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ATLANTA — Typical Atlanta traffic, heavy with few places to merge onto the freeway. Spotting an opening, I press the pedal to the floor and feel myself hurled back into the firm and enveloping driver’s seat. This is a car that begs the age-old question: where’s your pilot’s license?
TheCarConnection recently got the opportunity to review the entire Saab lineup for 2002. With few major changes for the upcoming model-year, we decided to focus in on the model that seems to best blend three Saab attributes: performance, functionality and, of course, that quirky brand character that has, over the years, built up a small but phenomenally loyal core of customers.
For 2002, Saab revises the 9-5 lineup with three new model designations: Linear, Arc and Aero. The latter is the name the Swedish automaker applies to the performance version 9-5. It starts with a 2.3-liter in-line four engine and bolts on a high-output turbo with an overboost function that turns this modest-sized powerplant into a real screamer. For 2002, power has been boosted to 250 horsepower, an increase of 20 ponies, no small feat.
In years past, that extra power might not have been especially useful. Saabs had an unpleasant reputation for torque steer, that annoying characteristic on front-drive cars to dart left or right when power came on. And older Saab turbos would take their time building up boost, so there would be a lag when you stomped on the pedal before you suddenly felt the car lurch off to one side or the other. Not so with the 9-5 wagon. The HOT booster has virtually no lag. It’s there when you need it. And there’s little to no perceptible torque steer. Traction Control helps, of course, as does the Electronic Stability Program, or ESP, that’s now a standard Aero feature.