Base models of Saabs 9-5 series get more horsepower, and all versions get General Motors OnStar satellite-based communication system as a standard feature instead of an option this year. After owning 50 percent of Saab for 10 years, GM acquired the balance of the Swedish car company last spring.
OnStar will add premium services that allow voice-activated phone calls and access to e-mail, stock quotes, news and other information. GM provides the premium service at no charge for the first year. The midsize 9-5 is the largest model in Saabs lineup, and it comes in sedan and station wagon body styles. All 9-5s have front-wheel drive.
The 9-5s styling is Saab contemporary, with a functional shape that can be identified immediately 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 taller than the Camrys and 2 inches more than the Accords. The additional height is emphasized by the 9-5s more upright windshield.
The 9-5s taller design pays off in chairlike, 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
Base models gain 15 horsepower for their turbocharged, 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine, now listed at 185 hp. SE models return with a turbocharged, 200-hp 3.0-liter V-6. The high-performance Aero model comes with a high-output version of the 2.3-liter four-cylinder that produces 230 horsepower. The four-cylinder models are available with a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission, and the V-6 comes only with the automatic.
The 9-5 has an impressive list of active and passive safety features. Antilock brakes, traction control, side-impact airbags that protect the heads and torsos of front-seat occupants, and Saabs 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 swoopy styling or gimmicks in the 9-5 line. However, there is a lot 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.