2002 Saab 9-5 Auto Review

25 Aug 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on 2002 Saab 9-5 Auto Review

2002 Saab 9-5

Architecturally inspired for performance, control, safety and design

James M. Flammang on 01.01.2002

Some automobiles conceal their true nature until they’re driven for a while. With others, it takes only a moment to uncover the truth. Certain models-including Saab’s 9-5-simply ooze excellence in every respect.

New model designations are said to stem from architectural forms. The Linear focuses on functionality, whereas the Arc is described as a modern interpretation of classic style. Special features on the Arc include ventilated leather upholstery and heated seats.

Version three, the high-performance Aero, was a member of the previous 9-5 generation. It includes such extras as a performance-tuned suspension and 17-inch tires on three-spoke wheels.

A choice of three turbocharged engines is split among the three model designations. In the lowest-priced Arc sedan and wagon, the 2.3-liter, low-boost-turbocharged four-cylinder generates 185 horsepower. Stepping up a notch, the Linear models get an asymmetrically turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 engine that makes an even 200 horsepower.

For all-out performance, the Aero sedan and wagon contain a high-output turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder that produces 250 horsepower-up 20 this year.

Saab 9-5s offer a choice of five-speed transmissions, either manual or automatic. A new Electronic Stability Program, standard in Arc/Aero models, is a first for Saab. Adaptive front airbag technology also is new for 2002, using a passenger-sensing system that controls deployment.

Newly optional bi-xenon headlights are said to produce 60% broader light spread. The special headlight system includes dynamic leveling to keep the beams at proper level, as well as high-pressure washer jets. Rain-sensing wipers are another option.

Parking assistance, which emits a warning when approaching an object while backing up, also is available.

Sophisticated in nature and subtly elegant in interior milieu, the 9-5 sedan and wagon impress in virtually every significant area. Like most European models, and more than some, the bigger-size Saab delivers an enticing combination of smooth ride, precise handling, and quiet running. Better yet, many of its major virtues are present in all three versions, not limited only to the upper-cost echelon.

Certainly, all is super-smooth and wholly refined when driving a manual-shift Aero. Seats are great: firm but exceptionally inviting. Despite the Aero’s undeniably firm suspension, the ride is largely absorbent.

When tromping the throttle, the engine’s 250 horsepower springs lightly to life, yielding energetic and confidence-inspiring response.

For a long trip, few drivers could ask for more than an automatic-transmission Arc-the midlevel 9-5 sedan and wagon. Performance is vigorous (though hardly startling), and occupants enjoy great comfort and elegance, reveling in a perfectly controlled ride and alluringly quiet V-6 operation. Naturally, driver control cannot quite match that of the performance-intended Aero, but the level of precision is gratifying.

Buyers of the lower-priced Linear model need not feel slighted, either. Performance is close enough to the Arc edition to win over most drivers, and the Linear does not lag appreciably in highway stability or easy around-town maneuverability.

Regardless of model, head and legroom are bountiful up front. Back seats have ample headroom and good toe room, but leg space is less abundant. Seats would be a lot more tempting if some riders’ knees weren’t forced into a high position.

Still, the luscious aroma of a 9-5’s leather upholstery almost makes up for some of the snugness out back.

Dashboard buttons are abundant enough to be a little intimidating, suggesting consultation with the owner’s manual-always a wise move in any case-before setting out on the first journey. One annoyance is the center console armrest in front, which slides fore/aft a little too easily if the driver’s elbow is resting on it, and might even be potentially hazardous.

Developers had four attributes in mind for the latest Saab, according to Dan Chaisins, president/CEO of Saab Cars USA: performance, control, safety and design. Safety has long been a hallmark of Saab, Chaisins said. Saab expects to sell about 39,000 9-5 models per year.

Aeros have accounted for about 15% of sales volume in the past, but Saab would like to see that proportion double. Although Saabs are produced in Sweden, the car company is owned by General Motors. (www.saabusa.com)

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