-5 Aero wagons from the downtown Inn of the Anasazi. Saab decided to have its new luxury wagons test-driven here to demonstrate that their high-performance, variable boost, turbocharged engine can handle less oxygen without losing a dime's worth of lag.
Since the air is definitely a lot drier in Santa Fe than we are accustomed to, we were presented with the rather dubious gift of Breathe Right nose strips the night before to help prevent us from snoring and, presumably, to avoid waking up guests with more open nasal passages. Fortunately, no one wore the strips down to breakfast. The moisturizing nasal spray, also from the Breathe Right company, could be employed in a less noticeable fashion so some of us used it. Discreetly, of course.
Saab's new wagon needed no such assistance but the Swedish company got its point across. Taking the rarified air of the Rio Grande Gorge in its stride, the Aero climbed as high as 9600 ft without any sign of strain while maintaining maximum muscle.
The Aero difference
The Aero is the wagon version of the 9-5 Aero sedan that is already on sale in dealerships. Unmistakably a Saab in the entry luxury segment of the market but almost in a niche of its own, the new wagon has tightly controlled styling, an aerodynamic rear end, and the signature forward-leaning stance, albeit modified. It is pricey at $40,175 but a keeper.
Filled with unique safety features and a clever cargo area, it's a five-door vehicle that could almost pass as a sedan. It also has flared rocker panels, a front chin spoiler, a rear valance and a sport steering wheel, so maybe this is really a wagon that wants to be a roadster. Performance-wise, it comes pretty close, and although Saab can't disguise the fact that this is indeed a station wagon, it is certainly not your typical family hauler.