There’s been some discussion in comments and I thought I’d bring the topic up to the front page.
The question at issue is the status of the “Aero” badge on Saabs.
In many markets around the world, you can currently buy a Saab Aero that doesn’t have the most powerful engine Saab offer under the hood. The Saab 9-5 2.0T Aero is the main case in point.
A brief and undocumented history of the Aero.
The Saab 900 didn’t officially have an Aero model, as far as I know. The name was conferred upon some versions of the turbocharged 16V model. I had one from 1985 that I constantly referred to as an Aero on this website, yet there’s no documentation that I’ve seen referring to it as such at an official level.
The Saab 900 did have a model called the SPG (Special Performance Group) in the United States and equivalent models elsewhere in the world were called a Turbo 16, or Turbo 16S. These had a full body kit, the 16v engine and some suspension tweaks. Many had an “Aero” graphic on the stereo system inside the car, which may be where the name came from.
A quick Googling for 900 Aero brochures and official namings that returned zero results supports this view, but I’m happy to receive evidence to the contrary.
Regardless of the particulars, the fact that the Aero moniker was attached to this model of the 900 started the trend of Saab’s performance model being referred to under the Aero name.
The first car to officially be badged as an Aero was the Saab 9000. This model was equipped with every electronic convenience available at the time, had the most incredibly comfortable seats and of course, the 2.3 HOT engine. It looked as good as it went and had all the amenity that Saab had become known for.
Following the 9000, the Saab 9-5 also came with an Aero model. Again, it was the best performing model in the range and was as close to fully loaded as a Saab came.
Shortly after the 9-5 Aero came the first generation 9-3 Aero. This is possibly the first time when Saab allowed some confusion to creep in with regard to the Aero title. At the same time they were selling the Saab 9-3 Aero, they were selling a Saab 9-3 Viggen, with similar top-flight equipment levels. The Aero had the 2.0HOT engine and the Viggen the 2.3HOT, as well as exclusive colors and interior trim.
With the advent of the new Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan, Saab brought in a new model range consisting of Linear, Arc, Vector and Aero. Typically, the Aero had the more powerful engine, something that was reinforced with the introduction of the 2.8T V6.
A few years down the track, however, Saab dropped the V6 engine in a majority of markets and this is when the Aero became something more akin to just a trim level, with body kit, suspension and interior being the differentiators.
Today, in the US, you can buy a Turbo4 Saab 9-3 with XWD that is not an Aero model. You can buy a car with the same engine, but as an Aero model, for around $6,000 more. Both cars have the same 210hp engine. The difference is in the level of trim and equipment.
The 2011 Saab 9-5 sedan with V6 is also available in the US as both an Aero and non-Aero model (known as the Turbo6 XWD). Both share the same V6 engine and XWD system with differences being in trim, gadgets and suspension. Outside the US it’s even more flexible, with some markets offering a four-cylinder car with an Aero trim level.
Saab will argue that this type of nomenclature gives people choice. If people want the best trim package they can have it, and in the case of the 9-5, they can have it with the engine of their choosing.
What I’ve read in comments, and what I think personally, too, is that the Aero designation should be for something special. The top of the range model not only in terms of trim, but in terms of engine output as well. It should be distinct.
Perhaps, if Saab had access to more engine options and tuning levels in all countries, this might be the case.
To the poll, then…….