I wrote a review below in 2007. Since then, i have had to do only the water pump, which started leaking only after i power flushed the coolant. Really can't believe how solidly this car was built. I also have the auto and wish i had a stick shift. And my car was a NYC car for the first 50K of it's life. But these cars were built for cold weather... overbuilt really. Anyone who has not seen the Top Gear Saab Tribute from a few months ago should head over to Youtube right now. Saab really did build a better car.. a car to last for decades. It's a dam shame what happened to them. Their attention to every detail, the quality of construction, and pride in engineering are inspiring.
I actually have the automatic, which I bought in the name of practicality because I live in Los Angeles and I sit in hours of traffic every week -- but since buying the car, I half-wish I had a stick because this car is so much fun to drive. Originally from MA, the car's undercarriage rusted significantly before I bought it, which has caused a dearth of minor(ish) problems. Though, in the car's defense, none that you wouldn't expect to see on a 17-year-old vehicle with mostly original equipment. I have taken it from 82K miles a couple of years ago to about 107K today without any major repairs. Build quality, especially where the interior is concerned, is a bit lacking.
Fantastically taut suspension -- great at cornering, and generally a fantastic road car. The gas pedal is short and stiff, much like BMW's from the same period. The passing power of the full-pressure Turbo in the 9000 surpasses my father's Mercedes SLK on the freeway. Much more fun to drive, and much less ubiquitous styling than my previous base model Volvo S70 (0-60 was so slow that I normally found it too depressing to keep count after 9 seconds). Also much more connected and communicative than my Volvo or my first car, a Mercedes 190E 2.3. The seats are comfortable, not outstanding. Generally, the interior design is quite elegant and true to the brand's Scandinavian heritage.
Interior build quality hasn't been as good as my Volvo and Mercedes. Plastic bits break easily, like the switches on the power seats or the foot lights in the doors. No tears in the leather, but lots of wear. Despite cavernous interior for the size of the vehicle, not enough small storage areas (i.e. no glove compartment). Minor repairs are needed every few thousand miles, though mostly just usual wear-and-tear (engine mounts, brake shoes). The ride is a bit stiff and low for LA's pothole-covered roads, but this is easily because the car still rides on its original struts. Repairs can be costly, but are generally less than Volvo or Mercedes in my experience. Parts break, not whole mechanisms
I recently bought a '97 9000 Aero to upgrade and use as a spare car for fun drives. Having always loved the cars back when they were new, having the resources now to buy one and refurbish it was a no brainer. After a suspension overhaul, clutch, Stage 1 ECU upgrade, thicker sway bars, and a few other bits and pieces, this 9000 is as new. It's fast, comfortable, has the best seats every designed, and yet still gets 32mpg on the highway, for such a large car. Saab's bankruptcy was very sad to see. As a Saab fan, I was hoping for a new '12 9-5 wagon. That being said, this 5 speed fast hatch will keep me happy for many years to come. I'd rather drive this car than many newer cars.
Uniqueness in today's automotive marketplace, Seats, turbo performance, solid build quality, handling, 23 cu feet of cargo space.
Few rattles here and there, but more due to age than build quality.
With a few miles short of 270,000 I can safely say this is the best car I have ever owned. I bought this Saab new and have driven it 80-85% highway. Highway mileage driving at 75+ MPH is 28/29, well beyond original rating. I have put tires on it every 60-80K, oil every 5-6K, and exhaust systems every 70-90K. Beyond these, only a fuel pump and two clutches and scheduled maintenance. The best and still running like a top.