By on June 22, 2007

1200665.jpgFirst impressions last. Or in this case, first. Anyway, the slightly-new-for-‘06 (but mostly unchanged since ‘99) Saab 9-5 SportCombi misses the mark at first glance. GM's Swedish division crafted a wagon that looks like a slightly larger Saab 9-3, only uglier. The SportCombi's low greenhouse, swoopy rear windows and huge up-curving C-pillars combine all the worst elements of a ‘00 Saturn SW wagon and a Cadillac SRX. The design says "We wanted to make a wagon, but we only had enough cash for a car-camper shell." Volvo continues to master Skandinavisk chic. Saab goes for cheap chic– and fails.

Sigh. The General bought Saab in the early '90's to create "premium vehicles;" the 9-5 moniker is a throw-down to BMW's 5-Series. Step inside the SportCombi and you'll understand why the Germans and Japanese only have each other to worry about. From tacky vinyl sun visors, to an economy class "jet inspired" reading lamp, to plastics that are more B210 than BMW, all the SportCombi's beans have been carefully counted.

1200727.jpgThat said, the 9-5 SportCombi's freshened dash is suitably swish. The car's cockpit finally ditches the million button layout for a tasteful array of modern gauges (including the signature turbo gauge) and decent HVAC controls. Saab ergonomicists spent design time on what drivers touch most: the steering wheel. Regular and perforated cow combine to form a tasteful tiller– albeit swizzle stick thin with freakishly shaped grips reminiscent of Ross Perot's head.

Saab's blessed the base SportCombi with an attractive, fine sounding, easy-to-use audio system. Customers crazy enough willing to lay down $2,945 for the satnav are not so lucky. The system may look at home in a Chevy Trailblazer, but the vast sheet of plastic surrounding the small screen and the ugly rectangular holes are, well, horrible. It's not as ghastly as the wimpy foldout front cup holder, but close.

1200678.jpgBelow the dash, the bargain-basement mentality returns. The gigantic buttons to the driver's left don't match those on the center console for size, shape or feedback. There's only one set of window switches and one door lock button, positioned in the middle of the car. The rubber coin holder and the ignition key housing in the center console are catchpenny haptic horrors, while the SportCombi's door panels are a riot of low-budget plastics and mismatched coloring.

While your money buys you a whole load of load-lugging, the unrefined feel and design of the SportCombi's major switchgear and minor do-dads are simply not appropriate for a car stickering between $36k and $45k (or a lot less with the inevitable discounts). Oh, and last year, JD Power's mob rated Saab's reliability second to last. So not only does the SportCombi feel cheap, it breaks like it too.

1200689.jpgFire up the engine and the SportCombi reveals its heart and soul. Unfortunately, it's the heart and soul of a squirrel with pneumonia. The sounds under the hood are neither luxurious nor sporty, and the vibrations from the 2.3-liter inline four are obnoxious enough to make Saturn shoppers think twice.

The SportCombi's blown mill stumps up a seemingly adequate 260hp. Provided you don't mind listening to an automotive impression of a cement mixer churning a bag of bolts or wrestling with torque steer for 7.4 seconds, she'll sprint from zero to 60mph handily.     

1200690.jpgConsidering the turbo's spool-'n'-go power delivery, the automatic transmission is by far the better choice; it's a responsive unit that makes the most of the SportCombi's ample torque. But the slushbox lacks the spongy manual's Road Warrior-style overboost feature– 20 seconds of 272 ft.-lbs. of twist, mate– and both five-speed transmissions are a cog shy of the SportCombi's erstwhile competition.

Our tester sported Saab's Aero Package, which includes wonderfully supportive seats with [optional] ventilation, a "lowered sport chassis," and metallic effect trim. Buyers also receive an invitation to Saab Aero Academy where drivers learn how to tame the torque steer monster and modulate the SportCombi's mushy-feeling stoppers.

1200724.jpgIf you forget sprints and emergency stops (incomplete with reluctant ABS) and point the Saab wagon down a straight, smooth road, no sweat. Throw the SportCombi into a corner and its stiff suspension and thick anti-roll bars work hard to quell the car's natural tendency to plow nose-first towards the scenery. It's doable, but it's a long, long way from nimble. I only hope the Academy offers a crash course in steady throttle application and hanging-on.

It's almost impossible to imagine anyone opting for a Saab 9-5 SportCombi over any alternative. The BMW 535ix Sports Wagon may cost $20k more, but a used one slaughters the Saab in just about any metric you can name. As does the Volvo V70, for roughly the same money as the Swede. Let's face it: unless Saab gets some heavy development dollars STAT, its first impression will be its last.  

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75 Comments on “Saab 9-5 SportCombi Review...”

  • avatar

    GM’s demolition of Saab makes Ford’s ruination of Jag look good. Saab gets a used (up) FWD chassis and then gets left to rot for 10+ years. Oh, wait, Saab gets new headlights every couple years, my bad.

    • 0 avatar

      I know it has been 10 years but this article, and most of these comments, are crap. The thing 9-5 about any Saab is that the proof is in the driving and in the owning. The 9-5 is a very good car and hold their own admirably against all other makes.

  • avatar

    this is what becomes when you go after the good daddy with the best candies. Little girl, take the candy from strangers, because they have the sweetest candies! so did saab. saab gets real american attitude inside out. le`t shine the light of chrome in clients eye, and they will not notice obsolete platform, quality issues etc. le`t put 17 inch chrome wheels. what a looker! good enough, …. what? barely d+ ? still passed? good enough. saab is a second echelon fighter and can go with caddy, licoln, volvo, chrysler jag, lancia in their near luxury interpretations. can saab fight lexus, acura, infiniti? you must be kidding.

  • avatar

    Could we possibly beat a dead horse anymore?

  • avatar
    Brian E

    Funny you should mention Saturn. This is the same platform as the now-defunct and slow-selling L. If you park one next to an L wagon, their profiles match exactly, only the Saab’s missing the useful windows just before the C pillar.

    I used to drive an L, and even its 180-horse six generated unacceptable amounts of torque steer. I wondered how Saab managed to cram a 260-horse turbo four in the same chassis and address the directional wiggle that would result. Unfortunately the answer is that they didn’t.

    On the face of it the 9-5 wagon is an attractive proposition, but the reality is that a badge-engineered last-generation Vectra has no place in the market at all. The sooner Saab replaces this with an Epsilon II derived car, the better.

  • avatar

    While it is dynamically inferior to the Acura TL, 5 Series, or Audi A6, and has been bean-counted to death by GM, the 9-5 does still have a few things going for it, most of the positive points only noticeable after living with the car for lots of miles.

    1) Fuel economy – if you lay off the turbo, 30mpg is easily achievable. Not bad for a large, comfortable car.

    2) Simplicity – small 4 cyl means lots of room under the hood, and it’s well laid out/easy to work on.

    3) Great third party support – SAAB still has a loyal following, with active online forums and aftermarket parts suppliers.

    The 9-5 in the long run ends up being not the best handling car someone will ever own, but comfortable, cheap to run and easy to live with – that builds loyalty.

    (Former 9-5 owner, sold it to a friend – about 80k miles later it still looks good/runs well… the BMW 540i-6 I owned after the 9-5 was the complete opposite story – brilliant handling, impossible to live with over the miles)

  • avatar

    There’s no pricing for this one in TrueDelta’s database because too few people are interested in the car.

    That said, I’m actually a fan (at least of the pre-2006 car). Saab’s major problem is that GM saw it as simply a Swedish BMW rather than as what it was: Saab, a unique entity. A BMW 5-Series IS a lot more money. So why hold the Saab to premium standards? Enjoy it for what it is, a roomy wagon that (at least in pre-2006 Aero form) is enjoyable to drive.

    Discounts are heavy and depreciation is quick. One of these a couple years old can be a great value.

  • avatar
    Brian E

    @Herr Karesh: even with heavy discounts and depreciation, is it really a better value than a Passat 2.0T wagon or an Outback?

    Maybe Saab should go back to rebranding Subarus and make the new 9-5 an Outback with Swedish seats.

  • avatar
    Alex Dykes

    When I went to the dealer to get pricing information on the 9-5 I was not sure which was more depressing, the number of 2006 models sitting new on the lot, or the look of desperation on the sales person’s faces. I was convinced to take a test drive, except that the batteries were dead on ALL 12 wagons on the lot. It took the Saab dealer a full 45 minutes to find any 9-5 of any persuasion with a live wire. Apparently so few people actually buy one that the batteries go dead before they can shift them.

    The problem with a used 9-5 is that even though it will be cheaper, it will still be inferior on a fit-and-finish and style level. When comparing it against a used Volvo, Subaru or the other Euro competition, a used 9-5 is not exactly a value proposition.

  • avatar

    @Brian E:

    GM and Subaru split, so the rebadge will have to come from elsewhere. The 2008 Subaru Tribeca is rumored to have the nose and rear glass from the stillborn Saab 9-6X which was to have been the other Saabaru.

    GMDAT, perhaps?

  • avatar

    The other half looked at a 9-3 sportcombi at the last autoshow and liked it quite a bit. After some digging, it sounds like the late model Saabs really are sketchy at best on reliability. Even so, I was still curious about them…until a friends car spontaneously STARTED ITSELF ON FIRE last weekend! I was there to witness it.

    Born from jets….perhaps they should include ejector seats on these things.

  • avatar

    There is absolutely no reason to buy one of these cars, especially new. I’ve had a soft spot for Saab for years, but every time I go new car shopping and look at one I’m depressed by the lack of attention to detail. If you need a traditional wagon, the Passat, V70 or Subaru are all better choices than working 9 to 5. If you just want a FWD near luxury vehicle then Acura has much better vehicles for you in the TSX and TL.

    What is with the strange name for Saabs? Does a 9-3 owner buy one because they are a little light on money from the six hour work days they put in as compared to the hard working, but judgement impared, eight hour 9-5 worker?

  • avatar
    Captain Tungsten

    @ Brian E: Funny you should mention the L. Even though the dimensions are almost identical to the 9-5, and it was based on the GM2900 platform, they are completely different. The L was based on the Opel Vectra, presumably to capture engineering savings, however, it was comprehensively “re-engineered” such that they might have well started with a clean sheet, and there are no common parts.

  • avatar

    Good point about the name, I never understood the 9-3 or 9-5 breakdown. I’ve seen two of these in our upper middle class area, distinguished by the cheap looking chrome around the headlights, it just looks so dated. Similar to the beat-up Altima with chrome strips along the doors. Saab really is so far behind now, the pricing is the only reason to look at them. As much as so many Saab reviews are floggin’ the dead moose, it needs to be said. GM blew it and continues to blow it. This care is not competitive with new or used V70s or Passats. What is Saab going to do about it though? There seems to be some nice stuff over the horizon, but damn isn’t this design looking old?


  • avatar

    How about dropping 9-3 as corolla competitor and 9-5 as camry competitor with matching sticker prices. Imagine that…

    btw, jthorner you made my day with this hilarious comment.. Cant stop laughing..

    “What is with the strange name for Saabs? Does a 9-3 owner buy one because they are a little light on money from the six hour work days they put in as compared to the hard working, but judgement impared, eight hour 9-5 worker? “

  • avatar

    I’m a Saab fan too even though I’ve never owned one. I shop them every time I buy a new car and in 2004 I bought a G35x. I needed a new car in 2005 (we were a 1 car family until then) and bought a Mazda 6 Sport Wagon. I’m itching to replace the Mazda now and the top candidate is an XC70. Again, I looked at an Aero wagon but I just can’t bring myself to pull the trigger on a platform from 1997. Jurisb is right, there’s no way this brand can compete with Lexus, Acura, Infiniti much less the Euro marques. College professors are no longer buying Saabs, they are buying Priii, Highlander hybrid and 400h. Not to mention Accords and Camrys.

    Thanks for reviewing these though, I have a feeling many of us that read TTAC are Saab fans and they are rarely reviewed anymore. I’m looking forward to the 9-3 freshening and the upcoming 9-3 SportCombi XWD (at least a review of one, not actually owning one).

  • avatar

    I agree with nmcheese:

    I own a pre 2006 saab 9-5 wagon which in my opinion looks better than the new one. Although the car can be bested in performance by a host of competitors and even in interior quality:

    (1.)In the current climate of high gas prices I still get 34mpg when driven hard, I do better when I drive more conservative.

    (2.)Although there is a bit of turbo lag, it’s still quick. I love the look of folks who are out accelerated by a wagon coming off a green light.

    (3.) Lots of standard safety equipment, including things like stability control and traction, anti whiplash headrests and something like 10 airbags. I’m pretty sure this model was an IIHS best pick in the past.

    (4.) Solid reliability for a European car. I haven’t had any mechanical or electrical issues in the 5 years owned so far. It bests vehicles from other parts of Europe. The 9-5 is a Consumer Report used car “recommended” pick now for a number of years.

    (5.) Engine and other mechanical components aren’t show horned in making any work very easy.

    (6.) Utility, the front passenger seat folds. I’ve been able to transport trees and long pieces of lumber with ease.

    (7.) Interior comfort, ample front and rear leg room. Very comfortable seats. I’ve driven this car from east coast to west coast with ease.

    (8.) For price it comes loaded with a lot of standard equipment. I bleieve navigation and wheel style/size are the only options.

    I would never buy one new. However, if you get one used, its a great buy!

  • avatar

    My ’01 9-5 wagon cost me $13k with 50k miles 3 years ago, after stickering for $33k. Safe, efficient, roomy, not a bad deal in my book. I love the car and hope to someday see GM revise the car since it’s been soldiering on since 1998.

    The torque steer in the 9-5 is hardly as bad as the reviewer makes it out to be – bitching about Saab torque steer appears to be a journalistic tradition. I only notice it on occasion. With the exception of the 9-3 Viggen, which really WAS a torque steer monster, unless you added the $150 aftermarket steering rack brace.

  • avatar
    Ashy Larry

    Couple of comments to add:

    1. The 9-3 is what drags Saab’s reliability down. The early years of the new 9-3 (2003-2006) have been pretty bad for reliability. The 9-5, on the other hand, has been pretty reliable for a European brand. It’s not Lexus or Infiniti (and we’ll leave aside whether it should be), but it is also not Mercedes, Audi or BMW in reliability either (thankfully). There is some benefit in having an old platform. :) Plus that Saab 2.3l, while not a match in refinement for BMW/Lexus/Infinit/Audi sixes, is a blast to drive hoonfully – turbo boost FTW!

    2. I don’t understand those who say the V70 is “better”. Only a V70R tops out the 9-5 — base model V70’s and the XC70 are plasticky and just awful to drive. They wallow, pitch, roll and are sluggish, especialy in comparison to the crisper 9-5.

    3. What gives with this review — W.Montgomery’s review of the 9-5 sedan in April knocked it a bit but also praised some of its findamental qualities, and even its at-the-limit handling.

    4. The market for wagons is slim. If you are going to buy a 9-5, make it a wagon. Who does it compete with? The V70, which is only good in its highest end (and now discontinued) V70R trim, and the 9-5 is much funner to drive than non-R V70’s. The Legacy wagon (GT or XT) — fair enough, given the strength of the car, but not as big and the seats aren’t as comfy. The Mazda6 — ok, better handling, much cheaper, but not as big or fast and not as luxurious — and they aren’t exactly kicking ass in the reliability department. The Dodge Magnum — ok, if that’s your style (it isn’t mine). BMW’s? The 3-series wagons but they are very small and pricey for what you get; the 5-series wagons can’t be had for less than $55k and are not terribly reliable either. Merecedes? The C-class wagon is cramped, the E-class wagon is north of $55k. Audi? the A4 is cramped and the A6, well there’s a good comarison (although if you were price shopping you would be loking at loaded 9-5 versus stripped A6 3.2). The case for the 9-5 SC isn’t as meager as you would make it out, but I do agree that people should stick with the much better looking pre-2006 model.

  • avatar

    This is all so sad! I have admired Saabs from afar for many years, and now that I can finally afford a nice new one, the entire line has been hopelessly buggered by GM. Honestly, the sooner their entire organization of accountants and lawyers can go TU, the better. They are obviously a soul-less lot to take such a venerable marque, with such a devoted following, and trash it so comprehensively. I just bought a new car and actually had a 9-3 on my short list (the 9-5’s 2007 “freshening” is just too hideous to consider). That is, I did, until I sat in one. Despite reading the reviews, I guess I had to experience the depressing cheapness of Saab’s interiors for myself before I could rule them out. It drove okay, but that was before I drove the Audi I ultimately purchased. The reliability and depreciation beat-down Saab receives in every automotive information source was just the final nail in their ability to compete. Sure, the Saab is better than a Japanese compact or any other crap ride GM has to offer, but it is hopelessly outclassed by anything remotely up-market. So sad! I really wanted one, too.

  • avatar

    The chrome mascara around the headlights is just awful.

  • avatar
    bill h.

    Agree with Jesse–this is dead horse. Ten year old design that doesn’t compete with today’s metal? Not exactly a revelation.

    GM can’t come out with the new 9-5 soon enough. But I fear their past performance means it will come out too late.

  • avatar

    I think the front end actually looks pretty nice. Unfortunately, the back looks even worse than the theoretical love child of a Saturn SW and Cadillac SRX.

  • avatar

    Is this the car with the ignition key on the middle console near the parking break?

    I just wondering how come they have a Low Resale Value. I see a lot of them on Craigslist.

    And I remember that they want to copy my Mitsu counterpart the Subaru WRX Sti. Mitsu Lancer copied it’s snow plow under the car. Great on snow though than any cars out there.

  • avatar

    Yeah, McGilligan, awful sums it up. The thing is, it’s even uglier in person than pictures could ever reveal. Especially combined with that clamshell hood. All I could think of, looking at them on the lot, was what a bunch of poor bastards those Swedish engineers are. The whole brand just reeks of desperation these days.

  • avatar

    Ashy Larry,

    I’ve been a Saab fan and owner for many years and have a 2003 9-5 wagon. I have to say unfortunately that I let my Saab addiction get the better of me at the time. Saabs today just aren’t the Saabs I used to love.

    My 9-5 is constantly in the shop for mechanical (transmission mostly) and electrical problems. My “wimpy” cup holder however has never broken.

    I have to agree in hindsight that the V70 would have been a better buy. I have driven the 2007 V70 2.5T and the base V70, and the 07 9-5 wagon and the V70 is hands down the better car. It may be a hair slower but the engine is smoother (who have thought a 5 cyl would be smooth?) and the performance is 90% as good due to the very minimal turbo lag. We just bought my wife a CPO 2005 V70 T5 and I wish I had traded my 9-5 in for it. I’m not sure what you mean about them pitching and wallowing, the ride is much more controlled and i would venture to say that at limit performance is much better than my 9-5. Also, the interior is certainly light-years ahead and not the least bit plasticky when compared to the current 9-5.

    Hind sight is always 20/20 but i gave Saab the benefit of the doubt. I should have bought a Volvo, several guys at work have V70 wagons and none of them have had a lick of trouble where as I seem to always be in a loaner car. I hope GM gives Saab enough money to make the new 9-5 a winner, the new 9-3 looks hot, I hope they do the same with the 9-5 because the current version is just not a winner in my book anymore.

  • avatar

    GM is getting ridiculous with the chrome-trim-around-lights idea. That Buick SUV thing’s (Enclave) taillights look tacky as hell. The headlights on the 9-5 are the same.

  • avatar
    Alex Dykes


    The Volvo vs Saab debate has raged for years, the real problem here is that the Saab 9-5 wagon has aged considerably and is no longer competition material. 12 years ago we could have argued the merits of the 9-5 vs the V70, but not today.

    The 2.3L Saab H series engine is extremely rough, I tested several 9-5s just to make sure it was not the one I drove long term that was to blame. Also, the power delivery characteristics of the engine are high peaking and very typical of the 1980s Saab engines it is based on. Again, when it was new this was the norm, but in the age of the modern Volvo and BMW turbos the comparatively long turbo lag in the 2.3L engine is a sore spot.

    Reliability according to Consumer Reports on the 9-5 is only average with below average reliability occurring regularly in the past. Where as the V70 has better than average reliability for this generation and higher owner satisfaction.

    I am not sure when you last sat in a base model V70 or XC70, but the only parts of the V70 that could be describes as plasticky are the front door handles, and even they are several classes above any of the plastic Saab is allowed to use.Again, this is a matter of time not being kind to the Saab, in 1999 things were different and it was more competitive.

    Price wise the 9-5 is still a tough sell. It’s more expensive than the V70 2.5T for about the same real world performance, (bear in mind that the Saab is 300lbs heavier than the V70). The R is a different beast altogether and is hard to compare, but if you do you will find that for only marginally more you get much more power, refinement, improved driving dynamics and AWD, not to mention a much better looking ride. In 2008 we will see the same old Saab 9-5 but we will see the 3rd generation of V70 wagon since 1998 which will make the gap that much wider. Inline 6 cylinder smoothness and 285HP with AWD on tap. Saab needs to act FAST to become competitive once again.

  • avatar

    Alex Dykes:

    When I went to the dealer to get pricing information on the 9-5 I was not sure which was more depressing, the number of 2006 models sitting new on the lot, or the look of desperation on the sales person’s faces.

    Last time I passed my local Saab dealer, they had no Saabs on the lot, just a load of used cars. The optimist in me said “must be a good month, loads of cars sold and only trade-ins left behind”, but the realist in me said “they probably make more money selling antiquated old junk than antiquated new junk”.

  • avatar

    Went I shopped for a Saab in 2005 my local dealer had some cars on the lot but nothing at all in the showroom! It was bizarre.

  • avatar

    The fate of Saab under GMs mismanagement is indeed a sorry tale but I won’t repeat what has already been said here.

    It’s hard to fathom that this car is still being sold. Not only can the 9-5 not compete with cars in its segment such as Volvo and BMW but it also can’t compete with cars way cheaper. Given the choice, I’d rather have a Mazda6 or Passat wagon, Dodge Magnum or Subaru Outback.

  • avatar

    Oh, and last year, JD Power’s mob rated Saab’s reliability second to last. So not only does the SportCombi feel cheap, it breaks like it too.

    The above sentence would leave the uninformed reader (and reviewer, apparently) believing that SAAB’s reliability was ranked near the bottom of the list by JD Power BECAUSE of the 9-5’s habit of breaking.

    Yet when I look at the 2006+ 9-5 SportCombi on JD Power it clearly states that they don’t have reliability information for the car because it’s either too new or they have two few responses. Either way it suggests to me that SAAB’s overall low ranking is based on something else: the 9-3.

    This is not to say that CR or JD Powers are worth the dead trees they’re printed on, but the above statements by the reviewer are misleading. The SAAB 9-3 sports sedan is what has dragged SAAB’s overall reliability into the dumps, the very same reason I sold my 9-3. The 9-5, while only average in reliability according to CR, is still on par with the venerated and $20K more expensive 5 Series.

    I’m a recovering SAAB addict (have a BMW 335i now, praying my fuel pump holds out for next week’s long driving vacation) and I agree that the 2006 facelift of the 9-5 appears to have been done by a group of blind, retarded, beancounting monkeys, and the interior materials have taken a step down as well. For this SAAB and GM deserve all the vitriol you can muster – it’s what drove me away from the brand. When you visit SAAB USA’s site you see that they compare themselves to cars with which there is no comparison unless you are shopping on price alone. I’m not here to defend SAAB and GM for their poor management of the brand, but if you’re going to blast them for reliability at least try to do it with some accuracy.

    I for one look forward to the full redesign of the 9-5 in a few years. It will tell the tale of whether GM has decided it has to spend money to make money, or if the brand needs to just be taken out back and shot.

  • avatar

    This all just goes to show why brand loyalists freak every time Ford or GM buys their brand of choice, no matter what it is. These suits really know how to suck the life out of every decent car with their gimmickry, spreadsheet obsession and cheap-ass plastics. I don’t think any domestic auto exec can comprehend why someone might love their car of choice. I believe they honestly want us all to “tolerate” our cars for 3 or 4 years and then dump it for some new bling-ridden appliance. I hate them.

  • avatar

    Went to have a look at Saabs when I was considering a new car recently. Out of loyalty, fandom, having owned some in the 80s/90s.

    Hope you guys in the US soon get to drive the new Alfas – they’re what Saab could have been. Maybe the GM exec’s gave up on the Italians, while the Swedes just went “Ja, ja. That is fine, we will change it.”

  • avatar

    The slushbox’lever looks remarkably similar to those found in Opel’s 94 Omegas (otherwise (briefly) known as Caddilac Catera)…


    Still, according to the review it apparently is one of the good bits.

    Really don’t understand people who go buy this new. If you must have a Saab 9-5, for 10000 Euros you can pick up a nice used one that is, apart from these great new headlights of course, exactly the same car.

    If you are a snob who’s so snobish you don’t like to look like a snob, just go and buy an Audi.

  • avatar
    Ashy Larry


    Just to be clear, I own a V70R (and not a Saab unless my 9-2x counts, which I don’t think it does), so I know the goodness of that platform for what it does. I chose the Volvo over the 9-5, which did not have enough headroom for my 6’6″ frame, and a Legacy GT, which had seats that felt cheap and small (although of the 3 cars, the Legacy GT was by FAR the most natural and rewarding to drive from a performance standpoint). So I voted in the debate and went Volvo. Before that I owned a Saab 900 and a Saab Viggen, which had the same B235R engine as the 9-5. I found the engine to be incredibly rewarding to drive in its own fun way, slightly noisy from the outside, but smooth for a four cylinder and the highway mileage for long trips was astounding for a car capable of so much hoonage. The 9-5 is obviously bigger and heavier, but I found it much better suited to the overpowering torque of that engine. I found full-on boost to be in the 2200 rpm range — hardly peaky and frankly lower than my V70R has now (and far lower than the 3000 or so rpms I need to switch the Saabaru’s turbo on).

    Saabs massive discounting brings these cars much more in line to where they should be from a sale price standpoint, given their features, quality, etc. And big depreciation means they are steals on the used market.

    All of that said, as a long time Saab fan who has been driven elsewhere by declining attractiveness of Saab’s core offerings, I agree that Saab is now officially on death’s door and must change fast (which it is unlikely to do). Seeing such a proud unique marque bludgeoned into GM blandness and vapidity is painful (even though I must admit some share of blame for buying a 9-2x, but with pricing below WRX’s and an extra year of warranty and two years free service, why not?).

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    One of the neatest vehicles I drove last year was a 1996 Saab 900 S with all the options for it’s time. It cost all of $1300 and I wouldn’t be surprised if the owner hadn’t put at least five times that amount in maintaining the thing.

    First off, everything looked like it had came out of the dealership. The leather seats and interior were perfect (not even scrathces) and all the maintenance components were directly from Saab. The shocks were new, the information display had none of the missing pixels that are typical of Saab’s, and even the original radio system was in perfect working order. It literally looked like it came out of a time warp with 136k miles to boot.

    Another unusual characteristic… the car was built in 1995, was sold in 1996 and had a paint color that was first used in the 1997 model year. Just like the ones today, this one spent an inordinate amount of time in the queue hole.

    I sold it to a fellow who used it for delivering pizzas (Don’t laugh). Within six months, the vehicle was breaking down with a stunning regularity. Part of it had to do with the fact that the owner was abusing it. But also, a whole bunch of interior components had come loose or come off and the shocks were worse than ones that came out of a 15 year old Buick. It was as if the entire car’s chassis had completely disintegrated.

    I have never recommended Saabs. In the older used car market (mid to late 1990’s) they can be found for as little as the typical price for a Toyota Corolla LE. However the cost of owning it is far worse than you can imagine. Engine sludge, terribly difficult electronic’s issues, and auto trannies that literally sap out every vestige of fun to them. Saab actually did a pretty decent job with the Aero’s and a few of the Viggen’s. But even then, there are better values in the marketplace.

  • avatar

    We all agree that Saab is struggling to make due with aging platforms, relatively inefficient factories, shortsighted beancounting GM overlords, and forced parts sharing. That doesn't automatically make the 9-5 a bad car. It's still a better midsize wagon than anything Ford or Chrysler are willing to offer. The Germans (A6 and 5-series) are more expensive, and Japan hasn't offered a wagon in years. The Magnum is a gas guzzler with a cheap plastic interior. Ford and the rest of the greedy automakers, instead of offering a wagon, think everyone needs a tall box with poor economy and lousy handling. They are going to market their overweight wagons as "crossovers" and say how great it is to have 6" of headroom in exchange for inferior driving dynamics and a $80 fill-up at the pump. Online fanboys will rave about their favorite new boxcar because it's new! The problem is that everybody is trying to compare it to BMW, which it never was and probably should never be. BMW is a company driven by engineers; they make superb engines and well-balanced rwd road cars, beancounters be damned. Saab, on the other hand, has always been a stable, reliable, comfortable 4-season companion — cutting edge on-track performance be damned. There's a big philosphical difference there. Most people don't push their cars to the limit, expecially on Scandinavian roads. Thus, Saab's FWD is as good or better than RWD on slush and ice, but that's lost on most automotive journalists and so-called automotive experts. These people only want better 0-60 times and high slalom speeds. Come on folks, we're talking about a family wagon!!! Have your mother run your automotive tests in the winter and we'll see how the results look — I guarantee the sportiest machine won't "win" the comparative review. And why is everybody bitching about how old Saab's chassis is, anyway? Compare Audi and Subaru and Volvo to Saab, then we can have a decent discussion of how the 9-5 stacks up. Because other than these competitors (all on very mature chassis), there's no wagon even close to the performance and price range on the market. Saab may not be at its height of glory, but their cars remain solid and definitely better than bloggers give them credit for. 

  • avatar

    As others have stated, the 9-5 wagon should be compared to other wagons. Also, it should be compared to other wagons that get 30 mpg on the highway. I've had no problems at all with my 2004 ARC, which I bought as a new leftover in 2005 for 24k. Granted, one of the seatbelt clips in the middle of the rear seat broke, but was replaced by the dealer. Why did I buy this car? It has decent crash scores, decent seats, good gas mileage, ESP, is fast, has a standard Asian-Warner 5-speed auto, (as used in Toyota and Lexus), handles decent for a wagon (a good highway car) it isn't too big, and it had a great warranty that included 3 years of maintenance. I also drove the V70, which in base form 2.4 form can't compare and costs more due to smaller discounts. Anyone who has looked at the Saab B235R motor knows that it has nearly flat torque from 1900 RPM to 4500. In other words, a very usable powerband. Yes, at idle it doesn't sound as quiet as a Toyota or Honda, but in normal driving, it is very smooth. Like most cars in the last 25 years, it has an idle stabilizer valve, so it idles evenly. I have seen used 03 and 04 9-5 AEROs selling for under $15k with less than 30k miles on them. That is a used car bargain for a car with a powerful economical engine, supportive seats and a decent independent suspension. I've owned many different cars over the years. I think Saabs cost much less to buy and own than MB, BMW, Audi, VW or even Volvo. Not as economical as Honda, but I think my Saab is more fun than the Honda Accord that I used to own. If Honda still made the Accord wagon, I would have bought it. My brother has the Legacy wagon. Much less room, hp, mpg, and it costs the same after discounts. My 1997 9000CSE can still blow the doors off of many other cars in a 40-70 mph roll on. And it has been very reliable and comfortable.

  • avatar

    Watch out for “bargain” used Saabs. A good friend of mine recently got badly burned by engine sludge in a 9-5 which had documented by-the-book maint. This is a well known major problem with a certain age range of Saabs and it can be fatal to the engine.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    A few vehicles that will inevitably be compared with a Ssab 9-5 Wagon:

    Subaru Forester
    BMW X3
    Volvo V70

    and of course for those who are also looking at sedan and SUV choices in the same price range, you have several Lexii, Acurae, Ininiftii, the 3-Series, the XC90, the 4-Runner high end models, the Pilot & MDX, etc.

    Don’t get me wrong… I really do like Saabs. But as a new car offering, the 9-5 series is simply not competitive. Heck, I’d rather buy a late 1990’s V70 turbo for $5k and invest the difference than spend 15k to 30k+ on a Saab 9-5.

  • avatar

    “Watch out for “bargain” used Saabs. A good friend of mine recently got badly burned by engine sludge in a 9-5 which had documented by-the-book maint. This is a well known major problem with a certain age range of Saabs and it can be fatal to the engine.”

    Saab extended the warranty for those years affected by sludge to 8 years 100,000 miles, providing there are records of oil changes within the range designated by the factory (15,000). Did Toyota do the same for their sludge problems?

  • avatar

    Perfect critique on the interior. Loved it. Thankfully, thank GOD someone finally calls out GM on their penny pinching bullcrap, their awful interiors with slabs of drap grey plastic filling the space where a good dash is supposed to be

  • avatar

    I have a 2004 9-5 sedan. It is a very reliable car and fun to drive. When I read saab reviews I really wonder that we are talking about same car. I love my 9-5.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Saab extended the warranty for those years affected by sludge to 8 years 100,000 miles, providing there are records of oil changes within the range designated by the factory (15,000). Did Toyota do the same for their sludge problems?

    They did better than that, at least for us. They replaced the engine in our Avalon without hassle. And our old engine hadn’t sludged.

    I keep vacillating on whether or not to snag an ’04 or ’05 9-3 Aero vert. Personally I think it’s a gorgeous car, subtly sporting, one of the few out there that have 4 places and a manual (DSG? No thanks….). But issues about the reliability and cost of maintenance (the sludge issue is notorious), horrible resale (used is the only way to go), and dealers stuck in the early ’90’s (have you ever visiting a Saab dealer website?) keep scaring me.

    Sad, because there was a time that Saab was, if not at the forefront, highly competitive. The 9-5 can compete on hardly any level with cars in it’s price class, let alone cars $10k less.

    The Taurus X AWD loaded out would be cheaper, larger, more reliable, and just as economical with gas. Unless you’re a badge snob…..

  • avatar

    I own a 2002 Saab 9-5 Linear wagon. Its vastly more reliable than my ’99 BMW 5 series and my wifes’s current 2005 Audi A6. Sure performance wise and interior quality wise the Saab may not be in the same class(especially against the Audi). However after waiting in many BMW and Audi service waiting areas, many, many, many times. I would still take the Saab over the BMW and Audi. Nothing can beat reliability. The 2.3 4 cylinder turbo is also much more frugal than either my old BMW or wife’s current Audi. My Saab currently has got approximatly 150000 miles on it and is trouble free. Fuel economy wise I average around 34mpg and power for everday driving isn’t bad, its actually very good. For a front wheel drive car, torque steer is only detectable if pushed to the limits. Equip it with 4 winter tires and its a tank in snow. Should I be in the market down the road for another wagon to replace the current Saab wagon at some point down the road. I would certainly consider picking up a pre-owned ’06 or ’07 Saab sportcombi. On a standard option per price comparison they have BMW, Audi, Mercedes and Volvo beat.

  • avatar

    I personally find the 9-5 Aero more fun to drive than a Volvo V70 (even the R) or the Passat. Technically it’s an inferior car, but I like the Saab more. It’s a matter of character.

    So many cars today have had the fun refined out of them. The 9-5 does not have this problem.

  • avatar

    Replying to Tydal1:
    I own a 2002 Saab 9-5 Linear wagon. Its vastly more reliable than my ‘99 BMW 5 series and my wifes’s current 2005 Audi A6.

    Great benchmarks for reliability that you have chosen.

  • avatar

    Replying to wsn:

    “Great benchmarks for reliability that you have chosen.”

    Just making a point amongst the European brands I’ve owned in the past including BMW, Audi, Mercedes and Volkswagen, the Saab is the one I’ve ‘driven like its been stolen’ and keeps running trouble free 150k miles later and counting. My experience with BMW, Audi, Mercedes and VW has been of encountering serious mechanical or electrical problems during the new car warranty period. Very disconcerting.

    I wish one of Acura, Infiniti or Lexus built a fule efficient premium wagon (the old IS300 sportcross doesn’t count-too small, too thirsty). I would love to flog one of those.

  • avatar

    Here are some stats I dug up about the 2003-2004 Aero:

    Engine : 4 cylinder, turbocharged DOHC, front engine FWD
    Displacement : 2,290 cc
    Valve : 16 valves, 4 valves per cylinder
    Transmission : 5-spd manual, 5-spd automanual
    Fuel economy : city – 20-22 mpg
    highway – 29-31 mpg

    Suspension : F – Independent MacPherson strut
    R – Independent multilink
    Brakes : F – Vented discs
    R – Solid discs

    Horsepower : 250 hp @ 5300 rpm
    Torque : 258 lb-ft @ 1900 rpm
    Redline : unknown

    Top speed : 150 mph
    0-60 mph : 6.6 sec.(manual), 6.9 sec.(automatic)
    0-¼ mile : 15.2 sec @ 94.4 mph
    60-0 braking distance : 125 ft
    200 ft skidpad : 0.83 g

    Curb Weight : 3470-3530 lbs(sedan), 3620-3730 lbs(wagon)
    Overall length : 190.0 in.(sedan), 190.1 in.(wagon)
    Wheelbase : 106.4 in.
    Overall Width : 70.5 in.
    Height : 57.0 in.

    Also, with regards to the noises made by the Saab 2.3 4 cyl, you may want to remember that the Saab uuses a timing chain rather than a timing belt. The belt-driven cars are usually quieter. The Saab also uses twin balance shafts, and this could also add to the perceived noise. Even with all that, I wouldn’t classify the sound as clattering, except for some injector noise. But I guess everyone has a different notion of what a motor should sound like. For me, a 2.3 liter engine that puts out over 250 hp, gets 30 mpg while doing 80 on the freeway, and moves a 3600 lb station wagon to 60 mph in under 7 seconds, is still fairly unique.

  • avatar

    From today Automotive News: The next generation of Saab's mainstay 9-3 and 9-5 lines will shift to GM's Epsilon 2 global architecture in 2009. Both will be built at the Opel plant in Russelsheim, Germany. (So much for Swedish DNA.) "You can stretch your ambitions for a premium brand too far," says Carl-Peter Forster, president of General Motors Europe and chairman of Saab. (Fair enough. And yet…) For a new entry-level model, Saab is refitting its assembly plant in Trollhattan, Sweden, to build the 9-1, a four-door wagon. Saab sources said the 9-1 will compete with the Audi A3 and BMW 1 series. (Still trying to compete with the premium playas, this time at the "entry level.")

  • avatar

    It seems to me that Saab (with it’s connection to GM) is a marque a lot of TTAC readers love to hate. But it also seems that the people who are most negative have spent little or no time driving Saabs and rely on hearsay, reviews, urban legends, and third-hand information to form their impressions.

    I have 3 Saabs in the driveway, two 9000s and an ‘03 9-5 wagon (all bought used). I agree that the ‘06 and ‘07 9-5s are definitely victims of the dreaded GM BCE (bean counter effect) and I would hesitate to buy one, because they are a real step down from the ‘03 in terms of interior quality. The one thing you can count on GM to do is go cheap in places where it’s really obvious.

    Mechanically, though, I don’t have a problem with Saabs. I don’t see the issue with the idle. Is it Honda or Toyota smooth? No. But why is a perfectly smooth idle of any real importance? It is hardly a good indicator of much of anything. What’s more important is how that engine feels on the road, doing things like passing from 40 to 60 or 60 to 90. I’ll take a Saab turbo in either the 4 or 6 cylinder flavor for real world driving any day over some smooth-idling mill from the other side of the Pacific. Have driven those and they are nothing to write home about.

    Then there’s fuel mileage. Our 9-5 gets 24 mpg locally and 32-34 mpg on the highway, typically at 75 or so. That’s about what you get out of some little Honda Civic.

    As for reliability, our Saabs have been fine. This is a real “Your Mileage May Vary” issue, but ours don’t require much beyond normal maintenance. And from talking with friends with Audis, BMWs and Mercedes, I’d say our Saabs spend a lot less time in the shop than the real Euro premium brands. And they do a lot better than VWs. They are not Japanese reliable, but they are not Japanese boring either.

    Saabs also shine in long road comfort. An eight hour ride in a Japanese car has my back screaming for a masseuse. The same run in a Saab is just another ride in the country. An Audi or BMW is the same, of course, and they certainly have nicer interiors, but I don’t feel the added cost for those marques is worth what you get. And Volvos are nice but still feel stodgy to me.

    Does the old 9-5 need a new chassis and a more modern interior? You bet. But for real world driving–in a wagon, for pete’s sake–the 9-5 does just fine. And yes, they are priced too high. And given the cheapened interior it’s easy to see why people aren’t lining up to buy Saabs. That’s more GM in action. All the more reason to buy used ones, especially if you get a nice CPO car.

    GM’s meddling aside, Saabs still manage to look and feel different than anything else on the road. This is not a bad thing, but in an increasingly homogenized world, being different just doesn’t play all that well.

  • avatar

    noley, sounds like a balanced view. The interior is dated, they are not terribly refined, the big problem is what you get for the $$

  • avatar
    Alex Dykes

    Here’s the problem: Auto makers can choose to make models that compete on three levels: price, quality and value. The 9-5 is expensive, at $35-46K it is not a bargain car. The quality of interior materials is no longer competitive either as has been admitted by many of the Saab faithful. This leaves value, which is also a miss since the price is high. You can’t call a rough engine with a sub-par interior a good value on any level.

    In regards to comparisons of the 9-5 to the V70R (no longer made), the 9-5 just does not stack up. This is not as egregious as Volvo comparing a V70R to an M3 coupe, but it’s close. 40 more HP, 40 lb-ft more torque, AWD, full leather interior, 6 speed transmissions, no turbo lag, more cargo room, EBD, more electronic goodies, a Nav system that isn’t an eyesore and a cargo cover that doesn’t resemble a mouse fur coated piece of plywood. Combine this with incredible on-limit handling, an adjustable suspension and honest to goodness oversteer (as opposed to plowing the roadside in corners) and the 9-5 is outclassed for about $1,500 more.

    In terms of real-world fuel economy, the EPA and I must have both received duds. I tested my 9-5 for 4 days and averaged 18MPG when driving it hard and in my normal commute I received 25MPG with an average speed of 68MPH (manual transmission). This is hardly impressive fuel economy.

    If you want a FWD hoonmobile, the 9-5 is not a bad choice with the manual transmission, but GM’s FWD V8 models would be more entertaining at a better price point.

    In all fairness, 9-5 shoppers haven’t been to the Volvo dealer checking out an R, or at a BMW dealer looking at a 5 series wagon. The biggest competition for the 9-5 is the 9-3 and this is where the 9-5’s poor sales numbers can be understood. The 9-3 is barely smaller, has a much more modern interior, far less torque steer, a smooth turbo V6, and 6 speed transmissions for $3K less. When you consider the next generation 9-3 with the schnazzy new AWD system and a 280HP turbo V6, this is the car that gives Volvo a run for it’s money.

  • avatar

    Points taken. Your mileage is not representative of normal driving, but would be if you drove it hard. It’s competitors don’t do any better, though.

    IMO you are looking a lot at specs, which is fine, but the overall feel of the Saab vs the Volvo is important. I haven’t driven the V70 R, so I can’t comment, but compared to the regular Volvo wagons, I find the Saab fun to drive while the Volvo is merely pleasant. Is the Volvo a better buy? Maybe, depends on what floats your boat.

    But while the Saab 9-5 comes up short in some areas, it’s unfair to criticize it from all angles. You know, most people who buy wagons don’t care about 10/10ths handling, fastest 0-60 or any of that stuff. They buy what works for them, or what they can get the best deal on.

    Sure, the 9-5 is overpriced these days, an unfortunate result of the homogenization of all GM sells. It’s too bad, because Saabs are good cars that GM is totally mismanaging. They are decontenting the cars each year, removing any trace of the uniqueness that made Saabs different. And which made people who liked that difference buy them

    Saabs don’t necessarily appeal to people who want the image of BMW, Audi or Mercedes. They don’t fit with the appliance-like persona of just about everything from Japan, Inc. And they can’t really be Americanized well, although it seems GM is doing its level best.

    I’m really not hugely impressed with most other cars I drive and often note how they don’t do many things as well as my daily driver, a ’96 Saab 9000. I do like the A6 Audi better than my wife’s 9-5 wagon, but it’s not worth the extra money to me. Value is in the eye (and wallet) of the buyer.

    I’m hoping (in vain probably) that the next generation of Saabs will bring back some of the uniqueness the marque is known for. So far the specs look good, but it’s how they feel on the road that matters. It doesn’t really matter if something else is a little faster or handles a bit better on a track. I don’t get on a track very often, and there are enough other variables to at-the-limit performance so that the car is only some of the equation.

  • avatar

    Brian E wrote:

    “Funny you should mention Saturn. This is the same platform as the now-defunct and slow-selling L. If you park one next to an L wagon, their profiles match exactly..”

    The Saturn L series was based on the Opel Vectra B series. Its basically the same chassis that underpins the Saab 9-3, except it is slightly longer and wider.

    The Saab 9-5 is built on the GM2900(since 2003 known as Epsilon) platform which underpins the Opel Vectra. The 9-5 has never shared platforms with any other GM North America offering to date.

  • avatar
    Ashy Larry


    Make no mistake, I don’t think the 9-5 is comparable to a V70R — the V70R is the superior vehicle in just about every respect. As I said, I bought the V70R over the 9-5 Aero wagon because while the 9-5 had some advantages, they were outnumbered by many disadvantages.

    Saab’s ambitious pricing is, of course, a problem but only one of perception. I don’t know many people who pay anything close to MSRP for their Saabs. I purchased a Viggen in 2001 for $31.5k with all the rebates and loyalty ofers — a full $8k less than then-MSRP, and I bargained a dealer down to the low 30’s for a well-equipped 9-5 Aero wagon a few years later before I decided not to buy one. To say the car competes in the same price range is misleasding — yes if you only go by MSRP, but the market tells us that you need to discount 10-20% off MSRP to get the true sale prices of these cars. Saab’s pricing speaks more about GM’s stupidity than the inherent value of the cars.

    Finallly, the Saab, in being a wagon, offers something no GM model currently offers — performance, comfort and cargo capacity without fuel sucking SUV’ism. Plus it sill has plenty of that old Swedish character — from the oddball design stuff to the buttery leather seats — to make it desirable.

  • avatar
    Voice of Sweden

    At it’s launch, the 9-5 was a good car. It wasn’t great because of under investment from GM. Building great cars cost money!

    Now, 9 years later, it still suffers from the underinvestment earlier, and the underinvestment in the process of developing a new 9-5.

    Let us hope that the 9-5 biopower gets an E85 (sales) boost in the USA, like it has got in Sweden.

  • avatar
    Alex Dykes

    Bottom line: If you like your ignition key between the seats, buy a 9-3. It serves up 98% of the 9-5’s capacity, has 10% of the cheap plastic parts, is available in sedan, wagon or convertible and next year will have AWD and a smooth 280HP turbo V6. The only low point is that the steering wheel is the same.

  • avatar
    Jan Andersson

    When I sold my last SAAB at 217K miles, it was still a good car. I still see it now and then, must be 250 K now. Primarily, SAAB is a very safe winter car, and you need all the power you can get on snowy roads. Someone said that the SAAB is a four wheel dirt bike, and I agree when it comes to bad road driving. On a 150 miles job trip in a blizzard, my colleague in his SAAB 9-5 beat me home with half an hour. I have a BMW. I don’t drive a SAAB now because of the cheap looks, not because of bad reliability, comfort or mileage. Four-wheel drive? I don’t like that on a standard car, because I don´t think it is safer, only heavier and more expensive. If you really need that kind of road handling, buy a Jeep.

  • avatar
    bill h.

    For Saabophiles (myself included), over the years we've gotten our share of brickbats over our choice of cars. Most of us will let it slough off, because in the end its US who like the cars, and don't need the approval of others who have more stake in the "Aura" of the marques they drive. But objectively, it's clear that the current 9-5 is just too old (restyling and brisk sales of the E85 versions in Europe notwithstanding). The Classic 900s soldiered on for more than a dozen years, but in the 80s and early 90s a long model life was a more viable proposition, and even then it was outmoded at the end. But in the meantime, drive your 9-5s because you like them, not because you need validation from others.

  • avatar

    The review is nonsensical. I have owned a BMW, VWs, most American makes, etc., etc. I now own two Saabs with more than 100,000 miles each (nearly 300,000 miles total). Last summer, my wife and I drove our 2001 9-5 wagon from Illinois through western Canada to Seattle and back. At 80 mph we averaged 32 miles per gallon on regular gas. The car was comfortable, the seats are incredible, the handling was excellent and the stereo (HK 200 watts with a subwoofer and multiple speakers) is amazing. These cars have cost me little in maintenance and virtually nothing in repairs. With the current rebates and incentives, I have been unable to find a replacement. Do not be fooled. These are great cars, rivalling Mercedes, balanced, economical, sturdy and long lasting. The best part is that you can get incredible discounts at the end of the year. Last year I could have purchased a 2006 Sport Combi Aero NEW with every option for $26500. I am still crying that I passed it up. Wish GM would put some money into these cars. There is nothing that they make that is better for most drivers. I truly love these cars. Oh, by the way, I am an attorney and believe it or not I can change all of the filters, the oil and the spark plugs on this car myself. The cars were obviously designed by rational Swedes.

  • avatar

    melawman, I agree with you. I could have gotten 06′ Aero with every option for $29000. Now I dont get one with basic options at that price(Auto/Roofrail). Contrary to what people claim(I hope people have driven the car, before passing these nasty comments), I actually like this car.

  • avatar
    j. penton

    Wow. People really beat this car up. I’ve owned 2 of these a 2005 pre-makeover purchased off the lot and a 2007 post-makeover Aero ordered directly from Sweden just as I wanted.

    The 2005 is/was boring, looked extremely outdated, especially on the inside, but is/was reliable, useful, and very economical, getting about 34 mpg on the highway. Nevertheless, we just couldn’t warm up to the dated styling inside and out.

    The 2007 Aero is an outstanding car. No doubt I take some ribbing for driving a “wagon”, but my friends and colleagues ride in the car with nice cooled, leather sports seats, and feel the car rocket off the line, the jokes end. The car still can get over 32 mpg on the highway (it has 40 more hp than the 2005), but I drive it much too fast for that. This car prefers to be driven at between 80 and 90, and I can’t get as good of mileage driving that fast.

    I considered the BMW 5-series wagon, the Audi A6 wagon, and the Mercedes wagon, and while those are really nice cars, they are all $20,000 more comparably equipped. In 2007, my Aero was $7000 less than a stripped A6 Avant (the car I came closest to purchasing). Car reviewers comparing these cars seem to forget that a BMW or Mercedes wagon is 50% more expensive than the Saab. A fully-equipped Volvo could be had for only $5000 more, but Volvos are really, really ugly. In my book, the only better wagon out there is the AMG wagon, but it is like $90 grand. If money was no object, I’d get the AMG wagon.

    Reliability is outstanding, and I liked the fact that it was ranked as the safest car in Sweden. I really enjoyed the Saab Aero Academy at Road Atlanta. It may not be for everyone, but I am very pleased with this car, a lot of fun to drive.

  • avatar
    j. penton

    I left out one other comment . . . you buy a car as much for what you need as what you want. If you need storage capacity, and don’t want a gas-guzzling SUV, you have to go with a wagon. There is not much out there to compete with it.

    As for me, the 2007 Aero SportCombi replaced a 2004 BMW 325i with the Sports Package. Damn that car looked fast sitting still, but it was very, very slow with only 184hp (and I had a munual tranny). Add to it the fact that even small children couldn’t fit comfortably in the back, and a change had to be made. My buddy has an M3 and he says that his car is pretty fast. He wonders why I got rid of the 325 (he has no children, though). He also never drove the 325.

  • avatar

    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 relating to emissions, 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 for 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 emissions. 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, and transmission failures, intermittent 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 simplified in nature with no trinkets but able to far exceed the needs of driver.

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

  • avatar

    I just purchased a used 2006 9-5 Sportcombi with 32K miles, for less than half the original MSRP, and I truly love it. That is the only way to go, since they depreciate in value to quickly. I feel sorry for anyone who got a new one. I was torn between the 9-5 and the Volvo V70, but I chose the less expensive route. However, I can’t believe all this misinformation about the Saab 9-5 Sportcombi being posted here.

    First of all, unlike stated somewhere above, the Volvo V70 is not larger than the Saab 9-5 Sportcombi. According to the specifications of both manufacturers, the Saab has more passenger volume (98.8c.f. vs. 98.0c.f.) and total interior volume (136.5c.f. vs. 134.2c.f.) than the Volvo. The V70 does however have more cargo volume behind the second row seats, but only by 0.6c.f. Therefore the 9-5 is larger than the V70.

    Second, unlike stated above again, the 9-5 Sportcombi is more than 2% larger than the 9-3. The passenger volume of the 9-3 is 95% of the 9-5, and the cargo capacity is only 80% of the 9-5.

    I am extremely pleased with this vehicle. It has plenty of power, more than my 2001 VW Passat V6, has great fuel economy, 30+ highway, and is pretty much the largest vehicle in its class when compared to MB E350, BMW 5, Audi A6, VW Passat, and Volvo V70.

    And why would anyone compare it to Subaru Outback or XC70. Those are AWD offroad bound vehicles, while the Saab is a sports wagon. If one is going to compare the Saab to a Volvo or a Subaru, it should be the V70 2.5T and the Legacy.

    There are however a few not so hot characteristics of the car. The engine does sound trashy, and the ride is loud, due to the tire, road, and wind noise. But I am not a picky driver, and the powerful stereo does cover up the noises well. So, if you’re looking for a luxury ride from this sport wagon, you’ll have to look elsewhere, because what you’ll get is a sport ride, and what a ride it is. Oh, and there is that super cheap door handle in the inside of the doors. GM should have spent extra $5 for something that fitted there better. Oh well.

    Since this is my first Saab, I’m hoping the car will be a reliable one. I did have a conversation with an independent mechanic regarding the reliability of Saabs, and he did state that from the European wagons, the Saab is at the top with the Benzes and BMWs. The Volvo is slightly behind, and the VWs and Audis lag a good distance. And supposedly the Subaru Legacy is the champ of them all, but who wants to drive a dull Japanese.

  • avatar

    I really like the 9-5, and the V70/XC70 pre-08. I never realized they were so similar in size, the Saab just looked roomier to me. A used version of either could be my next vehicle. I recently got a quote for $27k on a new 08 Saab 9-5, but 06’s are listed for around 17 or 18k.

    I’ve got an odd list of vehicles for consideration, mostly a result of the auto industry abandoning wagons – 06-08 9-5 Sportcombi, 06-07 V70/XC70, 06 and up Subaru Outback, 09 Escape/Mariner, 07-08 Edge/MKX.

    I wouldn’t call any of these driver’s cars per se, but I’ve been driving in Pittsburgh with a Mini Cooper S / Sport package, and the tight handling and tight suspension aren’t enjoyable on our severely poorly maintained streets and highways.

  • avatar

    I’m sure no one is reading replies int his thread anymore, but I’m headed across the state to purchase my own 2007 9-5 SC Aero, in Nocturne Blue, this Thursday.

  • avatar

    Good for you. My 2006 Saab 9-5 Sportcombi is also the blue color. I stayed away from the Aero for two reasons:

    1) The Aero has a stiffer suspension, as if that is needed, since the normal version already has a stiff suspension.

    2) The Aero’s alloy wheels are not as attractive as the normal version’s, but that is subjective.

    Good luck, and if you’re getting yours from a dealer, see if it’s certified. Mine is, and I got a warranty extension with that certification.

  • avatar

    It isn’t certified, but I may look into a warranty, depending on price and coverage. I bought a JM&A warranty for my MINI Cooper S, and it proved a wise decision.

    I love the blue color; mine has parchment leather w/ charcoal inserts.

    I’m coming from a Cooper S w/ Sport Suspension, anything will be more softly sprung! Two things swung me for the Aero – the satin metal dash, and the contrasting leather inserts. For me the suspension was fine.

    The runner up was a 2008 Subaru Outback, and third a new Jetta Sportwagen. I liked the Subaru, but they are everywhere in Pittsburgh, and an 07 Limited, or even an 08 Special Edition, were more than the 9-5 Sportcombi. Things I wanted – cargo space for three dogs, heated seats, aux audio in or iPod connectivity, at least 20 mpg combined fuel economy.

    Some would call me crazy, but I love the dash, with it’s fly-in-face-of-style flatness. The hatch will hold all three of our dogs behind the rear seats. I never seen them. . . anywhere. Reasonably cheap to insure. Great visibility.

    As Ferris said, “It is SO choice. If you ever have the opportunity, I highly suggest picking one up.”

  • avatar

    Well, it sounds like you found what you were looking for. Just so you know, my 2006 non-Aero version also has those parchment leather seats with charcoal inserts and that satin metal dash. I’m not sure if 2007 changed that, and only the Aero version had those treatments. And I love the exclusivity of a 9-5; not many people know what it is. The problem I find is that not many mechanics want to work on a Saab. We only have two dealers here in Orange County, CA, and I have not yet found an independent yet.

    Anyways, good luck with your new purchase.


  • avatar

    Thanks! I’m lucky mechanic wise, we have a foreign auto independant less than a mile who specializes on euro makes. I have a number of freinds and neighbors that go there. Is reasonable, and was certainly cheaper then the MINI dealer.

  • avatar

    Perhaps with the demise of SAAB after the failed restart attempt by Spyker, some may find the response mute. However, I feel the need to express a more accurate review of the first generation 9-5 and the brand as a whole. I love “Truth about Cars”, but must admit the review had me questioning if they really drove the car and if they understood the audience for SAAB. We sure know that the General didn’t, which is why my favorite car line has been relegated to an electric entity in China.

    See…SAAB’s are about a bond, a spirit, a connection in what some may deem an appliance that amazes and thrills. Yes SAAB’s embody this mantra. One can truly connect with their car! The reality is that SAAB’s are more than an appliance. I am sure I have lost all the Camry audience who have gone to the cupboard for some reduced fat wheat thins…to each his own.

    The first generation 9-5 (1999-2009 – not the bloated Lacrosse replacement) embodied the spirit of SAAB motoring and really was a universal car. What other vehicle out there transports five in comfortable orthotic cradling, all their luggage and shopping treasures, providing safety and reliability, excellent ingress/egress, acres of glass for superb visibility, impressive fuel economy, and a unique “I am different” style? On top of all of this, a vehicle that can literally blast the passengers back in their seats with its fantastic turbo mid-range? Some may attempt the mix, but few even come close to the overall combination of a SportCombi.

    I have test driven a lot of cars in my lifetime and owned a good many as well. I have experienced the offerings of Audi, BMW, Honda, Jaguar, Jeep, and even Mercedes, yet I always came back to SAAB. Why? Because…I like to “Move my Mind!”

    The 9-5 can go from the boardroom to the beach with a stop at soccer practice and a trip to Home Depot in between. The 9-5 can haul your precious antique find or your precious offspring with equal aplomb. The 9-5 just always feels right for whatever you ask and does so willingly leaving a smile as its reward.

    Of course the General’s 2006 refresh did engage the GM bean counter and de-contenting mentality. Interior materials quality did suffer in the transition and the traditional SAAB cockpit of buttons vanished with off the shelf Chevy replacements stuffed in their place. Yet the spirit still remained. The amazing seats and high quality leather emitting delicious scents were fortunately retained. The quirks were still there. Thankfully the amazing 2.3 workhorse survived in its highest tuned capacity.

    Some may fault the torque steer – yes it remains but what 260 HP front driver does not have just a bit? I personally think it adds to the fun quotient. Because…when all the bashing and judging vanish what you have here is the most FUN automobile every produced! The 9-5 lets you engage this FUN whenever you wish as if it is your option. Keep in mind the 9-5 can also be driven as a respectable daily commuter just sipping fuel and protecting its passengers…if you so choose. But wouldn’t you like to have amazing FUN with your practicality?

    Fancy onboard electronics, media centers, and blinking lane departure gimmickry are thankfully missing. Call me old school but the living room is home to this gadgetry, cars are for driving. Give me a knob or a switch any day! (In true classic SAAB spirit – lots of buttons please) I had to cringe the other day when I went out with my lady friend and her teenage son. She stopped at a convenience center and left us in the Lexus RX Hybrid. It was getting warm and I literally had to ask her son how to use the mouse to switch through multiple media screens to adjust the AC level. Keep in mind I have two degrees and work in IT! A mouse driven CRT screen in a car – one may wonder how functional they will be in say two or three years baking in the Florida sunshine.

    So can the 9-5 be all things to all people? Well that depends on the people. You see American’s prefer the Camry or when they move up-market, that German entity with the blue and white badge. Why because a car is an appliance and when you make it in this world, a badge is everything. I prefer my appliance to have a soul. Wagon’s and hatchbacks are passé on these shores yet in some European countries more coveted than sedans. Practicality again – something American’s never embraced before this last blip of the gasoline surge. Newsflash – that gas hogging land barge SUV is just a wagon with a higher suspension prone to low crash test scores and the driving prowess of a your childhood Radio Flyer.

    What would have come of SAAB had the General only embraced the brand. What would have happened if the General had approved the investment from the China group for Spyker? What would have happened had SAAB been the first electric hybrid turbo with four wheel drive? What would have happened if SAAB was given a chance to be itself? What would have happened if the 9-5 replacement was actually a SAAB and not a beautifully bodied Lacrosse? We may never know. The first generation 9-5 may have been put out to pasture, but if you find one on a used car lot – take the precious thing for a spin. You may just delight in that you did. Long live SAAB (in memory and thought) and all that it embodied. Long live the first generation 9-5.

    Signing off from the land of “What if” and heading back to my “State of Independence.”

  • avatar

    I understand that this is an old thread, but having just come across it, wanted to comment. Sta8of9’s post was masterful. I also own Saab 9-5, a 2008 to be exact. It was bought used with 61,000 miles for $11,000. One-owner car with all service records.

    I had been shopping for a new/used car for quite some time. My original target was a 2013 VW Passat TDI. At $32,000 I felt it was a little high…and then I started to research the car. The DSG transmission is very cool…until you have to spend $800 every 40,000 miles for a DSG tune-up. The Direct-Injected engine has great economy, until you have a carbon build-up problem with the valves. The fuel economy is incredible, until you have to spend at least 70-cents a gallon more on diesel.

    I deduced that the best Passat to buy is the basic 2.5 litre Inline 5 with the Aisan 6-speed slushbox. Pretty bulletproof. Used they go for around $18,000 with a roof…and as little as $14,000 for the base. Not bad.

    Then I looked at the 2014 Mazda6. Beautiful design to be sure. But again, a Direct-Injected engine. No thanks. At least they put a nice slushbox in the car. At the time, to get the car with a moonroof and heated seats, you had to spring for the Grand Touring at over $30,000. Now you can get the iTouring with moonroof and Bose for around $25,000.

    I also looked at the 2013 Honda Accord. A fine looking car with excellent interior space. But the 4-cylinder comes with a Direct-Injected engine and a CVT. No way! I don’t even want to know how much that CVT will cost to repair.

    So then I started looking at other used cars. The Volvo V70 was nice…but had nightmare reliability ratings. I didn’t want a Camry, because I live in NYC and don’t want the same car that’s driven by thousands of cabbies and car services. Plus it’s boring as hell.

    And then I thought about a used Saab. I had once owned a 1985 Saab 900 turbo and loved the car. I racked-up 175,000 miles on it, and unbelievably it is still on the road clocking 325,000 miles(sold it to a friend).

    A little research led me to Roland, who owns Swedish Service in Brooklyn. He only works on Saabs…nothing else, never! He guided me to which 9-5 years that I should concentrate on…2008-2009, 2003 (he said that was the absolute sweet spot for the 9-5).

    I finally found the right 9-5 at an Audi dealer in Connecticut. It was pristine. Snow Metallic Silver with Black Leather. A pretty basic car. No Aero, folding mirrors, ventilated seats, or backup sensors. Still though, lots of standard equipment, including moonroof, leather, 9-speaker Harmon-Kardon audio, heated front and rear seats, and fog lights.

    I just love this car. Extremely comfortable seats, excellent audio, a huge trunk with a very spacious 60-40 fold-down backseat, rain-sensing wipers…and it’s fast! It also gets incredible highway gas mileage. On a recent trip to the Hamptons, I averaged 32.7 mpg, with a little city driving mixed in. And hit the pedal and the car leaps like a bat out of hell.

    The 9-5’s Sport Mode is also fantastic. Really transforms the car on twisties, and even around town. Reminds me of my 1991 Toyota Cressida when I disengaged the OD button.

    I am absolutely delighted with the driving aspects of the 9-5. I’m pretty soft on my cars, but when asked, it delivers.

    I have friends with out of warranty BMW’s, Audi’s, Volvo’s, and Cadillac’s. Their horror stories are excruciating and painful to listen to. Immediately after purchasing my 9-5, I had the DIC (Direct Ignition Cassette) preemptively replaced, as well as the plugs. I also replaced the battery since I didn’t know its history.

    But so far I have had many miles of problem-free motoring.

    My only complaint is mediocre city gas mileage…and having to use premium gas. But I also think that I got a reliable $30,000 car for $11,000. That’s a lot of money to make up in gasoline and mileage.

    So before commenting on these Saab’s, please don’t go by automotive reviews, where the reviewer spends a tiny amount of time with the car. Forums like Saab Central are invaluable, and a trusted resource. With luck I will own this car way beyond the 200,000 mile mark.

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