TheCarConnection.com's editors drove the 2009 Saab 9-5 in order to give you an expert opinion. TheCarConnection.com also researched available road tests on the new Saab 9-5 to produce this conclusive review and to help you find the truth where other reviews might differ.
The mid-size 9-5 was introduced more than a decade ago, and it hasn't seen a full redesign since. It's finally due for a replacement for 2010 but, in the meantime, carries into 2009 with minimal updates. The 9-5 is still offered in sedan and wagon (SportCombi) variants, including the 2.3T Sport Sedan and SportCombi models, as well as the sportier Aero Sport Sedan and Aero SportCombi models.
A 2.3-liter inline four-cylinder turbo engine with 260 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque propels all 9-5 models. Power is delivered to the front wheels via a five-speed automatic Sentronic transmission or optional five-speed manual transmission. Considering the 9-5's aged design, the powertrains are still quite competitive, with strong acceleration and good passing response, although the engine feels out of place in a high-end car, as it's not nearly as smooth in the low revs as most of the six-cylinder engines in rival vehicles. At 18 mpg city, 28 highway with the manual and 17/26 mpg with the automatic transmission, the Saab 9-5 gets reasonably good fuel economy.
Handling, especially under hard acceleration, is the most common complaint about the Saab 9-5. Although it has been reduced, the 2009 version still exhibits the familiar torque steer--a pull to one side or the other when you press the throttle. The Aero version of the Saab 9-5 features a retuned suspension with tighter springs and higher damping rates, as well as a larger anti-roll bar, and it controls the wheels a little better. Ride compliance is more sporting (read: tauter), but in general, the Aero is the most pleasant 9-5 to drive; the standard version has an exceptionally smooth ride.
The Saab 9-5 has a quirky but well-designed interior. The instrument panel is an upright wall of drab plastic and looks, indeed, stuck in the '90s, but the front seats are wonderful, and one of the virtues of its older design is that the comfortable backseats have a wide-open view of the road--something the hunkered-down, thick-necked sedans of today can't match. A large trunk is also a part of the equation.
All 2009 Saab 9-5s receive revised power window switches in the center console, while Aero models also feature a high-gloss metallic black interior finish and new 17-inch five-spoke alloy wheels. Rain-sensing windshield wipers, leather sport seats, front and side airbags, an in-dash six-CD changer, XM Satellite Radio, and an input jack for MP3 players are included on the standard-features list. All models feature a cooled glove box to keep drinks chilled, as well as dual-zone climate control.
Safety features on the 9-5 include electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, and an integrated side-thorax side airbag system for front occupants. The 9-5 doesn't have side-curtain bags that provide head protection in back. The 2009 Saab 9-5 gets mostly five-star crash ratings from NHTSA, save for four-star ratings in passenger-side impact and rollover resistance.
The Bottom Line:
If you don't mind buying a 2009 Saab 9-5 that looks almost exactly like the 1999 model, there's still a lot of quirky appeal.