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2001 Saab 9-5 REVIEW logo 4/5/2017

Con: Quirky Saab design attributes and ergonomics, uninspired exterior styling.

Pro: Satisfying performance, impressive luxury, reasonable price, wagon availability.

Edmunds Say: Not quite as polished as some of the class leaders, but still worthy of a test drive if you're looking for a luxury sport sedan/wagon that won't get lost in the crowd.

What’s New: Entry-level models get more horsepower from the turbo four-cylinder while all models get the OnStar telematics system, turbo gauges and two new colors.

Review: Saab's premium 9-5 Sedan is designed to compete with everything from near-luxury models, such as the Lexus ES 300 and Cadillac Catera, to full-blown sport sedans, such as the Mercedes-Benz E430 and BMW 540i. But because the 9-5 is a Saab, this car looks and feels a bit different. The sedan lineup consists of a fully equipped 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 9-5 base models now produces 185 horsepower, a 15 horsepower increase over last year, and is mated to a five-speed manual or optional four-speed auto gearbox. The 9-5 Aero versions feature a 230-horse, 2.3-liter turbo four, making 258 foot-pounds of torque from 1,900 to 3,000 rpm with the manual transmission. All SEs are powered by a 3.0-liter turbo V6 that requires a driver-selectable four-speed automatic. The V6 makes 200 ponies and 229 foot-pounds of torque from 2,500 rpm through the 4,000-rpm mark.

The 9-5's standard equipment list is long, offering antilock brakes, automatic climate controls, premium stereo, side-impact airbags, an active head-restraint system, traction control and a sunroof. Heated front and rear seats are optional, but Saab's cool ventilated front seats and a 200-watt stereo/CD/cassette come standard on the SE. If you want some of the SE's luxury but can't bear doing without a stick shift, Saab makes the base 9-5 available with a premium package that adds leather, upgraded seats and an audio system.

Saab purists who bemoan the fact that the 9-5 is not available as a hatchback need only to drive the wagon. Offered in turbo four, V6 and Aero versions, the 9-5 Wagon boasts almost 73 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seat folded. What's more, the same kind of fresh thinking that went into the 9-5's safety technology is evident in the convenience features found in the wagon. Unique ideas such as a refrigerated glove box, an aircraft-inspired "CargoTracks" load-securing system, a removable rigid cargo shelf, and even a sliding load floor to ease loading and unloading, all help to make the 9-5 Wagon handle just about any hauling task with ease.

The 9-5 Wagon Gary Fisher Edition features a roof rack system (Saab Limited Edition Gary Fisher mountain bike included), and various cargo area accoutrements, including heavy-duty cargo nets and a 12-volt power outlet. The modified exterior features side skirts, a front-lip spoiler, body-painted rear bumper valence, white side-indicator lamps, and 17-inch Quad design wheels.

Perhaps the nicest thing about the big Saab is its sporting character, with precise steering and powerful brakes that enhance the driving experience. Even in base form, the 9-5's high level of standard equipment and low-30s sticker price make it a bargain for most people shopping the near-luxury class. The Aero models, on the other hand, will run you closer to $40K.


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