By on April 20, 2007

1200716.jpgSaab may have been "Born from Jets," but there's little about the brand's current offerings that you'd call state-of-the-art. The 9-3 has changed little since its ‘03 introduction. The 9-7X dates back to the ‘02 Chevy TrailBlazer. And the 9-5 has been stuck in holding pattern since ‘98. I recently tested a 9-5 to see if the quirky car lives up to its high tech brand proposition. My range-topping tester's trim designation: "Aero." That pounding sound you hear is GM's marketers driving home the high-altitude hype.

Luxury sedan buyers tend to place beauty at the top of their list of priorities. Fortunately, the 9-5's lines have worn well over the past nine years. But they have, well, worn. In 2006, Saab applied a masked-rider makeover to the front fascia. The result: a familiar face wearing Ray-Bans. In today's world of flame-surfaced shapes, it's not enough. The Saab's crisp, formal three-box shape lacks presence, and displays less than modern panel gaps.

1200727.jpgUnfortunately, the 9-5's exterior is the apex of its aesthetics. Stepping into the cabin admits you to the Museum of Premium Interior Materials, circa 1997. The 9-5's instrument panel is utterly artless, a drab plastic escarpment with scatter-shot secondary controls. Buttons and knobs feel hollow to the touch, and a single cupholder collapses loosely out of the dash. Born from a U.S. Airways galley, perhaps.

With petrified polymers filling your peripheral vision, it's difficult to feel much love at the 9-5's helm. Is that a Suzuki Forenza's mirror-adjuster pod? It is! Assessed discretely, some of the cabin's bits delight. Chief among these are the 9-5's seats. The chairs are wide, soft and all-day supportive: a welcome departure from the Teutonic class norm. Ditto the large windows and low beltline, which afford an airy view out. Passenger space is first-class.

1200696.jpgI'll avoid the usual hoopla over the 9-5's console-mounted ignition, and focus instead on what happens when you twist it: turbulence. On paper, the Aero's 260-horse, 2.3-liter turbo four seems like a timely alternative (20/30 mpg med stick) to the thirsty sixes and V8's common to this class. In person, the mini-mill idles with an economy car's dry, raspy drone, sending the wrong sort of tingles up your spine in the process. In a car that purports to rival 528is and E350s, what we have here is a failure to communicate.   

Despite its hopelessly proletarian character, the 9-5's engine has its charms; specifically, its ability to inhale straightaways in strong, gratifying lunges. Unfortunately, with the standard five-speed manual transmission, such efforts are accompanied by strong, less-than-gratifying lunges towards the hedgerows. Torque steer, the tendency for the front wheels to squirm in a rubber-smoking hunt for traction, is obvious by its presence.

Thus, while I normally implore shoppers to consider the stick shift rather than defaulting to the automatic, I'm flip-flopping this time. The autobox quells the 9-5's tendency to torque steer and spares you the numb, ambiguous shift action typical of Saab sticks.

1200715.jpgYou might expect the 9-5's driven front wheels to spoil its handling, too. In fact, its at-the-limit behavior is remarkably poised. The Aero benefits from a lower chassis (10mm), firmer springs and more aggressive shock absorbers. Hustled around a closed course, the Aero exhibits surprisingly gluey grip and a wispy, tossable nature that eludes most German iron.

Driven below the limit, however, the Aero feels significantly less graceful. Its power-assisted rack and pinion steering is precise enough but over-light, and there's a gritty, insubstantial quality to this aged platform's ride. Arthritis? More like Parkinson's. Textured surfaces feed a steady stream of high-frequency shivers through the 9-5's structure and steering column. Combined with the tingly engine vibes, this car's manners are better compared with Mazda than Mercedes.

Which brings me to a pointed question for prospective 9-5 buyers: why buy a new Aero when you can spend Mazda6 money on virtually the same car, used? For $25k, a low-mileage 2005 Sport Wagon certainly represents a more interesting (and roomier, more agile) family taxi than the CamCord.

1200709.jpgMoreover, as competition for the current 5-Series and Infiniti M, the Aero is worse than marginal; it's a curio, an irrelevance. No discerning luxury buyer would suffer the 9-5's downscale tactile sensations, and the Birkenstock-shod professors who used to resonate with Saab's brand values are now tooling around in Prii.

So what does the future hold for the 9-5? Um… nothing, really, unless you're squinting into the hazy distance that is model year 2009. That year's all-new 9-5, built on GM's Epsilon 2 platform, must be a true flagship product. It has to be evocative in design, unique in character and engaging on the road. Otherwise, Saab's promises will continue to ring more hollow than a Viggen's intake nacelle, and must eventually fall silent.

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86 Comments on “Saab 9-5 Aero Review...”


  • avatar
    discoholic

    Saab’s biggest problem is that GM thought it would be a great idea to take them over and build Vectra-platformed designermobiles on the cheap, sort of like IKEA on wheels. Of course, they thought Saab would then still appeal to its cliché customer base, i.e. the Granola-with-money crowd. Naturally, the customers tended to be more intelligent than that, wondering why they should spend €/$ 10,000 more on a Vectra/Subaru/Chevy just because it was “Born from Jets.” (Pigs would fly if they were born from jets.)

    So far, GM has done absolutely nothing to fix this problem, apart from a dubious nose job on the 9-5. (Lipstick on those flying pigs, anyone?) – and evidently they still have no real idea of the direction the brand is supposed to take. The Saabrolet Jetblazer is a case in point. I have my doubts as to whether the 2009 9-5 will be able to win Saab’s customers back.

  • avatar
    philbailey

    Probably one of the most expensive and difficult brands of car to repair. When you call the dealer for parts prices, sit down and hold the phone well away from your ear. I truly cannot ever find a raison d’etre for this car.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Dead brand walking.

  • avatar

    PJ identifies the limited number of reasons to buy one of these: great seats, airy cabin (better driving position than the 9-3), somewhat entertaining handling…and cheap price used.

    I included the 9-5 Aero in a recent blog entry on used car bargains:

    http://www.truedelta.com/blog/?p=63

    New the 9-5 is clearly not a good value, which explains why monthly sales are only around 400.

  • avatar
    tsofting

    (20/30 mpg hos stick) – where the word “hos” is supposed to mean, what?

  • avatar

    “hos” is supposed to mean, what?

    Swedish for “with”

  • avatar
    Brian E

    I’ll admit some amount of affection for the platform, since it also underpinned the Saturn L300 I used to drive. But what made for cheap thrills in a used Saturn is not what makes a satisfying driving experience in a $38k sedan.

    The comment about interior materials is spot-on: the interiors of both the 9-3 and the 9-5 are just bad, bad, bad, with the exception of the seats and the steering wheel. The Saturn Aura significantly out-classes most of the Saab’s interior materials, and is built on a much more modern version of the Vectra donor chassis. Its V6 puts the same number of horses down in a much smoother fashion, and never exhibits the kind of torque steer found in the 9-5. And all of this costs less than the base 9-3 sedan.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    Parts are indeed expensive. A pair of brake rotors set my neighbor back over 200 dollars. The other day it would not start and the fix was a very expensive sensor only the dealer had. Overall a rather mudane car that offers nothing new and everything about it screams badge engineered.

    The days of SAAB glory are over.

  • avatar
    qfrog

    This car needs a eulogy not a review.

  • avatar
    bfg9k

    GS650G:
    April 20th, 2007 at 8:48 am

    Parts are indeed expensive. A pair of brake rotors set my neighbor back over 200 dollars.

    The pair of Brembo rotors for my ’01 9-5 wagon sitting on the floor next to me cost me $49 apiece. The trick with Saab parts is never, ever buying them at the dealer. Mail order is far more reasonable.

    It’s worth noting that this car is still one of the very safest on the road, best in its class according to IIHS Injury & Death statistics, beating much newer designs. The wagon is quite nice, with a cavernous trunk and wide backseat that allows 2 adults & a car seat in comfort.

    Saab owners (myself amongst them) are noted for their fervent brand loyalty. GM appears intent on beating that loyalty out of us. Pushing the new 9-5 back to 2009 is a travesty and GM has systematically starved Saab for product for years. Now with the Cadillac BLS, it appears that GM is intent on transforming Cadillac into their global luxury brand, while ignoring Saab’s near-luxury, cross-continent brand. The Aero-X and 9x concepts shows that there’s plenty of terrific design ideas in Trollhatten, but there’s no love for them in Detroit.

    My wagon cost me $13k when it was 3 years old with 50k miles. An unbeatable deal. It’s excellent highway performance has saved my bacon more than once.

  • avatar
    catsam

    I wouldn’t spend that kind of money for a new one. There are much better cars out there, but the 9-5 Aero is a compelling used car bargain. I have owned two. Saabs CPO program is tops; 6yr 100k bumper to bumber with no deductible and they fix even minor things (replaced a slightly faded Saab Griffin badge on the hood) without being asked. Great local dealer, comfy seats, great Harmon Kardon audio, and it is very safe for it’s size with one of the lowest insurance injury claim rates for any car. Newer ones seem cheaper interior wise than the pre 2006 models which for better or worse have a more Saabish (non GM) array of buttons and knobs. Refinement and dynamics are lacking in some ways, but for me the plusses far outweigh the minuses.

  • avatar

    Anyone wishing for a Saab experience today, with all the classic Saab emotions, should buy an Alfa Romeo.

  • avatar
    Brian E

    Anyone wishing for a Saab experience today, with all the classic Saab emotions, should buy an Alfa Romeo.

    I’ll be first in line for a Brera in the US.

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    There is nothing in Saab’s lineup that is remotely competitive. Perhaps that is why you can get $8,000 off on a 2006 9-5 and $5000 on a 9-3.

    Honestly who in their right mind would buy a Saab over an Infiniti, Lexus, BMW, MB, Audi, or even Volvo?

  • avatar
    jthorner

    My friend’s 1999 9-5 just died a very expensive unexpected death due to massive oil leaks brought on by a PCV system design flaw. Saab released at least three updates to the PCV system without notifying customers, so people who had their maintenance done at an independent shop often never found out about them. (Supposedly this isn’t an issue with current production 9-5s, but there still is no reason to buy one.) Now my friend who has been running Volvo 240s for 250-350k miles for years has a worthless 9-5 with 110k miles on it. I know him well and know that he did oil changes on schedule, etc.

    The 9-5 is perhaps the worst new car value on sale today. Anyone who compares a new 9-5 to a new Acura TL and buys the 9-5 is seriously judgement impared.

  • avatar
    Lokkii

    discoholic:

    I’m not usually one to complain about someone’s comments, but you owe me a new keyboard!

    (Lipstick on those flying pigs, anyone?)

    And SherbornSean:

    I’ll ask you to pay for screen-cleaning for

    “Dead Brand Walking”

    I’ve always followed the fortunes of SAAB because my dad owned a series of them in the 60′s, back when they WERE designed by the Jet Engineers. Those engineers did some fascinating things in structural design, safety and aerodynamics (the air flow was designed to keep the windshield clean, even in the rain). Unfortunately they didn’t know a damn’d thing about engine design, and so my dad’s cars all had those 3-cylinder two-stroke wonders.
    We always owned the Rally (Monte Carlo winners!)versions with the Halda speed calculators and the ‘Shrike’ engines that had a carb for every cylinder! This got them up to something like 60 hp. My dad’s favorite quote about these little screamers was “The red line is the same as the destruction point of the materials”. Unfortunately, he proved that several times over the years.

    So, it’s with some disappointment that I’ve watched SAAB’s turned into Chevy’s wearing little badges that say, “Kiss me, I’m Swedish!”.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    P.S. Used 9-5s can indeed be had at a low price, which means that the unfortunate person who bought the car new got slaughtered on trade-in value.

  • avatar
    blautens

    Saab loyalists can’t last forever, and I doubt Saab is making many converts with this lineup. And it doesn’t look much better on the immediate horizon.

    (Feel free to replace “Saab” with many other GM division names.)

  • avatar
    johnc_22

    I am an example of a “lost” SAAB customer. I’m driving my 3rd and, unless things change, my last SAAB currently, a 2004 9-3SS Aero. The car was frankly pretty nice when I first got it. Better handling than my previous Viggen if not as much pep, gorgeous exterior looks (subjectively speaking of course) and traditional safety and good fuel economy. The car was in the shop on numerous occasions for various internal equipment failures but really nothing out of the ordinary for most Euro brands these days – I could live with these because they were handled under the warranty.

    At about 10K miles though the interior began to “let go” and the cheap OEM suspension components lost any semblance of refinement. With a go kart like ride quality and poorly assembled interior (with plasticky materials poorly disguised by a 1mm layer of thin rubber that eventually begins to peel like a bad sunburn) the car began to shake, rattle, roll, vibrate and every other thing that makes daily life with a car kind of difficult in the city. It’s one thing if you’re driving an old car, but a 9 month old car with 10,000 miles on that purports to be “premium”? I don’t think so. I’ve lived with the car now up to 38K miles. The drivetrain has been flawless and on smooth mountain roads the car is still fun to drive, but for me not a very good daily driver. I will take a large depreciation hit (not to mention that the current Aero now offers a 250HP V6 vs. my 210HP 4-banger).

    I picked up a 2007 BMW 335i in Munich in late March and as soon as it arrives at my dealer the SAAB will be sold to any takers, or to CarMax if necessary and it will be a bittersweet relief. The car has not been that unreliable but just very unsatisfying based on my expectations. To quote someone I don’t like very much: “There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”

  • avatar
    Jim H

    Bummer. I like the idea of SAAB and it’s a shame they are losing folks. I test drove the WRX wagon version SAAB and really enjoyed it. It had nicer seats and seemed to have better sound insulation. Sad to see them go downhill so quickly.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    I liked the 9-2 because it was a much better looking WRX with a better warranty for a few dollars more (but it was no SAAB). The 9-7 is an abortion and embarassment to the brand. The 9-5 is huge, quirky and a decent $27k car.

    I do, however, love the 9-3 Aero convertible. It’s got a beautiful, subtle design, decent ergonomics, and is a blast to drive with the manual (IMHO, certainly more fun than the A4 and Volvo, on par with the 3 series).

    I hope to snag an ’05 certified for $25k…. about $20k off list.

  • avatar
    Seth

    Its funny that saab exec (I forget his name) just got switched to Buick after turning Saab around (what?). He was also credited prior to saab.. for turning cadillac around. Hopefully, he will do a great job with Buick’s fortunes.

    Enough of him. I liked Saabs a long time ago. They were rock solid. Pity how the brand declined. Three reasons I can think of.

    1. Saab and Volvo were for middle class before. They were turned into luxo fighters pitted against MB, Lexus etc. Well only price changed but nothing else did.
    2. Brand marketing made a conscious effort to distance itself from “professor’s car” image so much so that they went on to insult the very type of customer who wanted one.
    3. Putting GM’s radio and dials on interior is not a good idea. Also, materials with ride quality suffered mysteriously. Original saabs were completely opposite. They were rock solid and a pleasure to be in.

  • avatar
    Jason Pollock

    The only Saab I would not be scared of owning is the Subaru one, sadly.

  • avatar
    trandell

    I presently own and enjoy a 2006 9-5 Aero. This is my 3rd Saab (2nd 9-5) and I am quite happy with the car. It provides a very nice combination of performance, handling, comfort, reliability and all weather ability (I live on north east coast of Canada, lots of snow) in a car that is of sufficient size to comfortably accommodate my family, something the Audi A4 certainly couldn’t do. I think the whole is more then the sum of the parts and I will take character over uber refinement. All too often the 9-5 it is compared to BMW’s, Audi’s and others and it doesn’t quite measure up in some areas. Really the key feature for me is value. I am leasing and for my low lease payment, which is less then what I paid for my previous 02 9-5 linear (base model). I could not find anything that appealed as much for my money. The Acura TL, Audi A4 Quattro, Volvo S60 T5 all cost at least $150 Cdn per month more to lease. I am a happy owner.

  • avatar
    blautens

    Dave M.:
    The 9-7 is an abortion and embarassment to the brand.

    I think the 9-7 is the best looking of all the GMT360 platform variants (except maybe the Envoy). But you’re right in that it shouldn’t be sold as a Saab.

    It should be a Chevy “Insertmodelnamehere” and drop the price 10-12K, it’s better looking than the TrailBlazer (which isn’t saying much, I know). Ditch the TrailBlazer name – it’s not appropriate – no one blazes trails in them.

  • avatar
    Alex Dykes

    Last month I entered a Saab dealer to see what the 9-5 wagons were like, sadly the battery was dead on EVERY SINGLE 9-5 wagon on the lot (12). It managed to take the dealer 4 tries to find a Saab 9-5 sedan with a live wire to go for a test drive while they charged up a 9-5 wagon for similar duty. The most distressing experience was the excitement that gleamed in every employee’s eyes that there was a live body on the lot looking at a Saab.

    Unfortunately the cars born from jets are similarly born to disappoint. Plastics are Rubbermaid grade and the color matching of dash board components seemed to be circa 1970: non existent.

    The fact that GM believes that the 8 year old 9-5 with it’s rough and obnoxious 4 cylinder engine is the rival of BMW 5 or Audi A6 just indicates their inability to grasp reality. Volvo has nailed Scandinavian chic but Saab is still searching.

  • avatar
    Ashy Larry

    As a long time Saab devotee who has owned a classic 900, a Viggen (which I kept for 3 years despite not having enough headroom) and now (albeit ashamedly) a 9-2x, the travails of the 9-5 are saddening. I was close to getting one t replace the Viggen but, once again, a distinctly unmodern lack of headroom (crazy for a large flagship sedan but indicative of the Saab’s mid 1990′s design age) kept the car out of my hands. I don’t see much reason to splurge for a 9-5 sedan even on a discount — there is just too much out there that is as good or better. The wagon is a different proposition — if only because for buyers who want wagon carrying capacity without SUV silliness, there aren’t many competitors out there. On a discount the 9-5 Wagon is a good deal and even semi-reliable (for a European car) if one is to believe Consumer Reports. GM’s benign neglect of Saab, born of GM’s collapse, has killed the brand.

  • avatar
    Geotpf

    Saab 9-5 sales in the United States for March, 2007: 369

    That’s it.

    Excluding medium duty trucks, it’s the second worst selling GM vehicle still in production (the worst was the Saturn Relay minivan, at 178, although production of that may have stopped-2007 is the last model year for that sales failure). Now, also note I said “still in production”-GM dealers frequently sell small quantities of long-discontinued vehicles that appear in it’s sales charts. For example, two brand new Pontiac Azteks were sold by Pontiac dealers during March 2007.

    Total sales for the Saab brand overall for March were only 2,837. One could make a pretty good argument for shutting Saab down completely (in the US at least-it’s doing better in Europe).

  • avatar

    @Geotpf
    Saab’s managing in Europe due to mad incentives — the cars suck just as bad here. Extremely sad – was looking at a 9-5, and a 9-3 cab last year, but just spent half an hour with the cars. Too disappointed.

    What are the comparable sales figures for BMW?

  • avatar
    CliffG

    Excuse me! Criticizing that cute fold away cup holder just cannot stand (Push in and it POPS out!). A couple of years ago my son and I, for once not actually looking to buy a car that year, decided to base our entire car show foray on cup holder cuteness. The SAAB and the MB coupes with their cute pop up ones were easily the winners. Ok, they looked like they would break on the third use, but they won the “clever” awards. Just because Lego’s are made of better plastic doesn’t mean some asst. design engineer somewhere shouldn’t get a special logo coffee cup and an “attaboy” for his efforts.

  • avatar
    Lesley Wimbush

    Yup, that cupholder won more points with my ten year old nephew than the pop-up and swivel number in the C-230 Kompressor.

    I recently drove the 9-3 Aero Sport Combi. Loved the driving dynamics — was unimpressed with the interior though.

  • avatar
    Alex Dykes

    Being out sold almost 4:1 in the USA by Volvo should indicate to those in Trollhattan that it’s time to abandon Saab and focus on saving the mother ship. The GM plan of badge engineered Saabs made in Germany will not improve matters.

  • avatar
    Ashy Larry

    I’d rather they kill it now instead of prolonging its life. That way we can avoid having to watch GM foist upon us more abominations and insults to Saab’s heritage like the 9-7x, or criminally neglect good cars like the 9-5, or miss the mark with the 9-3. The AeroX concept shows that there is life within Saab yet, but it’s all in the execution, and GM is terrible at execution. Methinks the AeroX concept and, to a lesser degree, the way cool 9-3 SportCombi are Saab’s last dying light.

  • avatar
    Evinx

    SAAB = Born from Junk

    I owned two Saabs = a 900 and a 9-5 wagon.

    900 was decent and cool.

    9-5 wagon was okay until it fell apart 2 years into a 3 year lease.

    Now a happy 2007 BMW 335i owner and won’t shed a tear when Saab is shut down … probably during GM’s coming Chapter 11 reorganization.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    It breaks my heart to see what Saab has become…

    A pseudo-European subsidiary of GM.

  • avatar
    Qusus

    With an 8,000 rebate incentive does anyone know how much these cars go for in real world pricing?

    Seems like if you buy the car at invoice with light options (auto trans, metallic paint) it would be only about 28K?

    Sure it doesn’t compare to other entry level sport sedans but it seems like it’s seriously cheaper (as much as 10K real world) too.

  • avatar
    carlos.negros

    I currently own a 1997 9000CSE 5 speed, and a 2004 9-5 wagon with an automatic. I’ve had the 9000 for about six years. It has been great. I bought the 04 9-5 ARC wagon, which stickered for $38k, for $24k. For that price, I knew of no other station wagon with the same performance, safety or economy. Late last year, you could still buy a new 9-5 for around $25 after the rebates. A Honda Accord EX V6, is less safe, and does not not out-perform the Saab.

    It is true that the 2.3 4cyl turbo idles a bit rough. Forget about the “luxury car” BS. The car is very fast. I would put it against any other car under $30K for 40mph-80mph. It might not win against all, but it can hold it’s own on the highway. I have surprised many a driver in my 9000. When the turbo kicks in, it goes like a rocket. It is very fun.

    Yes, the Saab is an old design. But so what? Who cares about the “quality of the plastic?” It is all made from the same blood-soaked oil.

    To me, many of the remarks I have read here take on the air of snobbishness. I’ve owned many cars including Alfas, BMWs, MB. They were all fun and performed well. None were perfect. I don’t think I would want a “perfect” car anymore than I would like to marry a “perfect” woman, or work for a “perfect” boss. Cars are made by humans. They all have compromises. As long as they have ESP, ABS, Air bags, get 30 MPG on the highway, have decent seats, and a decent sound system, they are not as bad as some of your comments would indicate.

  • avatar
    moto

    Okay, can I be the one person here willing to defend Saab?

    First: Saab engineers are very good at what they do. Unfortunately, GM just doesn’t allow them to do anything but styling exercises anymore.

    Second: Saab is currently suffering from a 30%+ pricing deficit thanks to the exchange rate. BMW, Mercedes, they raise the prices and exclusivity and complexity of their vehicles. Unfortunately, GM merely cheapens the underlying platform. Yeah, that’s why your imported parts cost so much. GM thinks they can make more money with expensive parts.

    Finally: Saab could be great again, if GM would just let them create something new and exciting. If all Saab has to work with is aged GM platforms, well, then it’s over. What incentive does the average buyer have to buy a pathetic GM chassis with expensive imported Swedish design frills?

    The old 9000 5-door and my friend’s 900 hatchback were among the toughest cars I have ever seen. Modern ones are not bad, just overpriced, thanks to GM’s continued mismanagement. Let’s hope Saab gets a chance to do something new, because the entire lineup is just plain stale.

  • avatar
    Terry Parkhurst

    Folks, this is what happens when people who think in terms of “brand” take over a marque. It’s happened to a lesser degree with the other Swedish car, but from what I have read about the most recent S80, even there, the unique character of Swedish cars has been greatly diminished.

    The greatest insult came when GM slapped a SAAB grille on a Subaru and tried to pass it off as a SAAB, the “SAABaru” as it became to those of us who know a real piece of Swedish steel, when we drive one.

    The people I’ve met who drive SAABs aren’t so dumb as to be fooled; of course, the brandmeisters want to “expand the brand” and hope that a lot of the people who watch PBS – and see those institutional ads at the beginning of prime-time shows – and know almost nothing about cars, will be sucked into the “brand” that built – still does I seem to recall – airplanes.

    My pal Nate Tennis, who races a SAAB 99 in rally racing, and whose father and uncle are legends in the SAAB community, and I regularly share our sense of bemusement and sadness at what has become of our favorite Swedes. But then, Nate also has a Fiat X1-9; like any real SAAB guy, he treasures automotive eccentricity.

  • avatar
    LamborghiniZ

    “…it’s a curio, an irrelevance.”

    Perfect description right there. Sums up the 9-5′s existence in one simple sentence.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    At $25k brand new the 9-5 would be an interesting alternative choice, but at the $34k and up range it stickers at the car is a complete failure to compete. Currents carsdirect.com retail price starts at $31k, which is still far to much for what you get.

  • avatar
    carlos.negros

    I bet many of the people on this site who disparage Saabs, have never driven one. But honestly, if you are the kind of person who is afraid to change his own oil, air filter, spark plugs and coolant – buy a Toyota or a Honda. Saabs only make economic sense to people who like to touch their cars.

    Go to motoralley.com and see how cheap 9-5′s have been recently. Figure on getting at least 30 percent off of MSRP. Of course, later in the year is better. Would I rather buy a new Passat wagon or V70 over the Saab and pay an extra 5-15k? I don’t think either of those two wagons are worth the extra money. If all things were equal, I would rather have the V70R. But they cost much more.

  • avatar
    jurisb

    everything gm puts their claws on is watered down ,watered down , then liquified. if the patient wants to survive , he needs to gets rid of parasites that pretend to be beneficiaries.look at that berth, where mr. mitsubishi is sleeping, after cutting navel cord from gm, it gets better every day.saab- run! run! run away from gm colossal squid ! and you can always stop bleeding by putting that all- new platform patch!

  • avatar
    boredlawstudent

    jurisb,

    While i’m not really sure what you mean most of the time, your posts crack me up!

    But your comment does bring up a good point: could GM leverage a RWD zeta platform and build a quirky Saab off it? I’d be interested assuming the interior improved and reliability was atleast average. It would give those FWD-biased Volvos a run for their Swedish money.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    “Would I rather buy a new Passat wagon or V70 over the Saab and pay an extra 5-15k?”

    The information I see on motoralley.com and carsdirect.com does not agree with this premise. Passat wagons can be bought for thousands less than a base model 9-5 wagon based on the current information.

    If the best argument for an entry luxury vehicle is that the dealers and manufaturer are discounting them down to Honda Accord price levels then something is very wrong with the vehicle and/or it’s marketing.

    I’ve liked Saabs for a long time and have come close to buying one several times. Every time I have shopped for a car in the past 15 years I’ve test driven and considered Saabs, but the spotty dealer network, generally uncompetitive designs along with the trouble my Saab owning friends have had always chased me away.

    The born from jets advertising really ticks me off as well. There is absolutely nothing a modern Saab has in common with aircraft. A Saab 9-3 has more in common with the recently departed Saturn L series than it does with anything that flies!

  • avatar
    boredlawstudent

    If the best argument for an entry luxury vehicle is that the dealers and manufaturer are discounting them down to Honda Accord price levels then something is very wrong with the vehicle and/or it’s marketing.

    Does this then mean something is wrong w/ Accords because they now sell at Civic prices? ($3K+ off MSRP w/ incentives)

  • avatar
    Tiger Commanche

    Huh, timely article, I just left Saab TODAY. Coming off my second lease of a 9-3 and I just couldn’t bring myself to get another one, not even the aero. And not even with the GM eomployee discount and all the rebates. Ended up getting a real American car made in Indiana – a Subaru Legacy GT. Good luck Saab.

  • avatar
    wsn

    Replying to bfg9k:
    It’s worth noting that this car is still one of the very safest on the road, best in its class according to IIHS Injury & Death statistics, beating much newer designs.

    You are using the wrong study. IIHS Injury & Death is only about injury/death claims, not about safety. Driver behaviour weights heavily in this study. For instance, Toyota Prius scores better than MB E-class, because of the slow driving owners. For the same reason, the score of Saab 9-5 is artificially inflated, considering Saab has a good reputation for safty and those who seek safety pick Saab.

    If we just talk about crashworthiness, look at the Crashworthiness Evaluation from IIHS. In that study, Saab 9-5 ranks 9th out 13 in its class.

  • avatar
    wsn

    Replying boredlawstudent:
    Does this then mean something is wrong w/ Accords because they now sell at Civic prices? ($3K+ off MSRP w/ incentives)

    This is the last model year for this Accord. All the development and tooling costs have been paid and the 2007 Accord is the most profitable one in this model run.

    So, yeah nothing wrong at Honda. They can do whatever pricing they want as long as the cars return a fat margin.

    Technically, Saab is free to set its pricing as well. But their stake holders may see something wrong as they lose money on each car they sell. Nothing that I care, I am a (tiny) stake holder in Honda.

  • avatar
    wsn

    Just to add, the United States of America is a free country. Capitalism at its bloodiest.

    There is no forced buy or sell. Products are sold at their worth, not their MSRP. If a 9-5 lists at $40k and sells for $24k, then it is worth $24k. If an Accord sells for $24k, then the Accord is worth, well, $24k.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    Does this then mean something is wrong w/ Accords because they now sell at Civic prices? ($3K+ off MSRP w/ incentives)

    Well boredlawstudent, the difference in that case is that the 2007 Civic is the first year of it’s redesign and is in high demand compared to limited supply, in part because of it’s outstanding fuel economy. Saab would actually be a money making company if it had any models with such strong demand as the new Civic enjoys. The 2007 Accord is in it’s last year of the current design (2003-2007) and is about to be replaced by an all new Accord for 2008. If I were buying a Honda today, I would choose an Accord over a Civic because it is a much better value, even though Civic gets better fuel economy. The present 9-5 design dates back to 1998, and there is no all new 9-5 for 2008. Imagine a world where GM product cycles are as fast and well managed as Honda and Toyota are able to do time and time again. Instead we are treated to the 9-7. We shall see what the 2009 9-5 has to offer. 11 year model runs do not cut it in today’s market.

    BTW, does a 9-7 owner have to work an extra two hours each day to buy the extra fuel compared to a 9-5 owner? I’ve never been able to shake the association of 9-5 with nine-to-five, the traditional US work day.

  • avatar
    jacob

    I don’t understand why anyone would buy this car instead of say Infinity G35 which costs the same, has about the same size sans the space in trunk, and a 300hp 6 cylinder engine. If you want a wagon, VW Passat Wagon with 3.5L engine can be had for the same price, or a lot less if you settle for 2.0L turbo version.

    If this car is being sold at all, it must be selling for less than the list price. I live in a college town, a traditional market for Saab, and I don’t see that many Saab 9-5s any more, although I see 9-3s sometimes, in the sea of Volvos, BMWs, Infinitys, Lexuses, and Acuras.

  • avatar
    cheezeweggie

    All GM needs to do to corner the market is to buy all of their competition and run them into the ground. Wait, Isn’t that how GM was created ?

  • avatar
    carlos.negros

    Jacob wrote:
    “I don’t understand why anyone would buy this car instead of say Infinity G35 which costs the same, has about the same size sans the space in trunk, and a 300hp 6 cylinder engine. If you want a wagon, VW Passat Wagon with 3.5L engine can be had for the same price, or a lot less if you settle for 2.0L turbo version.”

    The Saab invoices for $33185 w/destination. In the last quarter of 2006, there was an $8000 incentive plus $2000 more for current Saab owners. The incentive is currently $3000 plus $1000 more for current owners. I wouldn’t pay over $25k new. If I could buy the Passat 3.6 or the G35 for the same price, I would consider those. But I think you won’t find a Passat Wagon with the 3.6 for less than $30k. And I don’t think the 2.0 with 200hp is as good as the Saab with 260hp. Remember, the torque on the Saab comes on very low: 1900 RPMs, (or less), and is flat until nearly 5000 RPMs. That is a very handy power range.

  • avatar
    boredlawstudent

    Cheeze:

    I suggest you watch the 1996 documentary “Taken for a ride: How the American auto industry engineered the demise of city public-transit systems.” It’s an eye opening experience.

    Carlos:

    VW is agressively pushing Passats right now. If carsdirect.com is to be believed, you can get a Passat 3.6 wagon for $27K. In fact, 2.0 Wagons are selling for as little as $23K. Seems like a steal if you ask me…as long as reliability is decent. Can any B6 owners attest to this?

  • avatar
    carlos.negros

    boredlawstudent:

    I would buy the new Passat 3.6 wagon for $27k rather than a new 9-5 wagon for $25k. I don’t think the VW will be any more reliable than the 9-5, (mine has been great). I just like the looks of the Passat better, and I like the VW interior better. No question, the new Passat is generally a more up-to-date car. I do hate electronic steering, however. On the other hand, if Saab decides to blow out the remaining 9-5s at the end of the year for $22k, then I would have to re-think the proposition.

    Regarding the “Born from Jets” marketing hype. Don’t let it bother you so much. Actually, I hate the name “Mazdaspeed.” But that wouldn’t stop me from owning a Mazdaspeed 3. “Built Ford tough” doesn’t inspire confidence. Neither does “Drivers wanted.” Are they that desperate? How about Sex Partners Wanted? Now that would make me want to visit the dealership.

  • avatar
    lws1984

    What Saab really needs is a miracle right now. bfg9k, you’re absolutely right about the brand loyalty thing. I have a ’88 900 Aero, my third Saab, and I would never consider buying another Saab. At least, that was until GM bought them. Now, Saturn (of all things) is cranking out cars with better designed interiors and exteriors! Saab right now is on the road to a dead brand, unless something happens.

  • avatar
    blue adidas

    Part of the appeal of SAAB, and Volvo for that matter, is that they don’t change their models much very often. We’ve gotten used to Camry-esque four or five-year model changeovers. SAABs isn’t and shouldn’t be a brand for the masses. SAABs still appeal to those who want an import car, without the arrogance of a BMW or MB, and with more style than a Toyota or Honda. Even though it’s not a rational thing, I like the image of this brand.

  • avatar
    noley

    As one of the few here who actually like Saabs, I figure I ought to jump in. The ’03 9-5 wagon in the driveway is our 4th Saab, the ’95 and ’96 9000′s sitting out there are #2 and 3.

    The 9-5 (and all Saabs for that matter) are decidedly NOT mainstream cars. That’s a problem and a curse, especially since the Bozos at GM got their hands on the marque. Unfortunately, Saabs have to compete with other cars in their price range and GM has badly decontented the 9-5 line so much that a mid-range ’03 model like mine is a far nicer car than a new one. This is made worse by the average car buyer’s affection for electronic gadgetry and 4 cupholders per passenger, so Saab comes up short. Why not put this stuff in a Saab? Go ask GM.

    Mechanically Saabs aren’t all that bad. Even Consuer Reports recommends them, for what that’s worth. The 9-5 isn’t as DIY friendly as the 9000, but it is still not terrible. And parts are only expensive for those stupid enough to buy from a dealer. Yes, the engine is a bit rough at idle, but on the highway it is smooth and sufficiently powerful, and it gets 30-33 mpg at 75-80. I’ve also found that a 9-5 (or even my old 9000) is not a car you appreciate on a test drive. You need a long ride–preferably in bad weather on crummy roads–to realize some of the value these cars offers.

    A big failing on 9-5s were sludging issues, but don’t forget Toyota, VW and others have had these, too. The latest PCV mods supposedly have fixed this, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

    At 53K, ours is tight, everything works as intended and it is an excellent “long road” car. It is not quite on a par with a BMW or an Audi, but it’s not far back and it costs a helluva lot less. And I never pay for the supposed “prestige” of a Bimmer or Audi. Who cares?

    Don’t blame Saab for not being all you think it should be. GM has had a lot to do with it. And since there was so much blatant personal opinion in the review, I’ll just say that I’ve never seen an Infiniti, Lexus, or other Japanese car that I’d want to spend money on. Boring to the core. I do like the current Audi’s and the BMW 5-series, but the last 3-series I drove was like a Toyota with better handling. Yawn.

    Whatever floats your boat.

  • avatar
    Hellhund

    Yeah, Saab brings up mixed emotions. I recently had to say goodbye to a ’00 9-3 convertible (totaled when someone rear-ended me). It was a blast to drive, despite some torque steer and cowl shake. Fantastic mid-range torque, good handling, and I loved the way it looked. Plus it was safe with the kids in the back.

    No question the interior quality wasn’t as high as in some other cars, but everything worked and I had no major mechanical problems.

    And while the steep depreciation was the reason I could afford the car at all, I think it’s telling that I didn’t replace it with another used Saab.

    I’m fond of the marque, but for many of the reasons listed above, it just seems like too much of a risk to dive in again. Still, she was a beautiful car. RIP, Sonja.

  • avatar
    Seth

    Saab 9-5 costs 47 grand in Canada. 1 CAD = 0.88 USD… At this conversion, prices quoted by posters stateside sound awfully cheap. I would have gotten a saab 9-5 sport combi in a heartbeat if it costed 25 grand.

  • avatar
    P.J. McCombs

    Keep in mind, 9-5 owners, that this isn’t a review of a beloved years-old workhorse. This review evaluates the 2007 9-5 as a new product, in the context of the current midsize luxury segment.

    The 9-5′s problem is that, with only ~400 units sold per month, there won’t be many devotees like you to defend the old thing (let alone recognize its name) three years from now.

  • avatar
    carlos.negros

    Replying to wsn:

    wsn:
    “If we just talk about crashworthiness, look at the Crashworthiness Evaluation from IIHS. In that study, Saab 9-5 ranks 9th out 13 in its class.”

    Yes, the Saab 9-5 ties with the Mercedes C Class and comes in better than the following cars:
    2007 Lincoln MKZ
    2007 Acura TSX
    2007 Jaguar X-Type
    2007 Infiniti G35

    One may also note that the Acura TL received a Marginal rating for Rear collisions.

    Only the Saab 9-3 and the Audi A-4 received the top scores in this class.

    Interestingly, I think the Saab may be the least expensive cars in that whole class.

  • avatar
    tincanman99

    I think GM should just keep building SUV’s and slapping Saab badges on them. That will fool the public. I dont think the Envoy that has been Saab-ized is quite big enough. They need to do a Tahoe while all the ex-aircraft engineers roll around in the grave.

  • avatar
    trandell

    In response to noley’s comments regarding decontenting of the 9-5.

    I went from a 2002 9-5 linear, which is basically the same as 03 model, to a 2006 9-5. The 06 is an Aero specification car with 260hp verses 185hp in my 02. It has 17″ wheels, larger brakes, sport suspension, sport seats, 6 disc CD player and the sticker was only $1000 more then my 02 linear. The only decontenting I could see was the Weather band in radio,the cassette player, and Date display on SID, all basically meaningless. In fact my lease payment went DOWN by $40.00 per month. If this is decontenting, bring it on!!!!

  • avatar
    chemosaabi

    Save the brand management miscues for your MBA night class and the over wrought emotional innanities (eulogy?) for your therapist.
    Every discussion of cars is a value analysis and I don’t know why everybody does not think like me (and we are all lucky they don’t).
    I could drive a 5 series, but that is not the image I want for my clients and children for that matter and I am cheap.
    I don’t know that buying a new Saab is a good value although the car market is as close to a perfect market as mankind will ever have- I think/hope my 2004 Arc at 40,000 miles/$15,000 is an excellent value vis-a-vis total life cycle cost and utility (fairly fun and comfortable).
    I don’t know how to describe all the talk about jets, brand, BMW, etc; I do know it does not have anything to do with whether you should own a 9-5.

  • avatar
    P.J. McCombs

    “I don’t know how to describe all the talk about jets, brand, BMW, etc; I do know it does not have anything to do with whether you should own a 9-5.”

    The BMW is relevant because it’s Saab’s self-identified competition, and for most enthusiasts, is a better buy.

    The branding issues are relevant because they’re the reason you won’t be able to buy a Saab at all in ten years.

  • avatar
    Voice of Sweden

    Sadly Saab owned by GM is “dead“. The only future I see is that Saab and Opel together alone could become a new Audi-VW team, or that Daimler Benz or BMW buys the brand and turns it into what Chrysler could never be and Rover newer was.

    A Saab based on for example BMW platforms but at a lower price with somewhat cheaper materials etc. could be viable.

    Looking back it’s sad that Volvo and Saab didn’t merge their car divisions in the early 1980′s. Then Sweden still could have a real big Swedish car manufacturer.

  • avatar
    Jordan Tenenbaum

    Talk about a rock and a hardplace for me. Sometimes I wish I were a hardcore BMW fan. My biggest worries would be iDrive and designs that Chris Bangle approved, even though I like BMW design languge.

    I digress though, lifes not that easy. My name is Jordan, and I’m addicted to Swedish cars.

    I want to like the 9-5, I really do. Honestly though, it’s like trying to still be a fan of OJ’s. GM is a bad parent. If your kid tells you he doesn’t want to be a doctor like you, dont force him to be one, anyway.

  • avatar
    Voice of Sweden

    By making the 9-5 accept E85 ethanole fule Saab has greatly prolonged the lifespan of the 9-5. The 9-5 is old, but for long here in Sweden it was the only upmarket car that accepted E85.

    Large tax cuts for individuals and companies using E85 cars also were handed out, including not having to pay congestion charges in Stockholm.

  • avatar
    admitted Saab buyer

    After the demise of my wife’s A4 Avant (which had an AWFUL service record over it’s tenure), we test drove a new A4 and both the 9-5 and 9-3. The 9-5 was over-the-hill, but was more comparable in price to the A4. The 9-3, even in Aero trim, was much cheaper, and we happened into the showroom just as the incentives were racheted to $3k per car.

    So on price and somewhat on age of design, we went with the 9-3. So far, it has performed well, but we’re only 3,000 miles into the relationship. We both noticed the lack of character compared with the 2002 9-3 we drove previously.

    One quick note…for the few people that are interested in this sort of thing…the Aero package does still give the cheapest (as far as I know) access to a driving school as part of the entrance fee. So the value equation gets better with the Aero.

    Maybe it’s the marketers’ fault. Stop telling people they are looking at a BMW alternative…tell them the 9-3 is a better alternative to a loaded Altima 3.5 or Camry Sport trim and see what happens to sales.

  • avatar
    mpgsuv

    I am very surprised with the negative remarks on the SAAB 9-5. The main reason for such remarks can be contributed to lack of understanding of leading technologies available on this vehicle releating to emmissions, economy, aerodynamics, ergonomics and safety.

    Presently I own a 9-5 wagon and a 9-5 sedan. Cars owned prior to the SAABs: BMW 540I sport wagon, Mercedes E320, Infiniti Q45, Volvo S80. Therefore, what I write below is an actual and factual comparison.

    The reviews complain about high parts prices. That is correct when compared to parts purchased at Auto Zone for a Dodge caravan. Try buying a throttle body doe the S80 ($ 872) or replace and engine on the 540 IT ($5233) or the ignition key receptacle on the E320($ 1464)or the transmission on the Q45 ($ 2443). Compare those prices to SAAB parts prices purchased from numerous non-dealer parts suppliers and you will see why a 9-5 is a great value.

    Let’s look at economy. The SAAB 9-5 leverages the Turbo and Trionic 7 systems to achieve 30 MPG on trips. The others would get 20 MPG on a good day.

    Let’s look at emmissions. The SAAB 9-5 has the lowest rating of lbs of CO2 emitted per mile of any luxury car, while being able to do 0-60 MPH in 6 seconds.

    Let’s look at ergonomics and safety. The SAAB 9-5 has one of the highest scores in crash testing in addition, your knee cap does not have to be gouged by the ignition key sticking out of the dash in case of an accident. It is much more comfortable than the e320 or the 540 IT on long trips with the longest range of any gasoline powered luxury car. In ice and snow, it runs circles around the e320, 540 IT or the Q45 due to its front wheel drive system and traction control and dynamic stability control.

    I do not reference the S80 because first you have to get it to run long enough without breakdowns to be able to compare it. The S80 was one of the most electrically unstable cars I have owned. Timing belt failures, oil leaks, transmission failures, intermitent no start, etc. are issues that the S80 faces on a good day. The S80 T6 is much more challenged than the S80 2.9.

    In summary, the SAAB 9-5 is a great deal of a car with incredible features. Yes it has problems like the ignition module recall, the plastic clip breakage on the HVAC system, etc., etc.

    All in all, if one can spare few minutes to read up and technically understand the 9-5, they will be rewarded with an eco conscious luxury car that is tuetonic in nature with no trinkets but able to far exceed the needs of driver.

    The writer is an an ASE Certified Master Tech and an automotive engineer who has consulted at Mercedes, VW, GM, Ford, Toyota and other OEMs.

  • avatar
    RandyD

    I’m a little surprized too at the amount of negative comments. I bought a 2006 9-5 Aero about a year ago, with the encouragement of a friend who also owns s 9-5, although 5 years more mature. Before beginning my search, I was set on an Acura TL because of its styling, and Honda’s reputation (our other cars are all Hondas). After sitting in every possible contender in my price/performance class at the Washington Auto show, I test drove both the TL and 9-5. I found the TL to be rather boring. While it did have a more stylish interior, and a few features that I really wanted, ie. integrated blue tooth, smoother engine, quieter ride, far better reliability history, the 9-5 was so much more exciting, and with the rebates, etc. the 9-5 was actually less expensive. Plus I got to participate in the “Aero Academy”, a two-day performance driving school at Road Atlanta in Georgia. The school alone was a $1350 value, and it was definitely worth it. No other car company provides anything close. I did have my problems with the 9-5, the original tires sucked, and it wasn’t until the 3rd attempt at calming them and finally a different brand was dealer installed was I happy. There are a few cosmetic problems that I’ve complained about, and in fact, 6 months later I revisited the TL, only to be bored once again. What finally convinced me of the value of the 9-5 was during a trip to Vermont through a Nor-easter in mid December. The 9-5 commanded the road. I have never had so much control on snow covered highways before. Plus the heating and visibility package kept us going when in any other car, I surely would have had to pull off the road. There is no such thing as a perfect car, and while there are a few things about the Saab that really dissapoint, the Saab seats are the most comfortable of the 20 some cars that I sat in at the Washington Auto show. They are heated (and not just in the front) so my passengers are confortable as well. At 50 plus years old, I can comfortably sit for 4 hours or more at a clip in the Saab, while I typically need to stop every couple of hours to stretch using most other vehicles. The Harmon Kardon stereo is much better sounding, clear, crisp, excellent low end thanks to 2 subwoofers, than anything else in its class, including the “high end” TL radio. It may not be the style leader, but for comfort, safety, and an exciting driving experience its really hard to beat.

  • avatar
    PJPHughes

    I’ve been a Saab fan since 1999, with the purchase of a 9-3 Viggen. I’ve had my ’03 9-5 Aero wagon since December of 2002, and am told by many car loving friends that the car is outdated and should be traded on something newer and more modern. Like many have said here, most people saying that have not spent any significant time in a 9-5. Apart from a leaky A/C condenser and pixel outage in the SID (replaced under warranty), the car has been perfectly reliable, is rattle free and feels as robust as the day I bought it. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more economical (31mpg on the highway)and comfortable cruiser that also has great ride/handling characteristics. Once you’ve had super comfortable vented seats in the summer, it’s hard to go back to anything else!

    I say this about my ’03…I have sat in the newer ’06 and ’07′s and GM’s refresh of the interior is subpar. Cheaper dash plastics, no heated rear seat, and lots of issues that won’t make me upgrade to a newer one. I have an ’06 9-3 Aero convertible too (brand loyalty, I know…), and “tolerate” the somewhat cheap looking interior. It was also more than $10K cheaper than a similarly equipped ’06 330ci convertible at the time. $10K can buy a lot of other stuff.

    Saab needs an infusion of quality in its newer products. I’ve ordered a diesel ’09 BMW 335d as the wagon’s replacement, since I’m not sure I’m ready to buy a newer 9-5 until it’s thoroughly redesigned.

  • avatar
    ort11

    Well, after running 9-5 sedans and wagons using the I4 and the V6, I still believe the 9-5 is one of the overall best platforms there is. I do agree that the 2007 9-5 sedans have gone backward a bit, especially in the interior, but as a comfortable, excellent handling, performance, safe sedan (as an entire package) it is very hard to beat. Even though some people are calling the exterior aged, I still think the overall lines of the car are excellent even with new designs (nothing like the boxy looking CTS with very hard lines). I will continue to purchase used versions as long as they are around.
    Does the car have some issues, yes. Some have said parts are expensive, but compared to Cadillac, BMW, etc. it is on par and there is a large enough 2nd market where you can get most consumable parts very reasonable coupled with a very active user community (saabnet.com), you can get anything fixed for a reasonable amount.
    I have been looking for a comparable 4-turbo and have not found it yet. I am sure some of you will come up with some suggestions, but I did drive the Mazda Speed 6, and that is a nice fast car, but without the fold down back seats and its smaller feeling, it is just not the same. I decided not to purchase it and am sticking with the 9-5. At 120+k miles, the turbo will have to be replaced soon, but this is the only major service this car has had.
    I think the GM influence has been good and bad. I think the current cabin did go backwards and the raccoon front I don’t like, but the base of the care is the same and performance / gas mileage / size of car / price / seating cannot be beat. Also, the 9-7 is really a joke among Saab owners along with the fact that dealers hate getting the 9-7s, they just don’t sell. Just purchase an Envoy or the like instead.
    I look forward to seeing GMs “new” Saabs, but if they are going to use a common platform it will probably kill the Saab line (maybe that is what they wanted all along).

  • avatar
    nhsaab

    The negative comments are way over the top on this car. I currently drive a 1999 9-3 with 120,000 on it and I’m considering a used 9-5. Here in the North East this is a very popular car. 5 minutes from my house is a great independent Saab garage. The wagon offers massive cargo area. The car is one of the safest on the road. The handling and power are great. Did I say the power is great? Yes, the car is slow to start off. So what. What counts is when you’re already moving. Car cannot be beat for the price used.

  • avatar

    I love saabs, have done for more than 20 years…my latest, number 10, is a 2006 9-5 and a great car, but just like all the others, love-hate describes the relationship. The good thing is this car can save your neck, with all the idiots out there driving. It responds, stops on a dime and gets over 29 mpg even at 80mph. I have had no trouble with this unit. I admit it lacks interior appointments, and the platform is dated and all that, but if I think about the many times these cars have saved me from reckless drivers I forgive. I have experienced every possible problem over the years with a 1980 gli, 1983 900t, 1989 900t convert, 1987 9000t, 1998 9000 cse, two 1999 9-5′s, a 2001 9-5, a 2002 9-5 and the 2006 9-5. Yes, they are frustrating as hell, and Saab usa personnel are simply idiots–prove it yourself, call their customer hot line sometime. But one over arching fact remains: when I compare any of my saabs to any other car, the other one loses. Why? The saab handles safely and is fun to drive. Try finding that in any Japanese car short of a lexus es330 or rx350. As to resale value..they all suck…even the mercedes and the bmw in today’s world are losers. So I stick with saab..cheap to buy, good on gas and the occasional (hate)episode is soon forgotten when I compare to others. ssjackson. By the way..just drove a new jaguar xf.My son wanted one until he drove it; nice, but for the price and the hassle, the saab is still the best value. He will likely stay with his 2006 9-3, even tho he can afford much more car than that, it still performs better than cars at twice the cost. ssj.

  • avatar

    saab 9-5, old, tested, noisy and still the best car for the money. ssj.

  • avatar
    majorfrn

    Very interesting review of the 9-5. I like your sense of humor. And also I noted your posting to the effect that the 9-5 suffers particularly in comparison to the current competition. It is indeed time for a new version.

    There’s no accounting for taste, but one of the reasons I like the older 9-5′s is that they don’t feel like a “Stepford” car. Geez, there’s nothing worse than a boring car. (Except maybe a car that doesn’t run.)

    I think the older 9-5′s are actually the last of the “true” Saabs. There is a sense about them that they were still designed very carefully, with a lot of emphasis on engineering and design. They aren’t so “plastic” feeling inside.

    I don’t agree with the knocks on the turbo 4. As others pointed out, you can get 30 mpg cruising at high speeds. Right about now, with gas over 4 bucks, a power plant that does that while plastering you into your seat when you pass sounds like a pretty intelligent proposition. I’ve also heard that the sludging issue is not a problem if you change your oil like you’re supposed to. I have 90K and zero sludge.

    The acceleration is pretty impressive for such a heavy car. Plus a very rock solid ride at high speed. And fantastic seats.

    Whatever the crash stats say, if you look under and into your Saab 9-5 and see how it is built, I am pretty sure you’d prefer to be in the 9-5 over many other cars in an accident. It is extremely solid. Don’t forget cars are designed to get high crash test ratings, because that’s what marketing departments want. (Yes, I’m cynical.) Unless you are going to go out and hit an IIHS test wall, the ratings may not mean much when you roll down an embankment or have a moose hit your windshield. I mean seriously, would you rather have the misfortune of a rollover in an Acura or a Saab? Take a look at the windshield pillars on a 9-5 and compare them to some Japanese cars.

    I agree though that the car is now overpriced new. However, I bought my 01 in 03 with 10K miles and paid $20K, a very good price and value. Have put 80000 almost trouble free miles on it. It has had issues like ignition cassette failure and SID failure, but overall been very good.

    I also completely agree with many of you that Saab is in big trouble. I wouldn’t buy a new one now. I, too, feel that GM has really diluted the brand and doesn’t understand or support it properly. I don’t want to buy a Saab that isn’t really designed and made in Trollhattan. It feels like it is becoming a committee produced car.

    I have no ideas as to what can save Saab from going away. But I wish them luck! God knows they’ll need it!

  • avatar
    moeman

    What Saabs do great is give you a really good seat (some are ventilated w/ air and heat) and a really smart combo of performance verses fuel economy. If you are a big guy like me the seat and the driving position can make or break a car easily.

    I’m a believer in Saabs turbo technology. I’ve driven up in very high mountains where other cars were obviously choking on the thin air and passing them w/ my Saab w/ ease.

    I really like my Saab when I’m filing up for gas averaging about 24mpg in hard driving conditions (hills, lots of stop and go and I like to drive fast). When I take a long freeway trip I average about 29-30 mpg.

  • avatar
    john_b

    seems i’m the only one left on this planet who truly loves the 9-5. Stop earth! I wanna get off.

  • avatar
    Max Damon

    Not so fast John_B . . .

    I too love the 9-5. The 9-5 is a well concieved automobile. I don’t know what to say about some of the comments above. What the comments do confirm is that the 9-5 is a unique auto. It achieves a remarkable balance of performance, comfort, gas milage, handling, and verve. Being front wheel drive, forget about the snow – can use all season tires year round in Massachusetts. FWD beats RWD in snow, and FWD is 90% as good as AWD in snow, yet will get better gas milage year round.

    My first SAAB was a 2001 9-5 5sp manual; loaded – vent seats, HK stereo, 185HP (plenty), 34mpg+ hwy. Great highway ride, great commuter, more than enough power for practical use. Suspension was a little floaty when pushed. Loved the car (150K), but, traded it in . . .

    For a 2008 9-5 Aero, 5sp manual, 260hp (trying to win over some HP crazies out there). The Aero suspension was what was missing in my first 9-5. I love this Aero.

    A word about the competition (IMO) – the Japanese cars, while the quality is the best, the looks are the worst – they can’t do sheet metal like the Euro’s and American’s can and most have floaty rides. The Euro’s – BMW 5 series – great; the only thing wrong with them is the base models are RWD, not good in NE. The 3 series interior is too small for me. Ditto the Audi A4. The A6 has gorgeous sheet metal, but, don’t like the dash, and the 9-5 has a more supple ride. The American cars are getting better. The Cadillacs (CTS, STS [guzzler]) look great and handle, but, again base models are RWD.

    So when the smoke cleared, its was the SAAB 9-5 for me. Everything you need and nothing you don’t. Old doesn’t mean inferior – Forbe’s has it listed no. 8 out of 15 (ahead of the 5 series B) in it’s list of best buy luxury cars.

    But, alas, ‘find your own road’ . . .

  • avatar

    My 1990 Saab 900 Turbo is still running like new. Incredible reliability, performance, handling in dry and snow. Test drove a 9-5 Aero and was surprised at the horsepower and tightness. Handled good and was alot of fun! Looks good, runs good, feels good and the price on this used one is great. I’ve drove alot of different luxury sports cars and I think most of these comments are not from Saab owners. You’ll always have a bad experience sometimes with any make and model.

  • avatar
    Kinda_Kolasal

    I don’t know how this comment will be reacted to in what I see as, largely, an over-critical community biased against Saabs for reasons they have only just read from one review. Now, I’m not trying to evoke any angry words from anybody. That is simply what I think and I may very well be wrong.

    Onto all of the hate against Saab. I am the owner of a 2002 Saab 9-5 Aero that is in great condition. Though I have only owned this car for 2 years, I have been around it for most of its life as it was passed down to me from my dad. Saabs are different from most vehicles in the well-known ways like the quirky center console key slot or aviation inspired dashboard. However, they are also different in ways that can’t really be seen. If you want a Saab to stick around for a while without breaking down, you need to show it that you want it around. The one and only time I’ve had to take it into the shop was during a period of time where I had lost interest in it. My Saab had become just a simple mode of transportation like any other car. After I learned of what had gone wrong and started hearing some lectures from my dad on taking care of my car, I began popping the hood every once in a while just to take a peek at what made my car work. I started washing and detailing it more often and caring about any scratches, no matter how minute, that appeared on it. My car began to grow on me and I started to appreciate it for every quirk that made it different. My Saab became a part of me. Soon after it got to the point where, whenever I had free time away from friends, school and work, I would be looking in my engine bay, removing parts just to see the inner workings of my high-powered companion. This Saab that was once so alien and different from other cars that it seemed lesser was now showing that, though its differences from other cars may seem unfortunate and quality-reducing, with the right knowledge of your car, they serve as strengths in that only your fellow Saab owners know your car like you do. I have found that, through my experience with my Saab, I’ve had to point out where certain aspects of my car are to qualified mechanics.
    I know I haven’t done too great a job explaining why I think Saabs are great so I’ll just say this: The reason Saabs have so many varying reviews is that every experience with a Saab is based entirely on time spent with it. The more time you spend experiencing a Saab, the more you learn to appreciate it. Saabs rely on care from their owner which supports the age old idea of developing a positive relationship with your car. I adopted this idea to its fullest and quickly became something of a Saab enthusiast as I’m sure you all can tell. I only hope that other people will do the same and see what I mean.

    I love my Saab and and nothing (car, person, company, world, etc) will change that.

  • avatar
    jjthegreat

    I had a 2004 9-5 that just had a major rear end smash due to an idiot. The impact was so hard it popped out the rear window and pushed the rear bumper to behind to where the gas tank was. Had my wife and 8 year old son in the backseat and were completely fine, doors opened and closed just fine even though the damaged extended that far in. The other guys needed an ambulance. I am a firm believer in the saftey aspect of these cars and am rapidly sourcing another 9-5 to replace it, I just cant go back now.
    That being said, I know how to turn a wrench and have a garage lift in my garage to service these things. They do have their foibles, but there is no reason for these cars to not last 500k if properly taken care of. Ride is good, heaters are like a furnace in winter weather and can handle just about anything you can throw at it. Id stick with the manuals tho. I am not a fan of anything Aisin autobox.
    The 2006+ got a facelift to give it the “Dame Edna” look which I cant say I am a fan of. The cheaper GM style interior also doesnt hold up as good as the 1999-2005 styles do. However to each their own.

  • avatar
    Autoboy

    I was recently looking to buy a new car. My choices came down to a VW Passat, Honda Accord, and Mazda6. Then I started to do more serious research.

    I keep a car about 12 years. I quickly learned that I don’t want any car with a CVT and Direct-Injection engine. Bye-bye Accord and Mazda6. The Accord has both, and the Mazda6 has Direct-Injection. The Passat had Direct-Injection in the 1.8 turbo. If I went for the TDI, I had to deal with the very-expensive-to-fix DSG, which is also terrible in stop & go driving. The only Passat that has a normal slushbox and decent engine was the Passat 2.5 automatic. But even that used with a sunroof is $18,000-$22,000.

    I was with a friend who was looking at an Audi and I saw a used 2008 Saab 9-5 in the lot. It had been traded in on a new 2014 Audi A6. The car was immaculate. Frankly it did look like it had just been driven off the proverbial showroom floor. Silver with a black leather interior. Yes, it’s the criticized post-2006 refresh, which I happen to love.

    I drove the car and put down a deposit. I then called a well-regarded independent Saab mechanic to check the car out. He said that the only thing it might need is the DIC Cassette, which runs about $400 with labor. I negotiated hard, knowing that the demand for preowned Saab’s isn’t great.

    I bought the car for $11,100 with 60,000 miles…and the car had brand-new Pirelli P7’s. So far the car has been incredible. Having owned a 1983 Saab 900 turbo years earlier, I always appreciated Saab’s for what they are. They are not for everyone, but are my kind of car.

    The 9-5 is very safe…and I’m not talking about all of the normal safety tests. I’m talking about a bulletproof structure…what really saves lives.

    The car is also very comfortable. I love the seats. Both front seats are 8-way adjustable, something that you never see on the Japanese. Even the rear seats are heated. In-fact, the passenger seat in the Accord is a joke…good for about a half-hour of sitting. I can drive my 2008 Saab 9-5 for 8 hours straight and I’m not fatigued.

    I regularly travel from New York to Boston and average 33 mpg. And that’s with some pretty steep hills. Passing at 40-70 mph is Porsche 911-like. My Saab mechanic was going through the points of the car and showed me the S (Sport) button on the shifter. He said, “You’ll have a lot of fun with that.” Boy was he right! My gosh, when engaged, the car has spectacular pickup. It’s exhilarating when that turbo kicks in.

    What’s interesting is that the first generation 9-5 was produced from 1998-2009…yet looks fresh. I love the interior also. Frankly, the dash is clean, gauges are clear, seats incredibly comfortable, and the trunk is huge. My only gripes has been the lack of cupholders, premium fuel, and mediocre stop & go fuel mileage. Considering the quality of car I purchased for $11,100 and what an equivalent new or used car would have cost me, I can buy an incredible amount of gasoline.

    Plus parts are plentiful because the same car was basically produced for 12 years. I also looked at the 2010-2011 Saab 9-5. I loved the body and interior (another 4” of rear seat legroom), but lack of parts were a consideration. Additionally, there have been panoramic moonroof issues, as well as rear light and heated seat issues.

    So don’t criticize what you don’t know. All car buyer’s needs are different. For me, I wanted a reasonably compact mid-size car that got decent gas mileage, easy to park (Manhattan is torture), fast, agile, and comfortable. As a bonus the car accelerates like a bat out of hell. Plus you rarely see another one on the road. It’s a shame that Saab is no longer producing cars. I hope to have my 2008 9-5 for the next 10 years.


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