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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2004 Saab 9-5 Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2004 Saab 9-5 Overview

An Attractive Alternative

Saab owners enjoy all the luxury and distinction that comes with a fine European car, without having to share that feeling with every other neighbor on the block. As big sedans go, the Saab 9-5 is not as well known as the BMW 5 or Lexus ES, but thats just the point. When you pull up in a Saab, you give people a chance to see something they dont see every day; which is probably how they will see you as well.

The 9-5 is a handsome sedan, the flagship of the Saab line. When you look at this car, you see the strongest parts of Saabs traditional styling cues. From the multi-vented front grille to the aircraft style doors that mold into the roof, the 9-5 is pure Saab. After receiving a complete makeover in 2002, the Saab 9-5 carries on with few changes. The 9-5 line is comprised of only two models this year, the Arc and Aero. The base Linear model has been dropped from the lineup, leaving the Arc as the luxury version and the Aero as the high-performance model.

There are a number of engines that power the 9-5, all of them as unique as the car itself. The Arc loses its V6 and picks up a 220-horsepower version of the 2.3-liter four; the standard transmission is a slick shifting five-speed. The racy Aero employs the same engine but with a high-pressure turbo that bumps output to 250 horsepower. Both of these engines exhibit a characteristic not commonly found in four-cylinder turbos. The engines torque comes on strong low in the rev band, providing lots of pull between 1900-4500 rpm. This gives both the Arc and the Aero the same feel as that found in a normally aspirated V6—though youll still experience that momentary off-the-line lag until the turbo spools up. Once underway, youll discover that the 9-5s throttle response has somewhat of a dual personality. Give the gas a little push, and the 9-5 accelerates smoothly, in a nice linear fashion; nail the pedal to the floor, and the humble 9-5 rockets forward with all the urgency of prize-winning colt heading for the finish line.

Optional on both cars is Saabs new five-speed automatic with Sentronic manual gear selection. The Sentronic system allows you to manually shift gears without the need for a clutch pedal. You simply tap the transmission lever fore or aft to make gear changes. Should you fail to remember to shift, the system will automatically do so once the tachometer nears redline.

Both the Arc and the Aero are marvelous handling automobiles; a statement made all the more amazing considering they are both front-wheel-drive cars. While that old nemesis torque steer (the tugging of the steering wheel to one side or the other under power) does pop up, it is minimal compared to previous high-powered Saabs weve driven. The Arc has been tuned for a more luxurious ride, but its flat cornering response and excellent steering feedback would have you thinking this must be the high-performance model. In the Arc, you can zip through traffic or wind your way through solitary back roads, enjoying the thrill of driving without having to feel every bump in the road. The Aeros suspension is tuned even more tightly than the Arcs, returning phenomenal grip and instantaneous turn. The price you pay for this razor-sharp handling is a somewhat firm ride, a fact you can feel most noticeably on worn or bumpy pavement.

Of course, the other side of the 9-5 story has to do with luxury. Here, the Arc takes center stage, with a wonderfully comfortable set of form-fitting leather seats, complete with heated backs and bottoms. Saab offers a ventilated seat that has tiny fans that draw air through the perforated leather, helping you keep dry on hot summer days. The Aero gets an even better set of sculpted sport seats, so good at holding you in place; every other seat afterwards feels like an old flat bench.

The handsome dash is unmistakably Saab, with its deeply-recessed gauges cloaked in a hooded pod and large adjustable egg-crate vents everywhere you look. Audio, ventilation and trip information are all housed in a rectangular center stack that is easy to both view and operate. Saab interiors always delight with their subtle departure from the norm. Search the dash and steering column all you like for the ignition switch; you wont find it. Thats because, in the best Saab tradition, it is placed in the center console just behind the parking brake. Take a good look at the Saab dash-mounted cup holder; it sits vertically in the dash until you release it, at which point it does a little flip-turn as it extends, dutifully awaiting the insertion of your latte. Even the dash lighting is unusual, allowing you to darken all but the speedometer, a nice feature for weary eyes when driving at night.

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