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By Jim Flammang
February 23, 2005
Vehicle Overview Saab's front-wheel-drive 9-5 midsize sedan and wagon earned subtle styling changes for the 2002 model year. The Swedish automaker also renamed its models Linear, Arc and Aero. Each has an exclusive powertrain, wheel style and interior trim.
For 2004, the Linear model became available only in sport wagon form and the Arc sedan and wagon exchanged their V-6 for a 220-horsepower, turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder that teamed with a standard five-speed-manual transmission. Color-matching body trim became standard on the Arc, which could be equipped with 17-inch Sport wheels. The high-performance Aero models also got a sportier exterior appearance. Bi-xenon headlights were offered as a separate option for Arc and Aero models.
The Linear wagon uses a 185-hp, turbocharged four-cylinder, while the high-performance Aero gets a 250-hp version. A new DVD-based navigation system is available for 2005, and Arc models get new 16-inch wheels.
Exterior The 9-5 sedan and wagon are easily recognizable as Saab models. 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.
Each body style rides a 106.4-inch wheelbase and stands 57 inches tall. The high-performance Aero edition has a firmer suspension and 17-inch tires on 10-spoke alloy wheels.
Interior All 9-5 models hold up to five occupants. Upright chairlike seating permits a comfortable posture. Scandinavian design themes emphasize natural materials. Leather upholstery is wrinkled rather than high-gloss.
Interior themes range from fundamental leather and wood in the Linear to an industrial, high-tech feel that complements the Aero's sporty nature. The Arc model emphasizes luxury touring with its metallic-finished dashboard trim and available ventilated front seats. Sedan trunks hold 15.9 cubic feet of cargo. With the rear seats folded, the wagon can carry 73 cubic feet of cargo.
Under the Hood The Linear sport wagon uses a 185-hp, turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder. A turbocharged 220-hp version goes into the Arc. Performance-packed Aero models get a high-output, turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder that cranks out 250 hp. Each engine can team with either a five-speed-manual gearbox or a five-speed-automatic transmission that permits manual gear selection via steering-wheel controls.
Safety Antilock brakes, traction control, an electronic stability system, side-impact airbags that protect the heads and torsos of front-seat occupants, and Saab's active head-restraint system are standard.
Driving Impressions The 9-5 sedans deliver an appealing and sophisticated highway experience that emphasizes comfort. Despite its firm suspension, even the Aero produces a largely absorbent ride. Each model handles with precise control and runs with alluring quietness. Performance in the Linear version won't set records, but the Aero takes acceleration to a lofty level. Automatic-transmission operation is close to flawless, and the manual gearbox glides between each ratio.