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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2003 Saab 9-5 Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2003 Saab 9-5 Overview

Me and My Aero

The 9-5 Aero is Saab's largest and most expensive luxury-performance sedan. You don't see them by the boatloads, as with BMWs and Lexus sedans, but they are out there. Though you'll find two other 9-5's in the line up—the Linear and Arc— the 9-5 Aero is the model we think best exemplifies the Saab spirit; it combines function, fun and elegance into a package that makes a lasting impression on just about all who come across it.

The 9-5 Aero follows the long tradition of aerodynamic Saab sedans. Indeed, the first Saabs were designed by an airplane engineer who saw the benefits of incorporating much of the streamlined aircraft architecture into a modern day automobile. From its clamshell hood (it's hinged at the front and opens backwards) to its flush fitting doors, the 9-5 continues to cheat the wind at every possible turn; a feat the Aero is particularly good at. For the record, the 9-5 Aero comes as both a sedan and a wagon, further evidence that Saab understands that even driving enthusiasts have families too.

The Aero package gives the 9-5 a particularly menacing look. It comes with a highly-identifiable grille design flanked on either side by crystal-clear Xenon lenses and a low front spoiler that houses a set of potent fog lights. A set of subtle side skirts run just beneath the doors, giving the Aero a low-to-the-ground appearance that is set off by the standard 17-inch wheels. Your choice of color will also influence the way you see your car; with the Aero, differing shades seem to change the car's personality. For example, when viewed in Laser Red, the Aero seems to be somewhat on the flashy side, as though calling out to all its competitors to come and race; yet the same car in Steel Gray appears much more sedate, knowing it can leave most others panting to catch up, but not feeling the need to flaunt the fact.

A look inside the Aero reveals a beautifully rich environment that is tailored to the driver's every need. Saab equips the Aero with an amazing set of sport seats that are so comfortable and form fitting, you'd think every manufacturer would be copying the design right down to the last stitch. With numerous adjustments it's easy to find a comfortable position, and about the only thing we found ourselves wishing for were the ventilated air seats available exclusively on the Arc trim. Rear seat passengers should be equally happy with their accommodations as they get heated seats, one touch up/down power windows and a folding center armrest with integrated cup holders.

From the driver's seat, the Saab's aircraft-inspired heritage again becomes evident. Directly in front of you is a deeply-recessed oval bin that contains the speedometer, tach, fuel, temperature, and turbo boost gauges. For improved night vision, you can flip a switch that cuts off all the interior lighting except those inside the instrument cluster. There are clever little touches like a pop-up cup holder that extends from the dash and the cool swiveling overhead map light. The 9-5 Aero has its unconventional side too, and you'll discover it as you hunt for the ignition slot; after a few moments, you'll realize it is not on the steering column nor the dash, but down on the lower console, just behind the gear shift. As for the Aero's other controls, you'll find most to be logically labeled and placed well within view of both the driver and passenger. The steering wheel has a nice thick leather-covered rim and contains redundant controls for the excellent 240-watt, 9-speaker stereo.

From a performance standpoint, the 9-5 Aero really flies. Under that smooth hood resides a 250-horsepower turbo-charged 2.5-liter engine. This power plant may only have four cylinders, but it moves as quickly and responsively as some V8s. However they did it, the Saab engineers should be given high marks for the complete elimination of turbo lag and the amazingly linear acceleration this car displays at all speeds. Though we guess that most people will order their Aero with the automatic transmission, it is nice to see that you can still opt to row your own gears via an excellent 5-speed manual gear box. As with any powerful front-wheel-drive car, you will experience some torque steer (a pulling to one side when you accelerate hard); it is not severe on the 9-5 and you'll soon learn that a slight correction to the wheel just as you punch the accelerator will eliminate the problem.

Once under way, you'll find the Aero to be as content on the open highway as it is on a twisting country road. This is one of the nicest-handling front-drive sedans we've driven in a long while. Not only does the Aero instill confidence with every turn, it exudes an overall feeling of rock-solid stability and unwavering composure. The stiff suspension does telegraph back more road feel that some might like, but we think most of you will enjoy the balance between ride comfort and handling prowess. If you're looking for a great driver's car that stands apart from the crowd, the 9-5 Aero may be just the ticket.

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