2009 Saab 9-5 Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
March 27, 2009

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.

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.

Review continues below

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.

5

2009 Saab 9-5

Styling

A decade is far too long in auto years for a car like Saab 9-5 to not receive substantial changes.

2010 is the year in which the Saab 9-5 is scheduled to be replaced with a brand-new model, but for now the 2009 Saab 9-5 continues with only minor changes, many of which are names for new colors. Both body styles, the sedan and SportCombi wagon, are showing their age, as Automobile Magazine notes, “with the current car dating back to 1998, an all-new 9-5 is long past due.”

According to Edmunds, “The Saab 9-5 has not been redesigned since its debut, though it did receive a recent update for the 2006 model year that included an exterior face-lift.” Motor Trend notes, “The 9-5's new front-end styling features projector-style headlamps set in a unique matte-black housing,” but adds the “nose and tail fail to hide its long-in-the tooth styling and the doors and tumblehome remain unchanged (and are showing their wrinkles).” Automobile Magazine thinks that refresher gave the 9-5 “cleaner front and rear styling.” The Auto Channel comments that even though "the 9-5 underwent a significant freshening that included an exterior face-lift" two years ago, for the Saab 9-5 2009 "there's just no escaping the fact that it's still partying, er, driving like it's 1999." Kelley Blue Book observes that it holds a strong appeal to "purists who shun the overly high-tech approach and flashy styling so pervasive in today's luxury sedans."

The 2009 Saab 9-5 does show off revised power window switches in the center console, and although the 9-5’s interior still says "Saab," the cliff-like face to the 9-5’s instrument panel hasn't changed the fact that it's more than a decade old. At least it has easily readable displays and an ergonomic layout of switches and dials. Car and Driver praises its “restrained interior design and materials.”

6

2009 Saab 9-5

Performance

The 2009 Saab 9-5 is competent but not especially satisfying.

The performance of the 2009 Saab 9-5 is decidedly underwhelming, according to reviews read by TheCarConnection.com.

The 2009 Saab 9-5 is powered by a 2.3-liter inline four-cylinder turbo engine with 260 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Power transference takes place via a five-speed automatic Sentronic transmission or optional five-speed manual transmission. Edmunds notes, "the 9-5 is sufficiently quick, although the four-cylinder's power delivery is not as refined as we'd like." Edmunds adds, "torque steer remains an issue under hard acceleration due to its front-wheel-drive layout." Kelley Blue Book says the turbocharger “delivers its influence politely but firmly." Still, Car and Driver mentions the Saab turbo “four-cylinder must compete with sixes and V-8s in this class,” and considers it “outclassed.”

At 18/28 mpg with the manual and 17/26 mpg with the automatic transmission, the Saab 9-5 gets good fuel economy, but TheCarConnection.com notes that the drivetrain seems out of place in a high-end luxury car.

Regarding the 9-5’s transmission, Cars.com points out the automatic at least offers manual gear selection. The Auto Channel notes, "many vehicles in this class offer six-speed versions of both types of transmission."

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. Kelley Blue Book notes, "the Saab 9-5 is responsive, nimble and downright quick.” However, Car and Driver observes the 9-5’s torque steer and concludes, “the handling isn't quite up to snuff.” Fundamentally, they add, the 9-5 “has the disadvantage of being a front-drive sedan in a rear- and/or all-wheel-drive class.” Automobile Magazine attests it’s “more responsive and handles better” than before, but it suffers from an “overly floaty ride.”

The Aero version of the Saab 9-5 feature 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. Edmunds calls it a “worthwhile upgrade.”

8

2009 Saab 9-5

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Saab 9-5 offers passengers ample passenger room and comfortable seating.

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.

The cabin of the 2009 Saab 9-5 is one area where the car’s age is a benefit. With roomy rear seating and an elegant interior finish, the 9-5 is more comfortable than some competitors. Edmunds reports “most drivers will find the Saab 9-5's seats exceptionally comfortable, especially those equipped with optional heating and ventilation,” and adds, “passenger room is excellent all around.” Car and Driver approves of the “roomy rear-seat area.” The Auto Channel notes, "in both the sedan and SportCombi, upright chairlike seating permits comfortable posture and leather-upholstered seats are standard."

Edmunds says the SportCombi Wagon is "a reasonable choice for family use or as an SUV alternative given its sizable cargo capacity." Standard cargo capacity on the Saab 9-5 sedan is 15.9 cubic feet with split rear seats; the SportCombi wagon boosts cargo capacity to 37 cubic feet with the rear seats in use and 73 cubic feet with seats dropped.

Leather-upholstered seats are standard on the 9-5, Cars.com says, but the Saab lacks the ornate wood and metal trim available on competitors like the BMW 5-Series and Infiniti M. “In addition, wind and road noise levels are higher than they should be in an entry-level sedan and wagon,” Edmunds reports, adding, "materials quality could use improvement in some areas." Car and Driver, however, likes the 9-5’s “restrained interior design and materials.”

8

2009 Saab 9-5

Safety

Safety is respectable in the 2009 Saab 9-5, though the lack of head-protecting side bags for rear passengers is surprising.

Although certain safety features are absent on the 2009 Saab 9-5, the automobile still scores well in crash tests.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rates the 9-5 “good” for front impacts. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the 9-5 five stars for front-impact protection and front-side impacts; rear-side impacts get four stars' worth of protection.

According to J.D. Power, “tire-pressure-monitoring system, daytime running lights, and theft-deterrent system with engine immobilizer,” are standard equipment, as are anti-lock brakes, front and side airbags, and traction and stability control.

Side head-curtain airbags that protect rear passengers are noticeably absent, but the Saab 9-5 is equipped with the OnStar communications system to provide assistance in the event of a crash or highway emergency.

7

2009 Saab 9-5

Features

While lacking the latest high-end options, the 2009 Saab 9-5 at least covers the basics expected in its luxury class.

When it comes to luxury features as standard equipment, the 2009 Saab 9-5’s competitors provide more choices.

The Auto Channel observes that because the 2009 Saab 9-5 lacks advanced safety options such as radar cruise control, adaptive lighting, entertainment systems, and the like, the Saab 9-5 "pales in comparison against much newer competitors,"

All 2009 Saab 9-5 models feature a cooled glove box to keep drinks chilled, as well as leather-trimmed interiors with dual-zone climate control. Edmunds notes “heated leather seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, and Harman Kardon sound” are standard too. Stock gear in the 2009 Saab 9-5 also includes a sunroof, leather seats, and 17-inch alloy wheels; a six-CD, in-dash changer comes standard in the 9-5, as well, along with XM Satellite Radio and an input jack for MP3 players.

Since its introduction in 1999, the Saab 9-5’s overall design hasn't changed much. The Auto Channel notes that "the once convoluted, button-happy radio and climate controls have since been replaced by straightforward GM-sourced units."

“A visibility option package includes xenon headlamps, power-folding and auto-dimming side mirrors, and rear park assist,” Cars.com reports. For some reason, the optional in-dash DVD navigation system cannot be had in tandem with the satellite radio system or CD changer.

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January 19, 2016
2009 Saab 9-5 4-Door Sedan Griffin

A great car

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It was one of the last models sold here. I bought it with all possible accessoires. And Hirsch Tuning of course. A cognac leather interior and at this moment almost 200.000 on the counter. Normally I buy a new... + More »
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Styling 5.0
Performance 6.0
Comfort & Quality 8.0
Safety 8.0
Features 7.0
Fuel Economy N/A
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