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TheCarConnection.com's editors researched a wide range of road tests of the 2008 Saab 9-5 to write this definitive review. TheCarConnection.com's resident experts also drove the Saab 9-5 to help you decide which reviews to trust where opinions differ, to add more impressions and details, and to provide you with the best information.
The Saab 9-5 sedan returns for yet another model year with minor changes, as it awaits a full-model renewal in the 2010 model year. For 2008, there are two body styles, sedan and SportCombi wagon, and both show their age inside and out. On the exterior, the Saab 9-5 has larger headlamps and a new hood, but with age, the Saab 9-5 has become a bit frumpy. As to the interior, it still says "Saab," but a new cliff-like face to the 9-5 instrument panel hasn't changed the fact that it's more than a decade old. At least it has easily readable displays and ergonomic layout of switches and dials.
Available in standard or Aero trim, the 9-5 comes with a 260-horsepower turbocharged 2.3-liter four--no V-6, and certainly no V-8. A five-speed manual gearbox is standard, with a five-speed automatic available as an option. It gets good fuel economy at 18/28 mpg with the manual and 17/26 mpg with the automatic, but the drivetrain seems totally out of place in a high-end luxury car. Maybe the future, with tight oil supplies, will be more like this--but even a six-cylinder diesel Mercedes seems far richer than the Saab 9-5, with its turbo whine.
The most common complaint about the Saab 9-5 has been its handling, especially under hard acceleration. And, unfortunately, the latest version still sports the familiar torque steer--a pull to one side or the other when you press the throttle--but it has been reduced a fair bit. With the cosmetic Aero package, the Saab 9-5 gets 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), and in general, it's the most pleasant 9-5 to drive. The Saab 9-5 has lovely front seats, 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 huge trunk is part of the equation, too.
Stock gear in the 2008 Saab 9-5 includes a sunroof, leather seats, and 17-inch alloy wheels; a six-CD, in-dash changer also comes standard in the 9-5, along with XM Satellite Radio and an input jack for MP3 players. All models feature a cooled glove box to keep drinks chilled as well as leather-trimmed interiors with dual-zone climate control.
New for 2008 are standard OnStar hardware; tire pressure monitors; rain-sensing windshield wipers; leather sport seats; and on Aero models, new five-spoke wheels. There's a new, in-dash CD changer too.
Anti-lock brakes, front and side airbags, and traction and stability control are standard equipment. The 2008 Saab 9-5 gets mostly five-star crash ratings from the NHTSA, save for a four-star passenger-side impact rating and a four-star rating for rollover resistance.