What's New for 2002
Although it looks similar to last year's model, the 2002 9-5 has undergone extensive changes. There are now three distinct models, each with its own look and feature content. A new five-speed automatic transmission is available on all models, while the top-of-the-line Aero gets more power. Revisions to both the steering and suspension systems increase performance, while a new electronic stability control system and adaptive front airbags improve safety.
Long considered an off-beat niche automaker, Saab has finally equipped its top-of-the-line 9-5 sedans and wagons with enough luxury and performance to take on Europe's finest. Instead of confusing combinations of letters and numbers to designate each model, the 9-5 lineup is now broken up into three distinct "architectural forms," each with its own personality and feature content.
The Linear is the base model, employing a 2.3-liter turbocharged 185-hp four-cylinder engine and a standard five-speed manual or optional five-speed automatic transmission. Traction control, ABS, 16-inch alloy wheels, and front and rear foglights all come standard. Interior highlights include standard leather upholstery, walnut trim, power/heated seats, front and side airbags, and the OnStar communications system.
Arc models feature a 3.0-liter turbocharged 200-hp V6 mated to the five-speed automatic transmission. An Electronic Stability Program (ESP) comes standard along with ventilated front seats, three-position driver seat memory, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and an upgraded Harman-Kardon-tuned audio system.
For maximum performance, there's the top-of-the-line Aero. Its 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder pumps out 250 hp and can be mated to either a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic. Unless you're a die-hard manual fan, pick the automatic, as its sport mode delivers amazingly quick responses that will rarely leaving you wishing for a stick shift. Aero models also get a performance-tuned suspension, 17-inch wheels and tires, leather sport seats and metallic dash trim.
All 9-5s feature minor exterior upgrades to the front and rear fascias, as well as revised steering and suspension systems. Interior upgrades include adaptive airbags, improved seatbelts and ISOFIX child seat anchors. Optional on Arc and Aero models are new bi-xenon headlights, a rear parking assist system and rain-sensing wipers. 9-5 wagons are some of the roomiest in the class with 73 cubic feet of cargo room and adjustable tie-down anchors for securing loose items.
With their extensive features list and strong, yet economical, powerplants, Saab's revamped 9-5 lineup certainly deserves a look if you're in the market for a well-appointed luxury sedan or wagon. The revised steering and suspension systems give the 9-5 a decidedly sporty feel, while the new five-speed automatic transmission does an excellent job of making the best of the turbocharged powerplants. Throw in the added safety of electronic stability control, state-of-the-art airbag protection, and its well-appointed, sharp-looking cabins, and the 9-5 should have no trouble appealing to more than just "niche" buyers.