by Clint Burgess

There are plenty of sport utility vehicles on the road. Finding one to fit your budget as well as your fuel allowance can be challenging for mere mortals. As the boom of high gas prices and even bigger SUVs continues, automakers are downsizing into a class called the mid-sized SUV, and consumers are taking note. One hot new mid-sized offering on the market is the Saab 9-2X. This spunky offering from the Swedish auto giant may be just what those of us on this side of pond have been waiting for.

In a volatile market, auto manufacturers are catering more and more to what people want. There are more choices for vehicles than ever before and there are no signs of a change in plan. Saab is a company that has done well for itself in a niche market but is looking to the future. It would be ludicrous to continue on the path of presenting limited model choices to a market that thrives on options. With that, Saab introduced the 9-2X wagon-style sport utility, and it's turning the heads of young vehicle buyers toward the unlikely Swedish company. Turning more heads is the price: Starting at around $24,000, this little Saab can fit into a budget.

The 9-2X is as stylish as it is sporty. The exterior will draw comparisons to some of Subaru's wagons (it was loosely designed after the Impreza), and it offers trimmed body contours and an intake cover on the hood. The car just looks fast and fun. Some of the attractive standard features found here include 16-inch alloy wheels, tinted windows and power everything. Once inside this wagon with a punch, the driver will find more of what sets this car apart from a standard wagon. The Aero, the bells-and-whistles version of the 9-2X, features such niceties as leather trim on the steering wheel, automatic climate control and a six-disc, in-dash changer. There is also a 60/40 back seat that allows for storage of larger items, making this a functional SUV. This may be a sport wagon, but it's still a Saab.

Saab is going after a different buyer with a car like this. They've been a company that symbolizes stability and stature over the years, but they're making the move to the 21st century in a direction that finds the automaker reaching out to potential buyers rather than waiting for them. Part of the allure of a vehicle like the 9-2X is its look, but the redeeming factor is the performance. A 2.5-liter, 227-hp engine is waiting under the hood on the power-packed Aero model. This configuration is deceivingly powerful. Acceleration comes charging through without hesitation and really gets the pistons pounding up over 3,000 rpm. Couple the speed factor with standard all-wheel drive on both editions of the wagon, and this is a machine that offers the complete package.

An inventive turn for the better by Saab is embodied in this sport wagon. Those who have come to appreciate Saab's quality will not be disappointed by the 9-2X. It allows more conservative drivers to feel a bit edgy without alienating them from the automaker they know and trust. It also allows a new generation of potential Saab owners to consider a manufacturer they may not have in the past. With renewed interest in their line of Swedish beauties, look for new and exciting things to happen at Saab over the next five years.

Publication date: 05/19/05

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