The only problem I had with the was giving this great-looking car back. But, the head-turning sedan isn't just about good looks. Under the hood a 2.3-liter high-output turbo engine kicks out 230 hp at 5,500 rpm and 243 lb-ft of torque at 4,600 rpm through an automatic tranny. Torque for the manual is 258 lb-ft at 3,800 rpm. Saab engineers focus on the engine torque rather than horsepower for quick acceleration. A lightweight turbocharger provides 20-psi maximum boost, and is oil and water cooled. Simply put, when you hit the accelerator hard, there's no hesitation before the turbo kicks in, thanks to an electronic drive-by-wire throttle that enhances response and cuts turbo lag.

The powerplant features reinforced alloy pistons that benefit from jets at the base of the block that spray cooling oil at the underside of each piston. The exhaust valves, made from a high-nickel, heat-resistant alloy used for aircraft components, are also built to handle the heat. Other high points include sturdier connecting rods, nitrided gudgeon pins, and strengthened intake valves.

Engine performance is governed by the Trionic 7 engine-management system. Its 32-bit microprocessor, capable of 2 million calculations/sec, control ignition, fuel injection, and turbo-boost pressure. The chassis uses isolated front and rear suspension subframes for a smooth ride. MacPherson struts up front and a multilink independent rear suspension carry heavier antiroll bars, stiffer springs, and harder dampers than its 9-5 siblings. The firmer chassis also sits about a half inch lower than other 9-5 models. Standard 17-in. wheels help harness the power and tame the braking.

Unfortunately, our test vehicle was equipped with the automatic tranny, a whopping $1,200 option. The standard five-speed manual would have been a better interface for testing the driver/vehicle relationship.

And, while I'm nitpicking, controls on the steering wheel, which consist of audio and cruise control, would have been much nicer if illuminated. Other than that, the interior of the 9-5 Aero sedan is nothing but luxury. For the driver, a sliding, adjustable armrest helps those with shorter arms to relax. And the glovebox can be chilled to keep beverages or snacks cool. A simple slide of a button inside the glovebox routes cooler air in. Unfortunately, the only things I cooled in the glovebox were some CDs, but it's a fun feature to have. Extra storage compartments are integrated into front doors. Small storage nets on the C-pillar provide a partially hidden spot for keys and credit cards. And trunk space is cavernous, measuring in at 15.9 ft3.

Rear passengers have the luxury of adjustable headrests as well as optional heated seats. However, our test vehicle had only one seat warmer in the rear, for the left passenger. It must have been a manufacturing oversight to leave the right passenger out in the cold.

The 9-5 Aero sedan comes well equipped at a base price of $40,175. Adding a few options and the destination charge brings the final tally to $44,590. If I had the means, I would buy this car in a heartbeat.

Sherri Koucky