Saab likes to play up its aerospace associations. Whilst the Saab 9-5 hasn't been a soaraway success in terms of UK sales, it's business class credentials make it worth a look on the used market. Often denied a take off slot by rivals from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, the 9-5 is a stylish partner for the long haul traveller. With the 9-5, Saab gained clearance to enter the big league, and the car has quietly proved itself capable of taking on the establishment. Saab customers are a loyal bunch. Land a used 9-5 and you may be tempted to upgrade to their frequent flyer club.
The 9-5's immediate predecessor, the 9000 series, was a bold attempt by Saab to share underpinnings with Lancia, Fiat and Alfa Romeo. Often seen today, this concept was maybe a little before its time when the range was launched in 1989. Since being enveloped by General Motors, Saab has been able to express its Swedish-ness whilst dipping into a vast pool of expertise. The 9-5 model rides on an extended version of Vauxhall's Vectra floorpan, but anybody expecting repmobile ambience will be pleasantly surprised by it.
Introduced in June 1997, the 9-5 range initially consisted of the 2.0-litre and 2.3-litre cars, in either standard or SE specification. The 2.0-litre models were powered by an 'Ecopower' light pressure turbocharged four cylinder engine that developed 150bhp. The 2.3-litre cars used similar turbocharger technology in order to provide smooth power delivery, and these four cylinder engines produced 170bhp. All of the 2.0 and 2.3-litre cars were four-door cars, available with either a five-speed manual gearbox or a four-speed automatic option. The 3.0-litre cars were introduced in February 1998 and boasted a 200bhp engine. These were available only with the four-speed automatic box.
In July 1998 a mechanically identical luxury version of the V6 was launched, christened the Griffin. October 1998 saw the range supplemented by handsome five door estate versions. 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.
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.