A high-performance Aero model joins the roster and General Motors' OnStar communications system is a new option for the 9-5 sedan.
GM owns half of Saab's automobile business (and may soon take a larger stake), hence the link with the Swedish-based company. The cellular- and satellite-based OnStar system provides emergency assistance, navigation help and concierge services.
The front-wheel-drive 9-5 sedan went on sale as an early 1999 model and was joined last spring by a station wagon.
The 9-5's styling is best described as "Saab contemporary," with a functional shape that can immediately be identified with the brand.
At 189 inches from bumper to bumper, the 9-5 is about as long as the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. However, the 57-inch height is 1.5 inches greater than the Camry's and 2 inches taller than the Accord's. The additional height is emphasized by the 9-5's more upright windshield.
The 9-5's taller design pays off in chair-like, upright seating that allows for a comfortable posture and ample headroom and legroom. Cargo space is listed at 15.9 cubic feet, which is more than many midsize sedans provide. Folding the rear seat (cushion and backrest) creates a vast cargo area that rivals that of some station wagons.
Under the Hood
Each of the three 9-5 models has its own engine, all of them turbocharged. The base model comes with a 2.3-liter four-cylinder that produces 170 horsepower. The SE model uses a 200-horsepower 3.0-liter V-6. The new Aero model comes with a high-out version of the 2.3-liter four cylinder and belts out 230 horsepower. The four-cylinders are available with manual or automatic transmissions, and the V-6 comes only with automatic.
The 9-5 has an impressive list of active and passive safety features. Anti-lock brakes, traction control, side-impact airbags that protect the heads and torsos of front-seat occupants and Saab's active head-restraint system are among the standard features. In a collision, the head restraints move up and forward to reduce the chances of whiplash.
Saab places function far ahead of form, so there is no snazzy styling or dazzling gadgetry in the 9-5 line. However, there is lots of room and acceleration that ranges from brisk in the base model to exhilarating in the Aero. In addition, Saab makes a concerted effort to protect the occupants of its cars.