That same “I’m different; therefore, I’m worthy” mentality lives in the 2006 9-5. Traditionally quirky design cues are present and accounted for, such as the center-mounted ignition, the swivel vents, the tall dash, and the turbocharged four-cylinder engine under the hood. But in the world of premium sedans, this all equates to a student wearing his hat backwards for no apparent reason – none of it will register even a small blip on the “see-me” attention monitor. Fact is, there are so many stellar sedans on the market today, many boasting attractive designs enveloping ergonomically-superior interiors and powered by high-powered efficient powerplants, that the 2006 Saab 9-5 fails to make the justification case – it has a higher price than many competitors, it’s average in most every way, and it lacks an all-wheel-drive option. The result? A good 9-5 lost in a sea churning with better alternatives.
Whereas the 2005 Saab 9-5 drew momentum from a 220- or 250-horsepower engine, this year’s model offers only one powertrain option: a five-speed manual transmission or a manually-interactive five-speed automatic. Whichever the buyer chooses, it’ll be attached to a turbocharged, 16-valve, 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine with dual overhead cams, a cast-iron block, and aluminum heads. Output reaches 260 horsepower at 5,300 rpm and 258 lb.-ft. of torque at only 1,900 rpm. Mileage is expected to range from the high teens to the high 20s; we achieved 23.4 mpg after a week of mixed driving.
The front-wheel-drive 2006 Saab 9-5 weighs in at about 3,500-lbs. (coincidentally, that’s also the 9-5’s tow rating) and rides on an independent suspension system featuring MacPherson struts in front and a multi-link setup out back, both enhanced by stabilizer bars. An antilock braking system includes ventilated discs on all four corners as well as electronic brake-force distribution, all of it controlling the movement of 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 235/45 Pirelli tires. Drivers are connected to the road via a variable-assisted rack-and-pinion steering assembly. There’s but one 9-5 sedan to choose for 2006, the 2.3T that sells for $34,820 including a $720 destination charge. Included with the base price is a free maintenance plan spanning three years or 36,000 miles, or 12 months and 14,000 miles less than the basic and powertrain warranties. Creature comforts come in the form of leather on the seats, steering wheel, and shift knob; a power moonroof; power heated front buckets; dual-zone climate control; heated mirrors with a memory function; a temperature-controlled glovebox; and a tilting and telescoping steering wheel with cruise control and audio functions. That last bit is tied to a standard 200-watt Harmon/Kardon sound system with a six-disc CD changer and XM satellite radio. Rounding out the goodies are headlight washers, traction and stability control systems, front-side airbags, and a trip computer. The options list is fairly short, consisting of the five-speed automatic transmission; a navigation system; OnStar; front cooled seats; a Sport Package consisting of metallic interior trim, sport seats, and sport-tuned suspension; and a Visibility Package featuring high-intensity discharge headlights, a rear parking aid, electrochromic mirrors, and rain-sensing wipers.
Thanks to the addition of the $1,095 Sport Package, the $1,350 automatic transmission, Fusion Blue paint that tacked on $550, and the $720 destination charge, our test car carried an as-tested price of $37,815.