Cars

Saab 9-2X Aero: A More Refined Subaru WRX

With the demise of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo, the Subaru WRX is the last rally-style sedan on the market. However, while the WRX may be fast, it’s not faultless. One repeated critique, especially with older models, is the general sense of cheapness in the interior. But there is a way to get a Subaru WRX that’s a bit easier to live with: the Saab 9-2X Aero.

Saab 9-2X Aero specs

2005 Saab 9-2X
2005 Saab 9-2X | Saab

The Saab 9-2X Aero isn’t just a Subaru WRX alternative. Underneath the Saab-specific badges and interior trim, it’s essentially a second-gen Impreza WRX, Car Throttle reports.

2005 Subaru Impreza WRX sedan and wagon
2005 Subaru Impreza WRX sedan and wagon | Subaru

In the early 2000s, General Motors owned Saab, and had a 20% stake in Subaru, Driving Line explains. And, as many automakers do, GM wanted to offer badge-engineered variants of a single model, to maximize profits. So, in 2005, Saab introduced the 9-2X wagon in the US. Because of its Subaru roots, it came to be known as the ‘Saaburu.’

Like its Subaru variant, the Saab 9-2X came standard with all-wheel drive. While a 4-speed automatic was available, most enthusiasts prefer the 5-speed manual. There were 2 trims: Linear and Aero.

The Linear came with Subaru’s 2.5-liter flat-four engine, which made 165 hp and 166 lb-ft. The Saab 9-2X Aero though came with the Subaru WRX’s 2.0-liter turbocharged flat-four, rated at 227 hp and 217 lb-ft. Both trim’s engines were upgraded for the 2006 model year. The Linear, now called the 2.5i, was bumped up to 173 hp and 166 lb-ft. The Aero, like the WRX, received a new 2.5-liter turbocharged flat-four, which produced 230 hp and 235 lb-ft.

But, while the Saab 9-2X Aero shared the WRX’s powertrain and overall design, the two were actually significantly different.

Saab 9-2X Aero vs. Subaru WRX

Although the Saab 9-2X Aero is a badge-engineered Subaru WRX, that’s arguably selling the Saab a bit short. The 9-2X, Car and Driver reports, actually had a completely unique front end and a redesigned rear. The only external parts shared between the Aero and the WRX were the doors, roof, and rear quarter-panels. But this wasn’t actually unusual for Saab—earlier badge-engineering projects had also been similarly modified by the Swedish company.

And it’s not only outside where the Saab 9-2X Aero improves on the Subaru WRX. The Saab came with the STI’s steering rack, as well as retuned suspension. Meaning, it actually handles and rides better than the WRX. The 9-2X also came with more sound deadening, a better-sealed liftgate, quieter engine mounts, and a more upscale interior.  

2005 Saab 9-2X interior
2005 Saab 9-2X interior | Saab

The added refinement meant the 9-2X Aero was slightly heavier and slower than the Subaru WRX. Car and Driver reports the former went 0-60 in 6.1 seconds, and the latter in 5.4 seconds. But the trade-offs in refinement and handling were well worth it.

Pricing and availability

The Saab 9-2X Aero was only sold in 2005 and 2006, making finding one somewhat of a challenge. Plus, although the Saab did improve on the WRX’s build quality, there were some issues that still remained.

Auto Guide reports the transmission had some problems, though Saab 9-2X owner forum users claim that’s mostly with heavily-modded cars. The engines can also develop head gasket issues over time, which is another known Subaru fault. However, Saab owner forum users report that, with regular maintenance, the biggest issue a 9-2X owner faces is old switchgear.

The 9-2X Aero also has another advantage over the WRX: price. Although many have over 100,000 miles, it’s possible to find a good-condition Aero for under $5000. Autotrader lists several for under $4000 at the time of writing.

So, if you’ve wanted a Subaru WRX, but were turned off by the image or lack of refinement, consider a Saab 9-2X Aero instead.

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