The Saab 9-5 Estate debuted in October 1998 and was an instant hit with business users looking for something smart but not too sensible. Developments to the line up came thick and fast. In 1999 a more sporting option was launched, the Aero. This was a 2.3-litre car fitted with an aggressive bodykit, and suspension modifications designed to handle all 230bhp the 'HOT' designated engine now developed. Saab had turned back the clock to old-school 'big bang' turbocharging with some panache. The mean look was well received and the Saab 9-5 'Airflow' range of cars was introduced in January 2000, giving the four cylinder cars a more sporting appearance. These cars lasted until that Autumn when Saab introduced a series of range upgrades and added a more powerful 185bhp 2.3-litre petrol engine to sit above the existing 150bhp 2.0-litre unit.
The range received a facelift in summer 2001, with a different grille, bigger bumpers and some interior tweaks. The Aero's engine was boosted to 250bhp and a 3.0-litre diesel model, the TiD, was announced alongside a 2.2-litre diesel unit purloined from the 9-3 range. The 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine was ditched in autumn 2003 to make way for a more powerful, more economical, less expensive and less dirty 2.3T powerplant boasting a hefty 220bhp wallop. The 9-5 line-up was improved significantly for the 2004 model year, with the introduction on 5-speed automatic variants of Saab's Sentronic gear selection featuring a gearchange via steering wheel mounted buttons. Electrically powered door mirrors were adopted from the 9-3 Sport Saloon and could be specified with an automatic folding function to make parking or manoeuvring in confined spaces that bit easier. This was available together with automatic dimming to eliminate dazzle. Inside the car, there were a few changes too, the most obvious of which were two revised fascia panels which could be specified in either dark grey walnut veneer or carbon fibre. Other options included ventilated sports seats and a state of the art DVD-based navigation system with a 7-inch colour touch screen LCD panel. The final tweak was the addition of two metallic paint finishes - Merlot Red and Graphite Green. Trim levels were also revised, the line up currently standing at Linear, Linear Sport, Vector, Vector Sport and HOT Aero.
A further hefty facelift in the later stages of 2005 brought a sleeker look to the 9-5 front end. There were even bioethanol fuelled versions to consider.