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Expert Reviews 1 of 2
By Jim Flammang
May 20, 2003
Vehicle Overview Saabs midsize front-wheel-drive 9-5 sedan and wagon earned subtle changes for the 2002 model year by getting styling updates to enhance the 9-5s sporty character. The Swedish automaker also renamed its models to Linear, Arc and Aero, and these terms each denote a specific powertrain, wheels and interior trim.
An Electronic Stability Program is standard on all models for 2003; only the Arc and Aero models previously had this safety feature. Saabs new Sentronic system permits manual gear selection with the automatic transmission by using steering-wheel controls. An integrated HomeLink garage door opener is now included, and sport ventilated seats are optional in the Aero.
The 9-5 sedans and wagons are easily recognizable as Saabs. The company said the 2002 versions promised to be more contemporary, more appealing and more sporting to drive. Smooth bumpers wrap back to the wheel openings. An integrated grille sits between clear-lens headlights. Saabs are always aerodynamically oriented, and the automaker claims the 9-5 sedan has a coefficient of drag of just 0.29.
The sedan models ride a 106.4-inch wheelbase and stand 57 inches tall. At 190.1 inches long overall, the 9-5 is 2 inches longer than a BMW 5 Series.
The high-performance Aero sedan and wagon have firmer suspension and 17-inch tires on 10-spoke alloy wheels, while the Linear and Arc models ride on 16-inch rubber. Bi-xenon headlights, rain-sensing wipers and parking assistance are grouped together in a Touring Package.
All 9-5 sedans and wagons hold five occupants. Chairlike, upright seating in a taller-profile vehicle permits a comfortable posture. Scandinavian design themes emphasize natural materials. The leather is wrinkled rather than high-gloss.
The 9-5 interiors range from fundamental leather and wood in the Linear to an industrial, high-tech feel that complements the Aeros sporting nature. The Arc model emphasizes luxury touring and includes metallic-finished dashboard trim and ventilated power front seats with a memory adjustment. The trunk holds 15.9 cubic feet of cargo. A cassette/CD audio system is standard in the Linear, and the Arc and Aero sedans get a more powerful Harman Kardon-tuned unit. GMs OnStar communication system is standard.
The cargo-hauling capacity of the 9-5 Wagon is 37 cubic feet, and that space increases to 73 cubic feet when the backseat is folded. Saabs CargoTracks system uses belts and locks to secure items to the floor.
Under the Hood
The Linear sedan and wagon models use a 185-horsepower, turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine. An asymmetrically turbocharged, 200-hp, 3.0-liter V-6 goes into the Arc sedans and wagons, and the performance-packed Aero contains a high-output, turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder that cranks out 250 hp. Saabs five-speed Sentronic automatic transmission is standard in the Arc. A five-speed-manual gearbox is standard in the Linear and Aero models, and the automatic transmission is offered as an option.
Antilock brakes, traction control and Saabs active head-restraint system are standard on all 9-5 models. Side-impact airbags protect the heads and torsos of front-seat occupants.
Sheer excellence is evident in the first moments behind the 9-5s wheel. The 9-5 is larger than the 9-3 series. The 9-5 sedans deliver an appealing and sophisticated highway experience that stresses comfort. Nearly everything about these cars qualifies as super smooth.
Despite its firm suspension, even the Aero produces a largely absorbent ride. Each model handles with precise control and runs with alluring quietness. The performance in the Linear and Arc versions wont set records, but the Arc is vigorous enough to suit nearly any driver and the Aero takes acceleration to an even loftier level. Automatic-transmission operation is close to flawless, and the manual gearboxes glide between each ratio.