A Smart Wagon With a Funny Name
Rob Douthit, Tue, 20 Jan 2009 08:00:00 PDT
Saab loves to tout its heritage as a jet company.It's kind of hard to say whether that appeals to people who are buying cars, but at least it's something not every automaker can say.When you get behind the wheel of the Saab Aero SportCombi, you actually do get a little bit of the jet-set experience, thanks to the wagon's turbocharged engine.
And along with that driving pleasure, you get quite a bit of cargo space, making this an attractive package when it comes to small family vehicles.When we got out on the highway in the Aero, it was easy for us to forget that we were in a wagon.The stiffness of the suspension and the eagerness of the engine rival that of many other performance sedans and coupes in this category.The 2.0-liter power plant provides a more-than-adequate 210 horsepower and 221 pounds-feet of torque.
The handling is superb, especially when compared with other front-wheel-drive cars.Steering is exceptionally responsive. We made a special effort to take this wagon out on some twisty roads and were rewarded with stellar performance.The SportCombi (we're still not crazy about that name) grabbed corners and tight turns like crazed shoppers snapping up post-holiday markdowns at the mall.We did, however, detect just a little bit of torque steer upon rapid acceleration, but not enough to dampen the driving pleasure too much.
Also, you'll probably notice a bit of turbo lag, but it's not all that bothersome.Braking is adequate.Quietly, it seems that wagons are making a bit of a comeback.
Sure, they might be called different things, such as crossovers or whatever, as automakers are still somewhat reluctant to use the term station wagon.But for their functionality and better-than-SUV gas mileage and driveability, wagons are again becoming a viable alternative in the auto market.The Aero SportCombi, which sells for around $45,660, is an example of why.
It offers great performance and cargo space, and it's pretty good looking.The interior boasts a modern yet understated style, while the exterior doesn't depart much from the smart looks of its sibling 9-3 sedan.As for conveniences, our test drive model wasn't loaded with features that make you oohh and aahh, but it had enough to make you comfortable.Power-adjustable seats, a fine sound system and a thicker, perforated leather steering wheel were among the amenities in the tester.
You can also have keyless entry, chrome trim on the doors, center stack and steering wheel and automatic climate control.But the main thing buyers in this category would probably be after is utility, and the SportCombi offers plenty of that.It has one of the largest trunks in its class, 14.8 cubic feet, that's able to hold plenty of stuff from the home- improvement or grocery store.And the passenger space is quite impressive, too.
The driver and front passenger get great head-and legroom, while the backseat passengers get more space than you might expect, even if you put three people on the bench.For safety, the SportCombi offers adaptive force front airbags, active head restraints and seat-mounted side torso airbags.Side curtain airbags give protection to people riding in the front and rear seats in the event of side-impact collisions.
Electronic brakeforce distribution, antilock brakes, traction control and stability control systems are standard on all models.The driver gets an assist with large instrumentation gauges with easy-to-read script.Also, the climate and radio controls are not too hard to figure out and a new center-mounted display screen on top of the dash lets drivers check the settings while easily keeping an eye on the road.As General Motors continues to figure out what direction it's headed in, it appears at least somewhat likely that it will put the Saab brand, which it has owned for a few years, up for sale.
For GM, that would be somewhat of a downer, because Saab's products are pretty good and it is a well-respected brand.But that would make it attractive to potential buyers.Whatever its future is, let's hope Saab continues to stay on its game with good stuff like the SportCombi wagon.