Given the route I'd mapped, I'll admit I was a little nervous about overall reliability. This had nothing to do with the car itself or any prior experiences, only the fact that it is turbocharged and it's been modified, however lightly. During the drive, temperatures fluctuated between 68 and 95 degrees (Fahrenheit) as I climbed and descended more than 25,000 vertical feet (four times up and down the mountains). The Saab never so much as coughed and I noticed no degradation of performance at any altitude.

In spite of the purposefully rigid suspension, I found the 9-2X very comfortable for a long trip. The seats are firm but forgiving, even for a bony butt like mine over considerable distances. Lateral support is another story, but then again you'd need race seats to really keep up with the new suspension. The climate control works beautifully in all weather-no complaints here. And being a wagon, the 9-2X is particularly suited to long trips through the hinterlands. The rear seats fold flat, expanding the rear cargo area by a considerable measure if the need arises. This is one of those vehicles that lends itself perfectly to an active lifestyle: mountain biking, camping, skiing, whatever. On the drive all I had with me was my backpack, so I didn't get to fully exploit the space, but when I got back there was all that much more room for beer and tortilla chips. Nothing beats a cold beer after a long drive. Except maybe a cold beer and a bag of tortilla chips.

This car is also equipped with a GPS-based Eclipse navigation/DVD head unit-one other aftermarket piece we opted to keep. The unit is all-seeing and includes roads I'd never expect to see on a navigation interface (mainly the remote, unpaved type). Its navigation functions are fairly intuitive, but I found if I did too much snooping around I had a tendency to get hopelessly lost among the various interfaces. Regardless, a competent navigation system is a vehicle upgrade every driver can truly use to his or her advantage.

Besides shaking the Saab down after its long hiatus in the shop, the other purpose of my trip was to scout a route for an upcoming wagon road test we've been cooking up. Considering the fun I had on the pre-run, I'll be pushing to be first in our long-term 9-2X when that day arrives.

Quick Stats
Total mileage: 13,340
Fuel economy: 25.3 mpg, highway and hard mountain driving
Thumbs up: Comfortable, roomy
Thumbs down: Turbo lag, goofy clutch

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