Saab 9-5 Saloon 1997 - 2005

Saab 9-5 Saloon 1997 - 2005

Review by it
Monday, May 16, 2016


  • Good value for money
  • Spacious and comfortable
  • Soft ride characteristics


  • Confusing image and inconsistent engine range
  • Poor reliability compared to other Saabs


The Saab cars have always struggled to make the right impression and although they possess many good features, they’ve never managed to offer serious competition to the German executive cars. The Saab 9-5 is a great alternative to the similar sized BMW or Audi models. Saabs are generally cheaper, safer and more economical than many other European cars, so if you look beyond its confusing image, or better yet, if you like the fact that it is different, you’re in for a treat.

Exterior and Interior

The Saab 9-5 is built on the popular General Motors GM2900 platform. The same platform is shared by Vauxhall Vectra and several medium size cars sold in Australia and USA. That’s one of the reasons why the 9-5 wasn’t taken too seriously when it appeared. Many wrongly accused it of being an expensive Vauxhall. It cannot be any further from the truth. The car is completely original and it was built with an entirely different goal in mind. Visually, the Saab is different and it stands out of the crowd. The front end resembles the classic Saab 9000 – the executive model that the 9-5 was destined to replace. The exterior is ruled by the Swedish styling’s it originates from, but it is elegant and uses good quality materials. The car is aimed at the executive sector, so the comfort level is high. The car is not sophisticated, but it’s decent and reasonable. The estate Saab 9-5 is quite a rarity because it was rather costly to get one, however, it’s well worth buying an estate version as it’s very practical and spacious. The main selling point of the Saab is the safety. Its standard equipment may not be as rich as on German executive cars, but when it comes to safety, there’s been no compromise. It’s the first European car that brought the side impact protection to a new level. It also features unique whiplash protection features.

Performance and Economy

The 9-5 is mostly associated with the 2.3-litre turbo petrol engine and very few people know about the diesel alternatives. They’ve mostly received bad press - after all, the Saab diesels don’t seem to have any consistency. The 1.9-litre unit is borrowed from Fiat while the large V6 is derived from an old Vauxhall engine. It’s true that a diesel Saab is smoky, however, things are not all that bad, a powerful executive car doing 38mpg is a nice surprise. With the smaller Fiat diesel, the 9-5 can even reach 44mpg. Not only its one of the most affordable executive cars, it’s also one of the most economical ones. Nevertheless, the majority of people will choose a turbo Saab and you cannot blame them because the 2.3-litre engine is a very good unit. The most powerful version will offer a sporty character with acceleration from zero to 60mph in less than 8 seconds. It can achieve around 27mpg, which is comparable with what Mercedes E-Class has to offer.

Like to Drive

As the 9-5 was developed with the American driver in mind (the U.S. is the biggest export market for the Swedish company), the car has this inevitable feeling of an American cruiser. Its suspension is too soft for the usual liking of a European driver. The large Saab cannot boast sharp handling and although driving a 2.3-litre turbo or the V6 diesel can be an exciting and rewarding experience, if drive quality is your main choice, you’ll probably end up driving a German executive car.

Faults and Repairs

Despite being the newest SAAB and regardless of the resources that has gone into development, the 9-5 is not the most reliable Saab ever. You may find that some of the older Swedish models offer better reliability. The main problems are caused by suspension, electrical system and brake system. Braking issues can be detected by paying attention to the steering wheel and the brake pedal. Normally, when there are issues, you can feel the vibration both in the steering column and the brake pedal.