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View the cars in our FastSaloons' Fleet Search Visit our Forum   Contact Us Saab 9-5 Aero Road TestDate:08/02/2004   (Click Here for more details).OurRoadTests Saab 9-5 2.3 HOT Aero Road Test

Saab 9-5 2.3 HOT aero (auto)

Test Date
14/11/2003 - 22/11/2003

Our Thoughts
Saab's Flagship model the 9-5 Aero has 250bhp and sharp suit.

How do we rate the most unsensible Saab ?

Exterior Styling

From the front the Aero model is obvious thanks to the skirt.
The Saab 9-5 was a real move forward in terms of modern Saab design. It continued the Saab feel but brought it up to date. The Aero gains subtle but effective styling cues that emphasis it's status as the performance model. The car that arrived at FastSaloon towers was in silver, which suits the car.

In my opinion the biggest damage to the cars exterior design is the Saab 9-3. Which has moved the game on yet again, compared to the 9-3 the 9-5 looks quite dated.

The style tweaks of the Aero lessen this but against the 9-3 Aero this car looks old-school Saab.

From the front the Aero model is obvious thanks to the skirt, from the rear things are far more suitable.

Interior Styling

My first reaction to the interior is that the dash is centred around the driver. Something always attributed to BMW but now a days they are moving away from this, as seen in the new 5-Series. Its always good to see a car focused on the driver, so things are looking good.

The dash is in fact quite novel in the fact that it positioned well forward of the driver and is very vertical in appearance. In fact unlike most cars you knees are actually not under the dash, it stops before them. The central part of the dash is angled toward the driver and features, a first for me, a touch screen sat nav screen. The surface of the dash is a carbon fibre effect, and although the overall look is quite grey, works well. The rest of the dash is in good quality plastics and appears to be finished well.

Silver and black abound - the silver lifts the effect

Some unique features of the dash include the clear instrument cluster. Which contrary to the general trend has no silver or enhance dials, they are instead very simple and clear. The speedometer for example consists of just numbers and marks - with no dial as such. In addition the scale of the graduations reflects real life (and legal speeds). To do this zero to ninety mph actually utilises of the space, with the remainder one hundred to one hundred and sixty taking up the remaining space with a small scale. Thus the speedo is clear for the speeds you are likely to be do 90% of the time. This is a direct opposite to the Mitsubishi Evo we tested recently that used only about 1/3 of the visible space for it's entire one hundred and eighty mph range. This is a simple but unique feature in my experience and very sensible

A night panel view is also provided, a feature that is apparently inspired by fighter aircraft design. Basically when this is selected only the speedometer lights up, the rest of the dials (revometer, gear selector, engine temp, fuel gauge and turbo pressure guage) are all deactivated and are no longer illuminated. The sat nav also inverts its colours too. The obvious consequence of this is that you are only able to see the speedometer and therefore concentrate on the main thing at hand - driving.

Although I didn't test it, I presume the fuel gauge will be illuminated if you are running out of fuel - let me know if you ever test this.

Clear Dash and instruments. Suprisingly flakey boot handle
Specification wise as you'd expect the car is well stocked. With sat nav; cruise control; air conditioning; trip computer; electric window, sunroof and mirrors; electric adjustable and heated front seats, heated rear seats and steering wheel controls for radio, phone, auto box and cruise control.

The mirror controls are very neat and housed within the C-pillar. Ventilation is good from large vents in the dash. Another reference to the aircraft heritage of Saab is the passenger light, which is housed in the roof and looks exactly like the ones found on most passenger jets.

Typical Saab touches include the ignition being housed alongside the handbrake in the between the driver and passenger and a cup holder in the dash with an over elaborate opening/closing movement.

Ride, Handling & Steering

Soft ride but sure footed handling.
The car is quite fast, feels pretty soft but ultimately handles well. In the ride vs. handling equation the car addresses both. However, this is at the expense of driver involvement.

The car is very forgiving and is pretty good at controlling misbehaviour. On a challenging b-road it can be pushed, but ultimately it is more at home on dual carriageways and motorways. The turbo gives pretty good midrange grunt and again this suits the car as a good cruiser.

The cars size is not that evident when throwing the car around, but it is evident when it comes to braking - which is good but after a few aggressive braking tests, the brakes were showing signs of hardship.

Engine, Gearbox and Performance

2.3 Turbo produces 250bhp and 258lbft
The 2.3litre (2290cc) four-cylinder engine is helped on its way thanks to a high output turbocharger. The result is 250bhp @ 5300rpm and a useful 258lb ft of torque from a very useful 1900rpm. The auto box cost the Saab a whopping 1.3secs in the dash to 60mph (7.8secs vs. 6.5secs). Although in our test we easily managed 7.5secs to 60mph and 19.33secs to 100mph. The car has a limited top speed of 155mph.

So the Gearbox costs you some valuable performance but how does it behave ? Well the gear change from the box is pretty good the delay is 1-2 as opposed to 1-2-3 which we found in other cars tested. As usual I found that I preferred the auto setting to the manual intervention, but both modes worked pretty well. Besides the Volvo S80 T6 we tested the gearbox was far better both in change and general flexibility - the later thanks to the extra cog.

As usual we carried out our own performance using the Race Technologies AP22. We were able to comfortably beat the published 0-60mph however the auto box limits the cars potential performance.

Acceleration0-30 0-40 0-50 0-60 0-70 0-80 0-90 0-100
Saab 9-5 2.3 HOT Aero (auto) (2)
Saab 9-5 2.3 HOT Aero (auto) (2)
FastSaloons Figures








*performance stats taken on private roads, repeated runs with averages taken.


Good space front, rear and boot
Space in the 9-5 is good with reasonable legroom available front and rear. Boot capacity is also good. This car featured the through load system - allowing objects (long thin - skis etc) to be push through the rear seat.

With a combined economy of 32.1mpg the car (22.1mpg urban / 44.1mpg ex-urban) provides a decent bang for liquid buck. Compared to cars with similar power it is more economic. Its closest rival being the similarly powered Volvo S60 T5 which has a combined mpg of 30.4. Whilst the Audi 2.7 T Quattro only manages 24.4mpg.

Emissions-wise and therefore company car tax-wise the car scores 232g/km against the Volvo S60 T5's 222g/km.

Insurance wise the car falls into group 17.


The 9-5 2.3 HOT Aero costs 27,400 (with the auto version tested here costing an extra 1300 over than the manual). Comparing to its other rivals Volvo S60 T5 26295, The slightly more powerful MG ZT260 cost 27,995, Alfas gorgeous 156 GTA 28,000, Rover's V6 75 27,995. Subaru and Evo's are also in this ball park but essentially a different animal.

So how does the big Saab compare? Well it really does come down to the totally unquantifiable Saabness. The Saab possesses qualities that other cars don't - I'm still not exactly sure what they are. The car is fast, safe and comfortable, the car doesn't shout (that loudly) about its performance and does convey a message about its driver. It's nearest rival is the Volvo and in many ways the cars are similar, although the Saab is a more focused drivers car of the two. In some ways this review has no conclusion, the people who choose this car will know why.


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