Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A Tale of Four Aeros
There are those moments of inadvertent genius in one's life. Such was the case at our most recent day of Skid School at Stevens Advanced Driver Training. When selecting cars to use at the event, I try to arrange a good assortment of cars that would represent the vehicles driven by the cohort attending the class, as well as picking Saabs that are most likely to be entertaining. When the fleet was finalized, a couple of days before the school, I realized that I had three versions of Aero going--a 2006 9-3 V6 Aero, 2002 9-5 Aero and a 2005 92x Aero. Hmmm.....
On the day of the event, I had my sons (who were attending the school) drive up in my wife's 1993 9000 Aero. So there we were at Concord NH Municipal Airport with the newest version of Aero, the original (at least in the US) Aero, and Aero versions of the 9-5 and 92x--we had the Aero heritage fleshed out nicely. As the day moved along, I asked Sandy Stevens if his drivers might be interested, when the class was done, to do some drag racing in the Aero's. He chuckled--since all his instructors race cars, they don't need to be asked twice to go out and drive hard and fast and compete with one another. So, when the day of Skid School was done, the cones were cleared from the runway, and it was time for the Aero Challenge.
I'd put the length of the runway at about a quarter mile, so the race would be just short of that (allowing enough time to stop so as not to traverse an active runway!). All the cars were automatic (6-speed for the 9-3, 5-speed for the 9-5 and 4-speed for the 92x), except the 9000 Aero, which was fair since the other cars all had more horsepower (250 for the 9-5 and 9-3, 227 for the 92x and 225 for the 9000), and the 9000 was hampered by Traction Control which is not switchable, and makes launching somewhat tricky. They raced four times. The winner every time was the 9-3. Second was always the 9-5. It was always very close. The lesser weight and extra gear ratio probably made the difference for the 9-3. Third and fourth was a duel between the 92x and 9000. They traded places at every race. Clearly, the driver had a lot to do with the outcome in the 9000; to shift at right time and to push the car hard but without inducing wheel spin and engaging the traction control was a challenge. But even between first and fourth, there was not much difference, maybe a couple of car lengths. In the end, all of the cars acquitted themselves nicely. Just makes you wonder, though....if we had a 1994 Aero without Traction control, and manual transmission versions of the other cars....
Not only did the 9-3 Aero win in the drag race, but I think it won everyone's heart during the Skid School. Not only is the engine a gem, but the tuning of the rest of the car, including a switch in tire brand and size for 2006, make this a really easy car to drive very hard and fast. I was concerned about the extra weight of the V6, but the handling remains precise, the passive rear steering works brilliantly, and the feedback through the steering seems slightly better. Overall, it is a very impressive performer!

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