2003 9-5 Aero: the prequel

See that very attractive Swede on the left?  That’s the sweet ride I’ll be picking up tomorrow morning!

Following my drive of the 9-3 Aero last weekend, I’ve been provided with a 9-5 Aero to drive for a few days by our local dealer – Tony at Motors Saab.  What a guy!

I thought it’d be a good idea to record my expectations beforehand.  That way I can come back Tuesday and compare expectations to realities.  I should point out that whilst my previous experience in a 9-5 cockpit is limited, I have driven a 9-5 Aero Wagon around a racetrack at reasonably high speed (check out the sidewalls!) – an experience that provides my frame of reference for the weekend.

So, the expectations?

  1. I’m expecting a superior level of cabin comfort.  Superb seating and driving position and pretty low levels of road and tyre noise.
  2. I’m expecting the car to be pretty quick off the line and to have plenty of go when it’s needed, but I’m also expecting the car to be creamy smooth around the ‘burbs.
  3. I’m expecting it to have a little less road feel then the Viggen, much like the new 9-3 that I drove last week.
  4. I’m expecting it to be capable in the twisties, though a little less so than the new 9-3.
  5. I’m expecting that the 9-5 will absolutely excel as a distance cruiser.  I can’t take it long-distance as I’ve got to keep the km’s down, but a trip to Richmond village should provide enough opportunity to get a feel.

Other than those, I’m not sure what else to expect.  It’s going to be great fun for 2.5 days and I’ll be writing it all up, evaluating those expectations, next Tuesday.

(of course, regular posting will still be happening between now and then).

You may also like


  1. Slab to you if you return it to Tony with scrubbed tyre’s again..

    Priceless moment, standing beside Tony when you came around the back straight with the tyres squealing and the boot firmly planted on the floor and Tony just said..S@#T what have i done, i will never sell this car!!

    Enjoy the ride and keep her under 130 this time 😉


  2. I hope you enjoy the 9-5 Aero! I also hope that it has a proper manual transmission. Although the sentronics and tiptronics of the world are convenient, many are loosing sight of the real thing. For complete driver envolvement, participation, control and safety, it better have 3 pedals. Drive a 5 speed manual. I can’t wait to read your review. Kudos for such a top notch website. This is the standard!

  3. Cheers Don. I can tell you already that it’s the tiptronic with the paddles on the steering wheel. I’d have preferred a manual too, but beggars can’t be choosers.

    Al- that was a heck of a day, huh? I still maintain that the first screech from those tyres was heard with YOU behind the wheel. Bloody hilarious. I’ve never worked so hard through a corner for such a slow result!

  4. My advice is to keep it in auto all the time…trying to use the wheelbuttons will just get you disapointed as they’re really slow to react. You are correct the the 9-5 excells in long distance driving. I drive my collegues 9-5 quite often (as he prefers to ride along) 400km to a customer in the morning, meeting all day and then driving 400km home again without feeling too tired is not a problem. 🙂

  5. I’ve got the sentronic with the buttons on the wheel on my 9-5 Linear wagon. They’re no good for driving as noted above their reaction time is slow, also the brains of the box is paranoid about the engine and won’t change down even when the revs aren’t that high. Saying that though i’ve never believed the sentronic paddles were meant to be a driving aid as in sportiness but are there for such things as holding a gear downhills or in situations where you might want to keep in the one gear.
    I find the autobox matches excellently to the power band of the lpt engine especially with Sport engaged and i rarely find myself longing for manual selection. Mind you, it’s not an Aero and i might just be getting old:>)

  6. I’ve ‘just’ got my second 9-5 wagon, and both have been with automatic transmissions. The first one was a 2001 SE Estate with a 4 speed auto, the 9-5 I’m driving today is a 2005 Vector SportWagon with a 5 speed automatic gearbox with sentronic. I felt a huge improvement going from 4 to 5 speed, the 5 speed has some very smooth gear shiftings and it seems to be more determent in which gear to use in all conditions compared with the 4 shifts box. The sentronic is more or less used downhill and also in some rare situations when driving maybe is in a more active mode, but mostly the auto boxes works best in position normal and sport. Maybe said this before, but I just looove my 9-5! ;/)

  7. I agree with all said above, Swade, certainly including your site being the “standard.” That said, I want to caution you about a few things in your 2.5 days of driving. First off, don’t let having “little less road feel than the Viggen” fool you, because the combination of smoother ride, poise, and effortlessness control with the highly sophisticated 9-5 Aero means you’ll be entering turns faster than in all previous, as well as existing, SAABs. You just won’t realize. Hence, my warning: as you begin to drive more aggressively, be aware of the fact you don’t realize how fast you’re entering turns, and be prepared to commit once you’re in the bend. The car is stunningly unflappable even near the limits — especially with the stability control — but allow yourself to become accustomed to the 9-5 Aero’s uniquely unusual combination of luxury ride and sports car handling. One of the reasons SAAB tightened up the 9-5’s suspension for 2006 was because people were having some trouble adjusting to that seeming contradiction. After six months of driving my 2002 five-speed (Don’s right, it’s ashame you can’t get the shifter to drive) 9-5 Aero, I compared it to my 9000 Aero this way: The 9000 felt like a high dollar sports car and acted like a high dollar sports car; the 9-5 feels like a luxury European tourer, yet acts like an even higher dollar sports car.
    It takes months of getting used to the “softer” suspension before you realize the car is even more capable than the current 9-3 in the twisties. Less than 10 months after selling my beloved 9000 Aero, I still can’t believe the 9-5 is even a better handler all around. As an admitted GM hater, that was painful to admit, even though GM had nothing to do with this dynamic vehicle’s development. The platform is actually a variation of the old 9000 platform, which was originally an independently manufactured platform (also used, and still used, by Volvo and, I believe, Peugeot or Renault) later purchased by Opel. Anyway, you’ll know you’ve learned to drive the 9-5 Aero when you quit thinking of it primarily as “excelling in long distance driving,” even though it does without doubt. But I have been driving SAABs since 1975 for the thrill of the SAAB driving experience, and the 9-5 Aero, foremost, is the most uncannily delightful thrill machine: The ride of a luxury Euro sedan, yet the handling of a high dollar Euro sports car — albeit with front wheel drive. That realization won’t occur with only 2.5 days of driving, but enjoy yourself, be careful, and don’t forget to experiment with the monster overtaking ability of the car. To paraphrase a test drive of the original Aero, you can look at the impressive performance numbers, but none of it makes your eyes pop as when you drop into third and step on it to pass some guy who “thought” he was driving briskly. Notice I didn’t say, “have fun.” The relatively small and light 9-3 is “fun.” The Aero — after you learn to drive it — has ultra dynamic capabilities like the Viggen, and I don’t call that fun; rather, it’s serious performance driving not for the faint of heart. My SAAB fanatic mechanic and I regularly “kill” Porsches in our respective 9-5 Aeros, in all road scenarios.

  8. Lol! I’ve just been sitting out in the front garden reading SaabMissions (the magazine of the Saab Car Club Of Australia) and the Tasmanian chairmans report eludes time and again to some chap named Steve Wade and how he manages to scrub the tread off the tyres of any car he tests. I think tonight somewhere in beautiful Tassie is a 9-5 Aero with rather bald tyres:>)

  9. You are indeed lucky Steve, that a trip to Richmond via my place invariably includes a twisty bit of road used in Targa (Grass Tree Hill). Watch out for the pedalist brigade though. Particularly in light of my namesakes’ comments I’m starting to develop an interest in 9-5’s. Cheers mate, Bill.

  10. I hope you get to try one, Bill — an Aero. That said, with your extremely low SAAB sales volume in the Australia, it might not be easy. Here in the USA northeast and upper southeast, i.e., metropolitan Wasington, DC, it’s just a matter of dropping in to the local dealer. I missed an opportunity to try the tightened up 2006 model during SAAB January open house. The press is saying the ’06 handles even better. Of course, the average know-it-all-give-me-rear-wheel-drive auto journalist can’t drive the car, but thinks he or she can. Thus, you don’t see the proper praise you should for the 9-5, particularly the Aero. Not to say I don’t expect the handling to be even more dynamic, which makes me rather shudder to think about. This is a 160 mph/257 kph car without a limiter on it — you can’t imagine how dynamic yet effortless it feels even in turns at 110 mph/177 kph and above. The only way to enjoy it to the maximum is to drive one on a race track or in Germany. ONE FINAL NOTE: I considered replacing my 200,000 mile but still perfectly running 9000 Aero with a Viggen, but my mechanic kept pushing the Aero. I didn’t want to lose the hatch, but since he never “steered” me wrong, I went 9-5 and have never regretted the decision. Cheers.

  11. Thanks Bill. When I get a chance I’ll try one out. I’ve been thinking about getting a newer model to go with my collection of old bangers. Must be a 2.3, so 9000 Aero, Viggen etc? But taking in to account comments I’m reading a 9-5 Aero (other than pretty conservative styling) shapes up very well. You are right though about availability. I’ve just searched most Aus car sales sites, and while there are a few Aeros for sale (including Steve’s borrowed car) there is only one, a 2000MY, with 3 pedals. Which raises a question. What are good years for 9-5’s? Cheers, Bill.

  12. Fantastic reading from true fans !!! I’m lucky to own a late model 2001 9-5 Aero which is manly my wife’s car. But, I never miss the opportunity to take it for a spin even if it is just to the local shops to get milk and bread. To me what is most impressive aside from the speed and how quick and responsive (auto in S mode), is the how it sits on the road. It is simply superb. I am yet to experience another European sports car that has the ride and stability as the 9-5 Aero has and still be in the luxury category. The comments form the Bills that it’s a “sporty luxury European” are spot on. I’ll be keen to test the new 06 Aero as soon as one is available, I’ll even try it in Melbourne if I have to.

  13. Bill … I’ve not heard of any “bad” years for 9-5 Aeros, unlike the 9000 which had a few rough years 1987 maybe through 1989. However, I’d suggest consulting a mechanic to be sure. Keep in mind the original Aero suspension, 1999 through 2001, was softer than the 2002 and beyond models. If you’re like me and want the sportiest feel, you’ll look for 2002 or newer. However, Joe loves the stability of his wife’s 2001 9-5 Aero. So you might want to do your own comparison of the suspension set ups. SWade is now reporting his initial impressions of the 9-5 were fairly close, which suggests to me he still has a way to go to learn to drive the car. I had the same situation with my 9000 Aero, taking six months before I realized I had the best SAAB ever from a handling/driving perspective. The 1993 words of US SAAB enthusiast Jack Ashcroft about the 9000 Aero can, I believe, be extended to the 9-5 model: “The 9000 Aero is flatly the finest road vehicle I have ever driven, particularly when driving at speeds most drivers only dream about. This car has high-speed road capability well beyond 95% or all other cars on any back road, no matter what wheels you are up against. The 9000 Aero is one very fast, safe automobile.” I wouldn’t rule out a 9000 for yourself, if 9-5 hunting continues to be so difficult. While rather aged, it’s still a great ride. So is the Viggen, but much less “forgiving” to driver error.

  14. Thanks Bill,

    I’ve just driven an ’03 9-5 Aero!!!! I’ll wait until Swade posts before saying any more, but one day one of those will be a worthy successor to my loved 9000 Carlsson. Bill

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *