The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

New Car/Review

1999 SAAB 9-5 SEDAN

By Matt/Bob Hagin

Saab Full Line factory footage (4:09) 28.8, 56k or 200k

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 33,495
Price As Tested                                    $ 38,105
Engine Type  Turbocharged DOHC 16-valve 2.3 Liter I4 w/EFI*
Engine Size                                 140 cid/2290 cc
Horsepower                                   170 @ 5500 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               207 @ 3400 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  106.4"/70.5"/189.2"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     3533 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  18.5 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                     215/55VR16
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
Domestic Content                                       None
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.29


EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            19/26/22          
0-60 MPH                                        9.0 seconds
1/4 mile (E.T.)                     17.0 seconds @ 85.5 mph
Top-speed                                           135 mph
     * Electronic fuel injection

(Knowing that Saab has a heritage in the production of aircraft as well as automobiles, Bob Hagin can understand why the '99 Saab 9-5 sedan has such a low coefficient of drag. Son Matt says that even 50 years ago, Saab sedans were noted for being aerodynamic.)

Bob - This won't come to you as a surprise, Matt, but I had a couple of Saabs in my younger days. One was a '58 Model 93B that had a three- cylinder two-stroke engine. It was aerodynamic, but very homely. The other was a '73 Model 99 that was lots more tuned-in to the American market. The thing that irked me most about the 99 is the same thing that bothers all but the most devoted Saab enthusiasts: the ignition switch is on the floor and in order to get the key out of a stick-shift version, you have to put the thing in reverse. I kept forgetting that.

MATT - Saab has always been a high-tech outfit that does things its own way, Dad. In the current lineup, all Saab engines are turbocharged and they come in a variety of sizes. The 9-5 has either an in-line 2.3 liter four-cylinder or a 3.0 liter V6. Saab is an affiliate of General Motors and the V6 shares the engine block with the Cadillac Catera. The engine in our test rig is the 2.3, which sports a DOHC 4-valve configuration that makes 170 ponies with 200 pounds-feet of torque. Our four-banger is very strong for its size, but I think that most buyers of cars in this price range will go more for the V6 version. It has more "bragging rights."

MATT - This four-cylinder version of the 9-5 doesn't suffer from a lack of power, Dad, and in the long run, it probably gets better fuel mileage. Being that it doesn't have power to burn, it doesn't exhibit that heavy torque-steer tendency that some high-powered, front-drive cars suffer from. Apparently Saab engineers have gone to great lengths to avoid this problem due, no doubt, to the fact that Saab cars are primarily designed around Swedish weather and road conditions. Heavy torque-steer could make a car a real handful on roads that are covered with ice or snow most of the year.

BOB - Our tester came with the four-speed automatic transmission and it would be interesting to actually test the "fun quotient" of this car against one equipped with a manual shifter. Maybe Saab will have one of each available for our Media Track Day at Laguna Seca Raceway this summer. I'd like to see traction-control offered across the board on Saab cars and it's offered on the V6 but not the four-cylinder job. I guess that Saab doesn't feel traction-control is necessary on the lower-powered version, but I think its a great safety factor on any vehicle that sees a lot of hard service in foul weather.

MATT - The design and features of this Saab are definitely Scandinavian in feel and concept too, Dad, as opposed to being generically European. Safety is almost an obsession for Saab designers. They studied 5000 crashes over a long period of time and they developed the body-cage construction that's found on the 9-5 as a result. I can appreciate the fact that there is still an optional built-in child safety seat offered, and they not only put fog lamps in the front, but the rear as well. The interior room is quite large on the 9-5 and there's a 60/40 split rear seat to accommodate pass-through items from the trunk. and I particularly liked the tilt-and-telescope steering, which made it easy to find the most comfortable driving position. The heated front seats are great, too.

DAD - And for an extra $900, those front seats can be cooled with air ducts from the air-conditioning system. There's even an underseat fan to help move the cool air faster. The same thing is true of the glove box, which I found handy for storing heat-sensitive items like film and chocolate candy. The 9-5 also has an electrostatic and activated charcoal interior filter.

MATT - Since Saab still makes commuter planes for use in Europe, maybe the company will let us try out an executive jet for a week.

DAD - Matt, I think that we have just about as good a chance of getting one as we do of getting a new Saab military jet fighter.