2005 Saab 9-5 Arc SportWagon – Test drive and new car review – 2005 Saab 9-5 Arc SportWagon

5 Jun 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on 2005 Saab 9-5 Arc SportWagon – Test drive and new car review – 2005 Saab 9-5 Arc SportWagon

The Saab that time forgot

The 2005 Saab 9-5 SportWagon is a good car that’s been left on the shelf way past its sell-by date. Now in its 7th model year, the big Swede is having a hard time keeping up with the younger (and largely less expensive) competition. $37,770 base, $44,534 as tested, 4 year/50,000 mile warranty with 3 year/36,000 miles no-charge scheduled maintenance.

First Glance

The old Saab 900 was the vehicular symbol of the yuppie era, a lovably odd hatchback chock full of unique quirks that set it apart from everything else on the road. A lot has happened to Saab over the past few years. Today, the Swedish automaker is a subsidiary of General Motors and shares its technology with other GM divisions.

The present-day successor to the 900 is the 9-3; it has lost much of the 900’s Saabishness but it’s still a delightful car that upholds the Swedish manufacturer’s reputation for cars that are safe and enjoyable.

The bigger 9-5 is another story. Introduced in 1999, the 9-5 was caught right in the throes of Saab’s metamorphosis. It was (and still is) a fairly conventional car punctuated with Saab-like cues.

Though Saab has made a few efforts to modernize it, the 2005 9-5 simply feels out of date. What was innovative in ’99 is old hat now. Newer cars are nicer to drive and many perform as well as, or better than, the 9-5 in crash tests.

The 9-5 has two saving graces: Unique styling and, in the case of the wagon, a load bay big enough to have its own zip code. But, as Barry White sang, It’s just not enough, baby. Especially at the 9-5’s asking price.

In the Driver’s Seat

Saab 9-5 dash looks like it’s been pieced together rather than designed.

Aaron Gold

Up front, the 9-5’s interior is a mix of good, great, and bad. Good: Comfy seats, easy-to-read instrument panel. Great: The Night Panel feature, which dims or turns off all dashboard lights except the speedometer, aiding night vision on dark roads.

Bad: The huge driver’s airbag enclosure makes the steering wheel look clunky and dated.

They key slot for the ignition is between the front seats, a Saab tradition that allows the transmission to be locked in reverse (manual) or park (automatic). It was an effective theft deterrent in the days before electronic alarms; with the 9-5’s sophisticated electronic immobilizer, it’s more nostalgic than anything else.

The new-for-05 navigation system (a $2,795 option – yowch!) is integrated with the stereo; in fact, the stereo has to be on to use it. The in-dash CD player accepts either the navigation DVD or a CD/MP3 disc. If you want directions and tunes, you have to use the CD changer way back in the cargo bay.

Carrying cargo must be serious business in Sweden. The 9-5’s load bay is huge and the seats fold down perfectly flat. There’s a metal rack in the floor for tie-down hooks and an optional roll-out cargo tray.

The 9-5 can carry up to 928 lbs of people and cargo and tow up to 3500 lbs.

On the Road

I figured the 9-5 would be engaging to drive, what with its European lineage and $40,000 price tag. I figured wrong. The 9-5 is not as crisp as the newest Japanese and European cars, and the ride is hard and jiggly.

Still, I felt confident that I could safely avoid an accident in the 9-5. In case I was mistaken, the 9-5 has seat-mounted side airbags, but no curtain airbags to cover the window in the event of a rollover. Traction control and antilock brakes are standard.

Things are better in the powertrain department. All 9-5s are powered by a 2.3 liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Power depends on model: 185 horsepower for the $33,270 9-5 Linear, 220 hp for the $37,770 Arc, and 250 hp for the $41,470 Aero, all with front-wheel-drive and a choice of manual or automatic transmissions.

I drove an automatic Arc and thought the engine did a good impression of a V6: very smooth, without the hesitation and surging typical of turbocharged cars. Quick, too.

EPA mileage is 19 MPG city/28 highway; I managed an SUV-like 19 MPG in mixed driving, and I wasn’t pushing the car particularly hard. The 9-5 requires premium fuel, which just adds insult to injury.

Journey’s End

Cargo area holds nearly 75 cubic feet of stuff with the seats folded. Dog not included.

Other alternatives: The Volkswagen Passat wagon has nearly as much cargo space and costs a lot less, plus it gives you the option of economical diesel power. If you can do with something smaller, check out the Volvo V50 and the all-wheel-drive (AWD) Audi A4 Quattro wagon. And if you don’t see the need to pay for a fancy name, try my favorite wagon, the AWD Subaru Legacy — a great car that will run forever.

The smaller 9-3 is proof that Saab can do better, which makes the 9-5 that much more disappointing. It’s certainly not a bad car; it’s just not worth what they’re asking for it. If you want safety, space and speed, the 9-5 is good, but you can do just as well — better, even — for less money.

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