The New New Car

Time for a new vehicle. I’ve been saying that for probably a year or two now. well, there’s nothing like a horrible auto accident to really MAKE you look for something new.

After some lengthy discussions with the boss, we decided to find something with all-wheel-drive, most likely used, with a payment we could mutually agree on. Luckily, our insurance paid us a ridiculous amount for the Ranger, meaning they went beyond our wildest dreams and enabled us to get something we didn’t even know we wanted.

After striking out with the used vehicles we really wanted to look at (one was liquidated with the change of ownership at the dealership and the other was owned by a heavy smoker…and I mean HEAVY), we were talked into looking at something new. Though the talker didn’t have to twist our arms very much, we really weren’t sure that was the best way to go.

It came down to one vehicle that pretty much fit the bill, without all of the fluff that most new cars have, which wasn’t really needed.

So we decided on getting an SUV with all-wheel-drive, right? Well, those can get pretty expensive when you aren’t used to a car payment. So we found the right vehicle and spent a good hour or two with the sales manger at the dealer whittling down the price with lower and lower interest rates but still couldn’t bridge the gap, even though we were within $50 of where we wanted to be.

Then the lease option was brought up by the sales manager. We had talked about leasing before the accident but totally forgot about it as we were negotiating. Long story short, with the same money down and the added benefit of not having to pay for personal property tax and licensing, we have a payment under what we wanted and a great vehicle we can drive for three years and 45,000 miles.

So here it is: a 2011 Honda Element EX.DSC01475

It drives great, has full-time all-wheel-drive, has a rubber floor that can be sprayed out if needed and gets good mileage for what it is.

Another cool feature is the rear seats. They fold flat and they can be folded against the walls for an open load floor! We were told that you can remove the rear seats as well but it’s a bit of a hassle. That test will come in another post.

Look for a full review in a couple of weeks!


Today’s Retro Review is another utility vehicle, although it’s a bit faster and swoopier than the Element:

2006 Saab 9-5 SportCombi


A Fast Wagon To Get Your Heart And Mind Racing

by James E. Bryson

Not since the hatchback demise of the 70s, the advent of the minivan in the 80s, and don’t forget the current SUV craze, has the wagon been such a popular vehicle of choice for people on the go and for families to get going.

This resurgence of the wagon could be attributed to many different factors, too many for us to discuss here, but we feel that their usefulness in cargo- and people-carrying ability and the fact that most wagons get better mileage than either vans or SUVs have pushed the wagon back into the limelight.

If only they made wagons like the 9-5 SportCombi back in the 80s and 90s.

Saab redesigned the 9-5 line for 2006 by revamping the front and rear fascias, fenders, tailgate and trunklid and making the side moldings and door handles body-color. In a sense of downsizing, the 9-5 will only be offered as a sedan and our tester SportCombi for 2006. Gone are the Linear, Arc and Aero designations as are engine choices.

For 2006, you can get any engine in the 9-5…as long as it’s the 2.3-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder that makes 260 horsepower and 258 lb-ft. of torque. And we can tell you that it’s as potent in real life as it looks on paper. EPA figures for city and highway area 19/28 for the automatic. We got 20 miles per gallon in mixed use and with a heavy foot.

Changes to the 9-5 include chrome surrounds to the headlights and smoothed lines across the front of the vehicle, making it look fresh and invigorated.

Inside, you’ll find a handsome interior in fine leather and walnut trim all around. The dash is clean and the gauges are easily read but the center stack has a few too many buttons to control the radio, climate and navigation system. After a few days of use, though, it all became familiar and we were thankful Saab hasn’t gone to the integrated systems that BMW and Mercedes use.

Since this wagon has such a sporty look, we were very happy that the seats were sporty as well, with decent bolstering and a firmness that only European vehicles seem to do well. Our only complaint with the driving experience was a stop pedal too close to the go pedal. Both are canted to the right, but not uncomfortably so and we found that we had to watch as to not hit the brake when going for the gas.

Out on our handling loop, the car handled like a small front-drive sports car in the tight twisties. Turn-in is excellent and grip is prodigious, making you forget you’re driving a station wagon. There is a bit of front-end plow in tight corners with the back end coming around at the right point to get you through. Front drive in a vehicle like this makes sense and Saab engineers have made the most of this set up. We can only imagine what they might do with an all-wheel-drive version.

Manual mode on the transmission works great in the hills and tight curves but doesn’t make much sense in normal driving. The turbo spools up quickly and negates the need to downshift in a lot of situations. This 2.3 turbo engine is one strong performer!

One little criticism about the folding seats…why do the manufacturers insist on making the seats in such a way that they won’t fold flat? You can get a lot of stuff in the back of the 9-5 SportCombi but, since the floor isn’t flat, you’re limited in exactly what you can carry.

Base price for the 9-5 is $35,820, which includes 17-inch wheels, traction control, electronic stability control, ABS, power moonroof, heated front and rear seats, heated out side mirrors, dual-zone climate control and Harman-Kardon 200 watt eight-speaker radio.

Our tester also came with the Sport package ($1095—leather seats, lowered sport-tuned chassis and tinted-chrome interior trim), The Visibility package ($1295—xenon headlights, rain-sensing wipers, Saab Park Assist and auto-dimming outside mirrors), a cool shade called Fusion Blue Metallic, which cost an extra $550, navigation system with trunk-mounted six-disc CD changer ($2795), OnStar ($699), and the automatic transmission ($1350) for a grand total of $43,604.00.

For the price of a large SUV, you get a sharp wagon with good looks and great handling, what more could you want?

Thanks for stopping by!!!


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James E. Bryson

Cars make the world go 'round!

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