By on July 3, 2009

Needless to say, YSE (Your Shitty Economy) Car of the week suffered cataclysmic depreciation, thanks to General Motors. The General bought into the Swedish brand in 1989. After spending $600 million for a half-share, the General proceeded to nickel and dime the automaker to death, mostly through a non-process we know as badge-engineering. Now, if you head over to Saab’s US website, you’ll see something called the 9-5 SportCombi. To channel Mandarkian mirth, enter your zip code and start configuratoring the Aero version at . . . $42,790. All done? Now check out its predecessor, the 9-5 Aero Wagon. This example includes two out of three TTAC tokens required for automotive Valhalla: wagon, yes; stick, yes; diesel, no. This week’s YSE selection is a middle of the road, 47k mile 2005 Aero Wagon for $12,999. For Nissan Versa money, you can put what is probably the last true Saab in your garage, and enjoy some enthusiast driving while hauling around your favorite cargo. Just make sure you have one of them quirky Saab repair shops nearby.

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40 Comments on “YSE Car of the Week: 2005 Saab 9-5 Aero...”


  • avatar
    paris-dakar

    Nice car. Not sure I’d spend $13k for a 5YO car with the taint of GM about it.

    A Roadmaster Wagon for less than half that would be a safer choice. Give up the Stick, but get the LT1.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    automotive Valhalla: wagon, yes, stick, yes, diesel, no.

    —-

    So I keep my ’84 Volvo 245 Diesel stickshift FTW!!

  • avatar
    ajla

    For me, the most interesting thing about this wagon is that it has a towing capacity of 3500lbs.

    That’s not just equal to the Wrangler Unlimited and V6 Escape, but also better than the Outback, V70, XC70, and just about any crossover.

    Good on Saab for not being like BMW or VW and claiming that their wagons can’t tow anything.

  • avatar
    Syke

    “Good on Saab for not being like BMW or VW and claiming that their wagons can’t tow anything.”

    Which I’ve always found hilarious. For some reason, in the German market, BMW has no problems with admitting that their cars can tow. Not a lot, however, that’s still a better answer than I got from my dealer when I asked about my M3.

    I thought he was going to have apoplexy at the thought on one of their beauties with a trailer on the back.

  • avatar
    V6

    i’ve always has a soft spot for the 9-5, especially the Aero even tho it’s 4 cylinder (hate 4 cylinder engines)
    i think the very first model was the best looking, the following facelifts werent as successful

  • avatar
    jconli1

    I’m right there with ya… last month, on a whim, I picked up what I consider to be the last real Volvo, a gently used ’98 V90 Wagon. Unfortunately, no stick, but RWD straight sixes are another mark on my valhalla checklist.

    It will be interesting to see what becomes of Saab now that its back under a (sort of) home rule. If only Volvo AB could/would buy back Volvo Cars…

  • avatar
    supremebrougham

    Not trying to nit-pick, but I looked at the rest of the ad for this car…it’s an automatic, so another strike!

  • avatar
    RedStapler

    What about the 4th token for TTAC Valhalla, AWD?

    Now of if someone imported a grey market VW Passat 4 Motion Wagon or Subaru Outback Diesel we would be there.

  • avatar
    IGB

    Owned this car for a while, ’03 model with a stick.

    Best seats…ever. Big chunky hinges holding the doors. Whole car felt solid and for me atleast never broke (owned 3 years).

    Great torque. Apparently with the standard turbo over boost it was faster from 50-70 than a 911 of the same vintage. Always doubted that to be true but never had a problem passing anyone on a two lane.

  • avatar

    I have a great big soft spot for these as well. If they’d fitted an occassional use rear-facing third row, I’d be sold.

  • avatar

    @jconli1:
    My mother had a 1995 960 (same body style as the 1998 V90). It developed starting/charging problems and she replaced it with a 2002 S80. It’s been more dependable, but it’s never driven as well as the 960 did. I loved the 960.

    Anyway, buying a Saab with no warranty? Someone must be a brave Hiawatha…

  • avatar
    boosterseat

    I’ve driven something very similar and that’s a pretty nice car for new base cobalt money.
    Agreed, great seats, awesome torque and safe, not too heavy & tons of space. If I wasn’t in mid-lease, I’d be in there like swimwear.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Best seats…ever. Big chunky hinges holding the doors. Whole car felt solid and for me atleast never broke (owned 3 years).

    Those seats are a testament to the old Saab: they started off life in the NG900 (or the 9000, not sure which), which debuted in 1993. Saab does (or at least, did) the best seats in autodom.

    The sad part? Much of the switchgear also debuted in the 1993 and persists to 2009. Imagine seeing switchgear from an Cressida in an current LS430.

    Great torque. Apparently with the standard turbo over boost it was faster from 50-70 than a 911 of the same vintage. Always doubted that to be true but never had a problem passing anyone on a two lane.

    It is true: between a smart transmission, low weight, low driveline losses (thank you, front-wheel drive!) and the overboost feature in the Aero automatic, you could indeed beat certain 911s.

    Similarly, the OG900 SPG could threaten a Ferrari of the same vintage once up to speed. It wasn’t easy to get up to said speed, but it was nifty to do it.

    If you must get a Saab, this is the one to get. The platform shares bits with the Saturn L-Series (as such, it’ll be less of a nightmare of esoterica than NG900/9-3, and less og a glitchy bastard than the 9-3SS), it’s reasonably reliable (the B235 sludging issues were address by 2005, yet it hadn’t seen the 2006 decontenting) and it’s not bad-looking (unlike the 2006+, which is stunningly tacky).

    It’s also a really sad car, not in it’s abilities and quality (which aren’t great: remember, this is an eleven-year old design that was, as the author says, nickel-and-dimed) but as a testament to everything GM is capable of doing wrong: from ruining brands to failing quality to a lack of planning (the car was due to be upgraded/replaced two or three times) to bad marketing (Born from Whaaat?) to hubris (oh, yeah, we can price this car to compete with a 5-Series, sure) it’s all here.

  • avatar
    Kman

    I’m currently shopping these YSE cars… looking for terrible-depreciation models.

    The 9-5 Aero is one… so is the 2005 Saab 9-2X Aero. Take everything you love about the Subaru WRX wagon (great performance, AWD), remove all the bad stuff (cheap interior, fugly front and tail treatment)… and then pay less for it.

    Here in Montreal, a same-year, same-mileage Subaru WRX wagon sells for more than the 9-2X Aero.

    … problem is I have only located one 9-2X Aero, and it wasn’t in terribly good shape. Still looking.

    On another note, but still on the same topic of crazy depreciation bargains: I must say I am a bit disappointed that the new-design CTS hasn’t dropped its value that much. That is one sweet interior design…

    What other deep-depreciation models are out there?

  • avatar
    Kman

    psarhjinian, you make a nice summary observation in your last paragraph:

    It’s also a really sad car, not in it’s abilities and quality … but as a testament to everything GM is capable of doing wrong: from ruining brands to failing quality to a lack of planning…to bad marketing … to hubris (oh, yeah, we can price this car to compete with a 5-Series, sure) it’s all here.

    Damn. It *is* all there.

  • avatar
    Kman

    To answer my own earlier question about other deep-depreciation models:

    I’m also trying to locate and snag a ’05-’07 Volvo V70 R, with manual tranny and Atacama interior. That depreciated pretty good, but it’s still about $10K more than that 9-2X Aero….

    Anyone in the northeast or in Canada (Montreal/Ottawa/Toronto) who knows of a manual, Atacama-interior V70 R, let me know. Seriously; I am currently shopping for a pre-owned car, and have decided to go out of the mainstream.

  • avatar
    revolver1978

    I just bought one of these two weeks ago – a loaded 2007 with 40k miles for 18k. She’s reasonably fast, reasonably fuel efficient (compares to SUV’s and other euro wagons of similar size.) i like that is doesn’t look like just another tall wagon CUV thing. It is what it is, a big voluminous wagon.

    Oddly enough I had a price quote on an 08 hold over a few months back before I bought a used one; what stickered for around 42k was offered no-haggle for 35k. (at the time there was a 6k rebate, which has been changed no to “dealer marketing support.” Same difference, just not published on the SAAB website.

    Sure, everything about it is dated, but there is something about it I really like. Like broken in shoes or something. And the seats are fantastic.

    Only option I didn’t get were the ventilated seats.

    Aesthetically, it’s strange that SAAB has a more driver oriented dash than BMW.

  • avatar
    revolver1978

    kman –

    I don’t know how much of a hassle it would be, but when I was looking for a wagon there were TWO V70-R’s listed. I think one was 17k and only had 30k miles.

    Just thinking you might have better luck in the US.

  • avatar
    mpresley

    Yes, a Saab is nice, when it is working. I truly enjoyed my 9-3, but the best thing I did was get rid of it. People here complain about VW and BMW? Saab makes them look like pikers in the service department.

    Now, at 47 you probably have another 20 to 30K before major items start going south. So, go ahead, take the gamble: but not at $12,900. The maker has been deep sixed, and who knows how they will be with a new owner? Offer them 10, and keep 3 on hand–always–for repairs.

    I don’t think it is right to try and go cheap with an expensive car. If money was no object a 9-5 would be an interesting car to own. But if money was no object, you’d probably own something else.

  • avatar
    carlos.negros

    I have a black ’04 ARC wagon that I purchased new for $24k. The same dealer is again selling ’08 remainders for $24k, a few grand more for the AERO.

    I had no trouble except a couple of broken interior trim pieces, such as the cupholder, which were replaced under warranty. Even so, I purchased an additional 3/36 warranty from the SAAB dealer for $1365 just before my factory warranty expired. The good thing about SAABs is the 4 year factory warranty. If there was anything wrong with the car, the original owner likely fixed it.

    Overall, I like the car for cross country family vacations and hauling stuff from Home Depot. The sludge problem was resolved in 2004; previous model years won’t have an issue if the oil was changed frequently or if they had the PCV update. I change the oil every 5k even though the owner’s manual specifies 15k – which is insane.

    $12900 isn’t bad, but I would offer 10k and pay up to 10,500. That leaves money for an extended warranty, if you want to be covered.

    Now that SAAB has found a home, I expect the brand to carry on for at least a few more years.

  • avatar
    bill h.

    No Aero here, just the light pressure turbo base version, 2004. Bought in 2005 with just 8k miles on it (cheap even then, with plenty of factory warranty); now we’re up to 95k miles with no major hassles. Mostly used by spouse and son, but we’ve driven it from New England to the Midwest to the Florida Keys and it’s never missed a beat. Not to mention 32+ mpg, even fully loaded. Others have mentioned the seats, which have spoiled us for road trips in other cars.

    In base engine tuning it’s no rocket, but adequate enough, especially in the Sport auto mode. It also has gotten us through some interesting winter episodes, with an uncanny ability to maneuver around pricier, fancier vehicles stuck spinning wheels on icy roads.

    Needless to say, none of this will get in any respect in certain circles, but who gives a flying Finn about them…..

  • avatar
    dasko

    @Kman

    According to Volvocanada.com

    The following Dealers have stick shift V70Rs

    Volvo Pointe Claire in Pointe Claire, Quebec

    Erin Mills Volvo in Mississauga, Ontario

    Franke Volvo in Ste. Agathe des Monts, Quebec

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Here in Atlanta, the local Saab dealer still has…

    Five 2008 Saab 9-3’s. All Automatics.

    However he also has 28 2008 Audis (But only one manual, an A4)

    15 GM’s (including a 5-speed Aveo with a sunroof, who woulda thunk?)

    5 2008 Hyundais… all of them boring.

    4 VW’s including an R32…

    4 Mazdas including a Miata manual in ‘Sunlight Silver’.

    I don’t know. I wonder how tight an R32 would be. But wait… it’s an automatic. Damn!

  • avatar
    Justin Crenshaw

    Not trying to nit-pick, but I looked at the rest of the ad for this car…it’s an automatic, so another strike!

    Yeah I know, I cringed when selecting that car but a search for manuals only resulted in 5 hits, all of which were high mileage or overpriced. The car link serves as an example of what is available, not necessarily the car.

  • avatar
    hp12c

    I leased one of these in 2000 back when they were offering a $399/mo for 36 months deal, which was not too shabby for an almost $40K car. I found the car to be supremely comfortable and an excellent highway cruiser, with as much or more room than any thirsty mid-sized SUV that were so popular at the time.

    This car turned me on to the beauty of sporty station wagons and now I’ll never own any other body style for a daily driver. Sadly, when the lease was up the buy-out value was $5K more than the lease residual and Saab wouldn’t budge on price. I actually paid less for the replacement Mazda6 wagon brand new than the residual on the Saab. The Mazda has been stellar so it worked out well. Oh well, Saab’s loss I guess.

  • avatar
    petergottlieb

    9-5’s really are fun to drive and they are great cars for long distance driving, but the steady stream of things to fix (at least on mine) is indeed painful.

    We couldn’t quite bring ourselves to get another one when our died this winter, so we got a Volvo v70 instead. No trips to the mechanic, same long distance comfort, but it isn’t nearly as fun as the Saab was.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Wait… they’re doing the same trick as a friend of mine’s place. A lot of the 2008’s are simply being re-labeled as CPO’s to make them more marketable (due to the warranty).

    Interesting cars include…

    2008 Saab 9-3 Aero .. 6 speed manual… 17 miles

    2008 Porsche Cayman… 25 miles…

    2008 Mazda 3 Grand Touring… 60 miles

    2008 Porsche 911 Carrera… 125 miles

    2009 Mazda 6i SV…. 1,394 miles

    and more Porsches and Corvettes than I could ever care to count.

  • avatar

    I’ve had two SAABS. They are wonderful until about 85k, at which point “cranky saab syndrome” kicks in. Small parts die, which need to be replaced. Electrical troubleshooting becomes common (crank angle sensors, intermittent ignition problems, various hoses, etc).

    If you DIY or have a reliable private shop, go for it. If not, or you have only dealer, no way.

    The cars themselves are well designed and go like stink in normal use. I got 25 mpg @ 90-100 mph crossing the midwest one trip. Great seats !

  • avatar
    carlos.negros

    A lot has been made about the shared platform with the Saturn SL. I’m not so sure there is so much in common. Here are some differences:
    -engine
    -transmission (auto is AW, made in Japan, manual is SAAB)
    -brakes (SAAB uses ATE)
    -struts (SAAB uses Koni)
    -springs
    -fuel injection (SAAB uses Trionic)
    -seats

    Are there any shared body panels? I don’t think so. Maybe the windshield? So what about the “platform” is the same as a Saturn? The floor pan? Perhaps.

    Bottom line is that SAAB took an older GM platform and redid the drive train, brakes, suspension, seats and body panels. So what? So this gives people who don’t know anything about the mechanical components that go into a car a reason to act like snobs because it shares a “platform” with an older Opel / Saturn.

  • avatar
    ffdr4

    I have one of these, that except for the wheels, pretty much looks like the one pictured.

    I bought it a few years ago CPO’ed on the cheap.

    I have currenty racked 95k miles on it.

    The only problems I’ve had are

    -burnt out power window motor
    -bypass coolant valve-which is a common problem and cheap to fix. The original valve only has a lifespan of 4 years.
    -oxidation of headlight lens-which I remedied myself

    If your DIYer you’ll love the car. Lots of room to work and everything is logically laid out.

    The car is comfortable, fuel efficent, safe, easy on insurance and in wagon form utility is amazing. The front seat folds down(take that Chrysler stow-and-go!!!). About 3 years ago I had no problem transporting an 8 foot tree.

    Equip it with 4 winter tires when the snow starts flying, put it winter mode and the car becomes a Scandinavian tank.

  • avatar
    trandell

    I had three Saabs before moving to Texas from East coast of Canada, the last two were 2002 9-5 and a 2006 9-5 Aero. Both sticks. They were great cars, very reliable and definately underrated. I currently have a V70, nice, but not nearly as engaging as the Saab. I also have a BMW 335i w/sport and stick, great car, although a bit souless. It turns out it is more fun to drive a 9-5 Aero on the traffic free backroads of eastern Canada (think Targa Newfoundland!!!) then a 335i in the bumper to bumper congested straight lines that are here in southern Texas. Sigh…

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Bottom line is that SAAB took an older GM platform and redid the drive train, brakes, suspension, seats and body panels.

    No, they took a contemporary, commodity GM platform, dressed it up into a luxury car left it to rot for over a decade. Imagine if Toyota was selling very nice 1997 Camries as 2010 Lexus ESs, or if Honda was selling the 1997 Accord as the 2010 Acura TL.

    Get the idea?

    Saab did a good job, all things considered, but it’s not acceptable to market a car as a serious competitor to BMW or Audi and subsequently base your offerings off aging, plebian platforms.

    So what? So this gives people who don’t know anything about the mechanical components that go into a car a reason to act like snobs because it shares a “platform” with an older Opel / Saturn.

    People say this about Lexus, Acura and, to a degree, Audi all the time. It’s worse because Saabs are not just a platform mates with a mass-market car, they’re platform mates with some very old mass-market cars (the 2002 Impreza, the 2002 TrailBlazer, the 2003 Opel Vectra, the 1998 Opel Vectra).

    Think about it: the Saab 9-5, which is on sale today, is based on the GM2900 platform which debuted in 1988. The NG900/9-3 and L-Series were pushing their luck using this platform, and both were discontinued almost seven years ago. The Vectra, ostensibly Saab’s junior in the GM heirarchy, has been through three platforms (the C Vectra and now the Insignia) in the time the 9-5 has been around.

    You know what else either debuted or was on the market with the GM2900? The E30 3-Series, the W124 E-Class, the Volvo 240 (at the end of it’s life, admittedly) and the Audi 80. The first Ford Taurus showed up a year before in North America. About the only car platform that’s also this old and still in production is the GM W-Body, and even it’s gotten arguably better treatment than the Saab 9-5.

    You can get a lot of mileage out of a platform or nameplate, but twelve years (for the 9-5) and 22 years (for the GM2900) is disgraceful for a luxury brand.

  • avatar
    dcdriver

    I love the pre-2006 9-5 sedan. I’m not a wagon guy and we already have an Odyssey, so no real need for a wagon. I want a sporty highway commuter car and an 04 or 05 sedan is what I’m looking for.

    There is so much I love about this car. The right size, good mileage, great exterior styling, you don’t see many on the road.

    Two things that so far have kept me from pulling the trigger are 1) lack of rear curtain airbags and 2) reliability– I know the engine sludge problem was corrected by 04, and there are a bunch of Indy Saab shops near me, but let’s face it, it’s still a Saab, and I know I’ll be spending a lot of money for maintenance and repairs.

  • avatar
    NJBloke

    If you’re looking for deep-depreciation models, specifically wagons, check out the Dodge Magnum.

    Two weeks ago I picked up a ’08 CPO Magnum SXT with 16K miles on it for $12,800. I stole it – it was sitting on the lot for 3 months and the dealer wanted to get rid of it. I have the remaining warranty as well as the 6 year/80K powertrain warranty, roadside assistance, etc.

    Great car so far – Awesome style, upgraded interior for ’08 with better quality/finishes, good power with the 250hp V6 and more room/better ride then my pops ’08 Edge. Funny stuff – all-in my Magnum purchase is the same as his payments on a 3 year lease…

  • avatar
    Nedmundo

    I have 131,000 miles on a manual trans 2001 9-5 Aero, so I thought I’d weigh in. Despite their flaws, these are fantastic cars, with a blend of performance, utility, luxury, safety, and economy that’s matched by few others. When I consider something new, like an Acura, it’s always comprmised relative to the 9-5 Aero in one of these important respects.

    In my view, reliability is Saab’s Achilles’ heel, but the more recent 9-5’s have been decent, and with Saab you should distinguish between reliability and long term durability. For example, my Aero had two serious failures between 50k and 55k and a few other issues in the first three years, but has been rock solid for the past 75k, and it still drives like new despite lots of pounding over the streets of downtown Philadelphia.

    The key is to buy one with the substantial upgrades made for 2002, which obviously includes the 2005 example featured here. These got stability control, much better sport seats in the Aeros, and a new front sub-frame and steering rack, which provide significantly better handling. (I’ve driven a couple, and it’s immediately apparent.) I think they also have reduced road noise, and that the problems with mine were largely fixed: the ignition discharge module and throttle housing. They got new dash displays too, which are less prone to failure.

    Though I love my car, I wouldn’t recommend a pre-2002 9-5.

    The recent 9-3 Aeros are more agile, and much better drivers’ cars in my opinion, but the interiors aren’t as nice as the 9-5.

  • avatar
    dswilly

    If you towed anything with this car you would be going to the quirky SAAB shop on a frequent basis replacing transmissions, clutches and head gaskets. Why people want to tow things with sport wagons baffles me.

  • avatar
    vvk

    9-5 is an outstanding car in many ways, reliability and durability being one of them. Supremely good long distance cruisers due to excellent comfort, ungodly amount of mid-range acceleration in top gear and fuel consumption in mid-30s (US mpg). Just don’t buy it with an automatic tranny, please.

    You can buy a brand new one now for about $25k.

  • avatar
    carlos.negros

    “Think about it: the Saab 9-5, which is on sale today, is based on the GM2900 platform which debuted in 1988.”

    The Saab 95 is a “platform mate” with a 1998 Opel Vectra in the same way a chimpanzee is a platform mate with a human being.

    In fact, the chimp and human are about 99 percent the same. Other than the floor pan, what do the 1988 Opel and the 2008 Saab share that makes them drive remotely alike?

  • avatar
    PGAero

    I like these cars. I’ll probably end up with an ’04-’05 Aero Wagon in the next couple years.

    I’m a DIY kinda guy, and my 9000 Aero has been a joy to own. Only an occasional project to be done… about the same or less than any 16 year old car.

    Any chance my mention of the 9-5 Aero, Wagon, stick-shift last week prompted this YSE post?

    Cheers,
    ~P

  • avatar
    Facebook User

    Just came across this old thread but thought I’d jump in since I have owned a 2005 9-5 AERO Wagon from new. I love the car. It is my 2nd Saab. I have owned BMW and Audi. The car has 77k miles now and I haven’t done any real repairs to it, just normal fluid and maintenance. Not even a tune up or brakes. 

    It is comfortable, utilitarian, (surprisingly) fast, and gets over 30 mpg in the summer on the highway at 70+.  Oh and it is an auto too (I did change the trans fluid at 35k and will do again soon). My 1st Saab was a stick and it was fine, but this auto w the Turbo 4 is a great combo,  esp. in a wagon. Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it. SO sad…they have trashed this car and company.  The one thing I missed was AWD since I have a BAD driveway off a country road in the NE….I was looking forward to a 2011 Saab Aero 4 AWD wagon oh well. 

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