Saab 9-5 Research & Reviews

Overview & Reviews

Average Score

4.56/5 Average
746 Total Reviews
Model Overview:

Cars tend to last about five to six years between redesigns. Occasionally, a company will squeeze out another year, but anything longer is an anomaly. Well, the original Saab 9-5 lasted 11 years, which in human terms is like kicking off at the ripe old age of 178.

Now, our editors initially thought pretty highly of the Saab 9-5, but then they were also pondering "Who Let the Dogs Out?" and chuckling at Monica Lewinsky jokes. As the years went on, the 9-5 sank to the bottom of the midsize luxury sedan pack and eventually nearly disappeared from our attention altogether.

Well, Saab has finally turned a page and there is a new 9-5. Designed when Saab was still owned by General Motors and based on the same platform as the Buick Regal, the 9-5 certainly doesn't have the engineering panache of its German competition. However, it's cheaper than those competitors, it's fun to drive and boasts unique style inside and out. We wouldn't call it class-leading by any means, but it's definitely a worthy alternative in that midsize luxury sedan pack.

Current Saab 9-5
The Saab 9-5 is a midsize luxury sedan available in Turbo4, Turbo4 Premium, Turbo6 XWD and Aero trim levels. The Turbo4 models are powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 220 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Front-wheel drive is standard, along with a six-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic is optional. This is certainly a modestly powered engine for the midsize luxury class, and we wonder if shoppers will scoff at a four-cylinder in such a pricey car, but its fuel economy is at least strong -- especially with the manual.

There is another turbocharged engine, however, a 2.8-liter V6 that sends 300 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque to all four wheels through a standard six-speed automatic. This results in a solid average performance for an all-wheel-drive luxury sedan, while returning competitive fuel economy. With the Aero trim, a sport-tuned suspension, communicative steering, a limited-slip differential and the advanced all-wheel-drive system combine to produce one of the most rewarding and involving driver's cars in the class -- even more so than the BMW 5 Series.

Even the base 9-5 comes standard with features that can be optional on competitor sedans, like driver memory functions, leather upholstery and an iPod interface. Going up through the trims can net you items like a panoramic sunroof, a lane-departure warning system, tri-zone climate control, a navigation system and a rear seat entertainment system.

All of this stuff comes together in a cabin that'll be easily identified as a Saab. The center control stack wraps toward the driver, bringing all controls within easy reach. Other Saab hallmarks include the egg-crate air outlets, the Night Panel switch that dims instrument lights at a single touch and (of course) the ignition switch, though this is now a keyless button. However, many climate and electronics interfaces have been lifted wholesale from General Motors, even if the layout and green backlighting is unique to Saab. These bits are actually quite nice, but like the rest of the interior, just aren't up to Audi or Mercedes standards.

Used Saab 9-5 Models
The current Saab 9-5 dates back to 2010; however, very few were sold that year and it was only offered in loaded, Aero guise. The rest of the lineup arrived for 2011.

The original Saab 9-5 sedan was produced from 1999-2009 and went through several changes over its lifetime -- especially in regards to engines. The 9-5 retained much of its Saab 9000 predecessor's distinctive lines, but replaced the 9000's five-door hatchback design with a more traditional four-door sedan arrangement. The wagon variant followed a year later.

Since this 9-5 lasted so incredibly long, how well it stacks up to the competition depends on how far you go back. Things like equipment levels, interior quality and engineering sophistication will seem relatively stronger when comparing an older 9-5 to an equally aged BMW or Lexus. Regardless of year, however, most drivers will find this Saab 9-5's seats exceptionally comfortable, especially those equipped with optional heating and ventilation. Passenger room was also excellent all around. A split-folding rear seat and nearly 16 cubic feet of trunk space gave it an added level of versatility, while the SportCombi wagon supplied up to 73 cubic feet of cargo space for those with lots to carry.

In the beginning, the 9-5's lineup consisted of a base 9-5 model, an SE version packed with amenities and a performance-oriented Aero model. The standard 2.3-liter turbo four-cylinder in the Saab 9-5 base models produced 185 hp (170 hp for '99) and was mated to a five-speed manual or optional four-speed automatic transmission. The 9-5 Aero versions featured a 230-horse, 2.3-liter turbo four with a manual transmission. Initially, the 9-5 SE could be powered by either the light-pressure 2.3-liter (170 hp) or a 200-hp, 3.0-liter turbo V6, but starting with the 2000 model year, all SEs had the V6 and the four-speed automatic.

Although it looked similar, the 2002 9-5 underwent extensive reworking. Three distinct models (Linear, Arc and Aero) now had their own style and equipment specs: The previous year's base model became the Linear and offered the 185-hp turbo four, while the SE became the luxury-oriented Arc and had the turbo V6. In addition, a new five-speed automatic was available across the line, and the 9-5 Aero's turbocharged four-cylinder got a power boost to 250 hp. Revisions to steering and suspension helped dynamic performance, while electronic stability control and adaptive front airbags further improved safety. From a used-vehicle purchasing standpoint, going with a 2002 or newer Saab 9-5 is probably a good idea.

Detail changes carried through to 2004, when feature content was shuffled. The Linear model was made a wagon-only trim level and the Arc model dropped its 200-hp V6 in favor of a 220-hp turbo-4. A year later, DVD-based navigation was added to the options list. For '06, the 9-5 received updated exterior styling and a revised suspension, and the high-output 2.3-liter turbo-4 became standard, along with bumping its power up to 260 hp. Additionally, the wagon was renamed the SportCombi, and the familiar Linear, Arc and Aero trim levels went away in favor of a single trim. The Aero and its sport-oriented bits and pieces technically became a package for two years, before resuming its duties as a full-fledged trim alongside the newly christened 2.3T base model.

User Reviews:

Showing 1 through 10 of 746.00
  • Another great SAAB story - 2004 Saab 9-5
    By -

    This was my 2nd great SAAB. First was a superb driving, reliable, safe 2003 9-3 sedan (e.g..36 mpg at 80 mph on New Mex I40 at 105 degrees Fahrenheit. This SAAB 9-5 wagon has been problem free for almost all of its 100,000 miles. It has been all over the USA, full of "stuff", and still averages 34 mpg on the highway and 23 in town. Of course, I maintain its recommended maintenance schedule, don't you? Here's hoping the new owners of SAAB don't screw it up.

  • Love the Saab! - 2007 Saab 9-5
    By -

    Haven't had the car long but it sure is impressive so far. I am so tired of the heavy feeling in many vehicles and I love the way this car combines power with a light feeling. This car doesn't need a long runway. It is difficult to find a vehicle that is fun to drive around town but also is a pleasure as a touring sedan. This car appears to be good at both. I will have a better idea when I take a 1600 mile road trip in a couple of weeks.

  • FUN FUN FUN - 2000 Saab 9-5
    By -

    I am a proud owner of a 2000 9-5 Aero sedan. I was looking for something fun to drive, had great curb appeal, seats 5 and wasn't what everyone else drove. I found my car online from a private party 900 miles from MN. This car averaged 29mpg from VA to MN. Lots of low and nid range torque. 60-80mph is a blink of an eye. This car is the best performance for the money. All I can say is that it puts a smile on my face every morning! FUN FUN FUN!!!

  • Fun four door - 2003 Saab 9-5
    By -

    Great vehicle around town, lots of FUN in sport mode. This car has amazing torque, feels even faster than it is. Great stereo, excellent air conditioner. 32 mpg on the highway, but only 19 around town in sport mode with your foot in it!

  • So far so good - 2001 Saab 9-5
    By -

    One year old now and no service issues. Rides great. The 6 cyl. turbo engine is deceiving. It accelarates well from 0 - 30, and really well when you put it in "Sport" mode. But the real power is in the 30 - 50, or even 50 - 75 range. This car flies! It has tremendous passing power. The car is as smooth & stable at 90MPH as it is at 25MPH. No "turbo-lag". This car is smooth, powerful, comfortable. There may be more powerfull cars, or more comfortable cars, or even more reliable cars, but when you add it all up, this car gets high marks across the board.

  • So far so good - 2001 Saab 9-5
    By -

    One year old now and no service issues. Rides great. The 6 cyl. turbo engine is deceiving. It accelarates well from 0 - 30, and really well when you put it in "Sport" mode. But the real power is in the 30 - 50, or even 50 - 75 range. This car flies! It has tremendous passing power. The car is as smooth & stable at 90MPH as it is at 25MPH. No "turbo-lag". This car is smooth, powerful, comfortable. There may be more powerfull cars, or more comfortable cars, or even more reliable cars, but when you add it all up, this car gets high marks across the board.

  • Swedish BMW - 2003 Saab 9-5
    By -

    Excellent effort; By far significant improvement over the old Saab's, with much refinement, especially in handling and fit/finish. The ride is more BMW than the old Saab, yet keeping the unique "Saab" styling and uniqueness. This Saab is so much fun to drive (especially in "Sport" mode),I have not driven my Porsche Boxter since I have purchased this vehicle!!!

  • Solid car - 2002 Saab 9-5
    By -

    I've owned my 9-5 for 3.5 years. Bought from a local coming off lease. I've put approximately 90k miles on and am amazed at the mileage I get (mostly highway driving) I average 32- 34 highway depending on A/C needs. This car is quiet, comfortable, and somewhat fun to drive. It handles well but isn't a sportscar. It accelerates well especially in sport mode, but won't slap you in you seat. I bought a Maxima and it sits in the garage while I half heartedly attempt to sell this car - that should tell you something. The total package is well done if not overly exciting in any one area.

  • try it - you'll LOVE it - 2003 Saab 9-5
    By -

    No longer will I be hung up on driving German cars. This car does it all without the "baggage" of owning a BMW or Mercedes. Build quality is superb and the Aero screams! Active ventilated seats are great if you live in Florida. Dealer was excellent.

  • Another Saab why ?? - 2001 Saab 9-5
    By -

    Outside of the turbo performance and the cargo area of the wagon this car is a joke. Cheap plastic interior, no place to put anything, rode noise, etc.Wish I had never sold 528i. I had a 91 9000 turbo and after ten years you think they could get it right.Not so. $40k this is what you get.

Saab 9-5 Reviews By Year:
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