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Saab 9-5 Aero


##saabaer.jpg --Right##THE Aero name goes back years in Saab's history where it's been used to describe several highly potent performance models, usually at the top of the range and at premium prices. But in the 9-5, the Aero concept has been repackaged as a more affordable formula designed to inject some sparkle into the range. In place of the 'limited edition' feel of previous Aeros is a car that offers performance sufficient to blow away virtually anything at the price, and most cars costing much more.

And with prices starting at just £27,995 on-the-road for the four-door, or £28,995 for the estate, it's a package Saab hopes will enable it to sell about 2,000 units in the first year, about 20% of 9-5 sales, split 50:50 between saloon and estate. At that price, the Aero's natural rival is the identically priced Volvo S70 T5 SE, an older design that packs even more power - 240bhp - but less torque at 243lb-ft 2,700rpm. The Volvo is slower to 60mph at 7.0 secs but has a higher top speed at 152mph.

Elsewhere, the Saab competes with much less powerful rivals, including the BMW 523i SE (£28,095/170bhp), Audi A6 2.4 (£28,069/165bhp) and Mercedes E200 Elegance (£28,255/ 134bhp). At the heart of the Aero is a new 2.3-litre turbocharged engine developing 230bhp and 258lb-ft of torque at just 1,900rpm. What's more, there's a 'superboost' facility on manual transmission models that raises output to 273lb-ft for up to 20 seconds at near full throttle opening, giving extra performance during, say, overtaking.

Such power gives a top speed of 149mph and 0-60mph time of just 6.5secs for the manual saloon. Most impressive of all, however, is in-gear acceleration which provides the Aero with simply breathtaking overtaking ability: 50- 70mph takes just 7.3 seconds in top gear - far quicker than any other luxury four-door saloon on the market at this price. Despite this, economy is surprisingly good: at 29.7mpg on the combined cycle for the manual saloon (26.1mpg for the automatic). Unlike the smaller Saab 9-3 Viggen, which uses the same 2.3T engine in the 9-3's less capable chassis to provide a somewhat manic street racer, the 9-5 has a more accommodating set-up. The Aero sits 10mm lower than conventional 9-5s, while both front and rear axles are equipped with heavier anti-roll bars, stiffer springs and firmer dampers to minimise roll on cornering. Three-spoke 17in alloy wheels with 225/45 ZR17 tyres, traction control and 20mm bigger front brakes with harder friction material complete the dynamic enhancements.

But it adds up to a potent sporting package. It's possible to really enjoy the Aero's performance - for example in overtaking situations on A and B-roads - while ride comfort isn't compromised by the stiffer suspension settings. With a predicted residual value of £9,600/35% of cost new after three years/60,000 miles, the Aero compares poorly with the likes of the BMW 523i SE (£11,825/42%), but the Volvo S70 T5 SE does worse, retaining just 32% of cost new, or £9,025.

Both saloon and estate versions of the Aero have an enviable safety record, and with a standard specification that includes twin front airbags, front side airbags, Saab's active head restraints and a full complement of side impact protection beams, not to mention triple three-point rear belts, the 9-5 is one of the safest cars on the road, obtaining a full four-star rating in the Euro-NCAP crash tests.

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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