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1999 Saab 9-5 Sticks to the Method

From the Might 1998 concern of Automobile and Driver.

As good as it’s, the brand new four-­cylinder, turbocharged Saab 9-5 presents the U.S. gross sales group with fairly a problem. Why? First, the $30,545 value units the brand new 9-5 amongst a swarm of premium rivals, most of which have not less than two extra cylinders. Saab patrons searching for a V-6 should ante up one other $3755, or step as much as the $37,350 9-5 SE.

Second, the brand new automotive has so many under-the-skin particulars and delicate refinements, it should be arduous to stipulate them to customers who’re accustomed to being overwhelmed over the top by automotive commercials. For instance, there are lively headrests on the entrance seats that tip up and ahead to “catch” the heads of passengers in a rear-end collision. There are double filters within the air flow system: one electrostatic, the opposite activated char­coal. There’s a “evening panel” change that turns off all of the instrumentation besides the speedometer, reverting to full operation on a “have to know” foundation. And there’s an elaborate crash­impact-absorption construction constructed into the physique shell that exceeds regulatory stan­dards to satisfy Saab’s real-life accident expectations.

Actually, the brand new Saab is healthier than we might anticipated. Understanding that it shares some Opel Vectra–platform structure, we had anticipated a bit dilution of the marque. As an alternative, Saab’s affiliation with GM has supplied Saab with the sources it wanted to develop a robust contender. Within the new 9-5, we see simply that, even whereas rec­ognizing that the automotive is not for everybody. Not everybody will settle for a four-cylinder engine at this value, not even one with an intercooled gentle­-pressure turbo that provides 207 pound-feet of torque at simply 1800 rpm and makes the automotive really feel as if it had a V-6. The provision of a handbook transmission—a uncommon commodity within the executive-sedan class—additional com­pensates for the shortage of cylinders.

Known as the Ecopower engine, the 16-valve unit is predicated on the two.3-liter light-pressure turbo motor final provided within the 1997 9000, nevertheless it now presents 15 pound-feet extra torque with decrease weight and fewer friction. Having the low-inertia turbo spool up early offers the 9-5 vivid throttle response at low revs and permits early upshifts with no use for prime revs. In fact, we ran to the 6000-rpm redline in each gear to get our efficiency figures, and that resulted in an 8.0-second dash to 60 mph and a quarter-mile time of 16.3 seconds at 87 mph. These will not be unhealthy numbers and may even be improved on, given the inexperienced engine in our 480-mile take a look at automotive.

HIGHS: A fantastic mix of trip and dealing with, gobs of low-end torque, snug lodging.

The 9-5 will not be solely respectably fast, but in addition easy and nicely faraway from drivetrain and suspension vibrations (thanks to 2 rubber-isolated subframes and twin stability shafts within the engine). Noise ranges are low, too, the engine being audible primarily as a distant, fairly melodic four-cylinder tone that’s free from thrash or clatter. Alternatively, we discovered the tire roar and suspension bump-thump noise surprisingly loud.

1999 saab 95

David Dewhurst|Automobile and Driver

The steering and the shifter really feel silky and disconnected from any vibrations, however the steering will not be solely freed from torque steer, which it displays as a gentle weave when the automotive is accelerating arduous. One other little foible that seems solely underneath flat-out driving condi­tions is a sort of flat spot throughout quick upshifts, when there’s a temporary lack of response to reapplication of the throttle.

Maybe the sudden, chopped throttle and accompa­nying turbo-pressure drop simply confuse the electronics. Or perhaps it is a perform of the automotive’s digital fly-by-wire throttle circuitry. Both method, it is a couple of 10ths of acceleration time spent ready.

Not that dash instances are that essential in a automotive like this. Engi­neered to optimize house, consolation, stability, and security, the Saab is projected on the upscale household searching for understated fashion. And with the 9-5’s traditional inside and evolutionary exterior, that is what it would get. We predict the Saab’s new form is enticing, regardless of the familiarity implicit in carried-over trademark options just like the grille.

LOWS: Dear for a four-banger.

And if the inside additionally appears acquainted (par­ticularly the dashboard), it’s actually spa­cious, snug, and properly appointed. The walnut-veneer sprint has Saab’s typical con­toured instrument panel and console, with all controls set on a fastidiously calculated arc that places them at precisely the identical attain. The ergonomics are just about irreproachable, and the controls function with intuitive pre­dictability.

Like many a Saab earlier than it, the 9-5 has an ignition change residing on the console between the entrance seats. A gimmick? Perhaps, nevertheless it’s additionally alongside the handbrake and the shifter, all straight underneath the central dome gentle. A giant, mussel-shaped key fob handles remote-access duties with buttons which might be uncommonly straightforward to tell apart and function. Eradicating the important thing from the ignition requires the number of reverse gear, which prevents runaways and makes unlawful towing fairly awkward. (An anti-theft immobilizer is stan­dard concern.)

The facility-window buttons are additionally positioned on the middle console, and their oper­ation is equally self-apparent. Saab has discovered classes from constructing jet fighters, the place puzzling over management capabilities can result in deadly confrontations with the terrain. Thus, the steering adjusts for tilt and attain after releasing only one clamping lever, and the ahead cup holder pops out and rotates into place on the single poke of a finger.

The stereo system has redundant controls on the steering wheel, the air flow system is quiet, highly effective, and automated, and the Saab has double solar visors (in matte black) to chase away glare from the facet in addition to the entrance.

Out on the highway, the 9-5 proves to be a genteel high-performance automotive. The supple trip suggests that it’s going to fall on its face within the mountains. Not so. The automotive works very nicely, has plenty of grip, and displays progressive underneath­steer with a reassuring tightening of the road when the throttle is launched.

Usually a bit distant, the automotive com­municates extra emphatically as you pile on the strain, with tires that change their track from a sleek to a whiz after which to slight squealing because the restrict approaches. The 9-5 negotiates bumps and rises in bends and not using a main change of perspective, and it may be braked pretty arduous in mid-bend and not using a lack of composure. The brake pedal feels good underfoot, regardless of a mediocre 194-foot stopping distance from 70 mph, however the digital brake-force dis­tribution and commonplace ABS may shorten that distance with summer season tires fitted.

The broad torque unfold permits using a really tall overdriven fifth gear (0.66:1), conserving engine revs low at cruising speeds (70 mph is a little more than 2000 rpm) and decreasing each noise and gasoline consumption. The low 0.29 drag coefficient additionally provides to total effectivity and low wind noise, permitting the occupants to understand the wonderful seven-speaker stereo with out distraction.

VERDICT: A automotive whose delicate charms proceed to develop on you as time passes.

With its roomy inside, consolation­in a position seats, massive baggage compart­ment (made extra versatile by folding rear seatbacks), and quiet, easy trip, the 9-5 is a automotive searching for mature homeowners. The fantastic thing about it’s that the luxurious veneer is underlain by reliable chassis dynamics, and the automotive is enjoyable to drive quick. Extra vital, we grew more and more keen on the Saab as time handed, and that is a promise of a superb long-term relationship. Who can ask for greater than that?

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1999 Saab 9-5
Car Sort: front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan


Base/As Examined: $30,545/$33,470
Choices: leather-based seat trim, $1315; sunroof, $1110; entrance and rear heated seats, $500

turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4, iron block and aluminum head, port gasoline injection

Displacement: 140 in3, 2290 cm3

Energy: 170 hp @ 5500 rpm

Torque: 207 lb-ft @ 1800 rpm 

5-speed handbook


Suspension, F/R: struts/struts

Brakes, F/R: 11.3-in vented disc/11.3-in disc

Tires: Michelin Vitality MXV4


Wheelbase: 106.4 in

Size: 189.2 in

Width: 70.5 in
Peak: 57.0 in

Passenger Quantity, F/R: 54/45 ft3
Trunk Quantity: 16 ft3
Curb Weight: 3440 lb


60 mph: 8.0 sec

1/4-Mile: 16.3 sec @ 87 mph
100 mph: 21.6 sec
120 mph: 55.1 sec

Rolling Begin, 5–60 mph: 8.8 sec

Prime Gear, 30–50 mph: 15.9 sec

Prime Gear, 50–70 mph: 10.2 sec

Prime Velocity (drag ltd): 138 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 194 ft

Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 0.80 g 


Noticed: 18 mpg

Metropolis/Freeway: 21/28 mpg 


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