• (3.9) 18 reviews
  • MSRP: $761–$7,109
  • Body Style: Wagon
  • Combined MPG: 22-26
  • Engine: 250-hp, 2.3-liter I-4 (regular gas)
  • Drivetrain: Front-wheel Drive
2003 Saab 9-5

Our Take on the Latest Model 2003 Saab 9-5

2003 Saab 9-5 Reviews

Vehicle Overview
Saab’s midsize front-wheel-drive 9-5 sedan and wagon earned subtle changes for the 2002 model year by getting styling updates to enhance the 9-5’s 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. Saab’s 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 Aero’s 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. GM’s 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. Saab’s 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. Saab’s 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 Saab’s active head-restraint system are standard on all 9-5 models. Side-impact airbags protect the heads and torsos of front-seat occupants.

Driving Impressions
Sheer excellence is evident in the first moments behind the 9-5’s 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 won’t 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.


Reported by Jim Flammang  for cars.com
From the cars.com 2003 Buying Guide
Posted on 12/18/02

Consumer Reviews


Average based on 18 reviews

Write a Review

Good deal

by Diamond in Training from Vermont on November 25, 2013

Car was as advertised, although my mechanic thinks a couple wheels were slightly bent causing minor vibration at certain speeds. The young salesman messed up when he told me I could pay with a credit ... Read Full Review

Read All Consumer Reviews

6 Trims Available

Photo of undefined
Wondering which configuration is right for you?
Our 2003 Saab 9-5 trim comparison will help you decide.

Saab 9-5 Articles

2003 Saab 9-5 Safety Ratings

Crash-Test Reports


There are currently 4 recalls for this car.

Safety defects and recalls are relatively common. Stay informed and know what to do ahead of time.

Safety defects and recalls explained

Service & Repair

Estimated Service & Repair cost: $5,000 per year.

Save on maintenance costs and do your own repairs.

Warranty Coverage

What you should get in your warranty can be confusing. Make sure you are informed.

Learn More About Warranties

Warranties Explained


Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.


Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

Roadside Assistance

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

Free Scheduled Maintenance

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

Other Years