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What Car? says

3 out of 5 stars

For Massive boot, spacious cabin, smooth and refined ride

Against Not as entertaining as rivals, bigger engine too powerful for chassis

Verdict A good all-rounder, and cheap - a cracking used buy

Go for… 2.3-litre turbocharged petrol

Avoid… Aero HOT

Saab 9-5 Saloon
  • 1. Check for uneven tyre wear, because the suspension is a reported weak point
  • 2. Don't touch the 250bhp 2.3 HOT Aero. It's too expensive to buy and struggles to cope with its power
  • 3. Check all the electrics and switches work properly - they are the 9-5's weakest point
  • 4. The boot is a good size and shape
  • 5. The cabin is roomy, comfortable and generally well screwed-together
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Saab 9-5 Saloon full review with expert trade views

Estate versions aren’t always as versatile as they should be – they’re usually good to drive, but their practicality suffers because the big boot was thrown on as an afterthought. The 9-5 estate is an exception. It’s one of the few that provides a proper load area, and, as such, it’s more than just a ‘lifestyle’ load-carrier.

The cabin is roomy and comfortable. It can’t match its German rivals on the quality or the classiness of their interiors, but it’s well built.

True, it isn’t as sharp to drive as the equivalent BMW or Mercedes, but that doesn’t stop it being very capable in its own right. The handling is perfectly acceptable, the ride is terrific and refinement is up there with the best in the class.

Its biggest strength, though, is value for money. The 9-5 is a good deal cheaper to buy than its German competition, and it won’t cost the earth to run.

Trade view

Kurtis Williams

Horrible dash. Very solid car that feels safe. It's just ugly

Kurtis Williams
Buyer,
Lex Vehicle Leasing

A face-lift in 2006 brought a new engine, the 1.9-litre turbodiesel. It’s a peach, giving 150bhp while providing fuel economy of 44.1mpg. It’s refined, too.

The chances are you’ll be looking at an older car, though. If so, we’d recommend the 185bhp 2.3-litre petrol engine. The diesels in the earlier cars weren’t much cop and are too expensive. The 2.0-litre petrol is our favourite in the 9-5 saloon, but the estate really benefits from the 2.3’s extra oomph. The 2.3 is also available with a meatier turbo to give 220bhp, but it isn’t that much quicker, and the extra power puts a dent in your fuel economy. The HOT Aero gives 250bhp, but it’s too expensive and the front-wheel drive chassis has trouble coping with the power.

Go for the basic Linear trim to keep costs down. You’ll still get traction control, climate control, alloys, a CD player and four electric windows.

Trade view

John Owen

Big load-lugger - good value, avoid Aero variant. Diesel a good option

John Owen
Buyer,
Fords of Winsford

Just as the 9-5 saloon is one of the cheaper executive cars, the estate is one of the more inexpensive premium wagons. It was less to buy from new than BMW and Mercedes rivals, and it didn’t hold its value as well, so used examples can be had for next to nothing.

Insurance costs shouldn’t be too bad, either. All variants except the HOT Aero range from groups 13-15 for insurance, with our favourite 2.3-litre engine sitting in group14. The HOT 9-5 estate is in group 17, which is yet another reason to give it a miss.

Our favourite engine is among the most frugal in the range of petrol-powered 9-5s – it’s only 0.4mpg behind the leanest 2.0-litre. Whichever powerplant you choose, though, your fuel costs will prove broadly similar to the equivalent E-Class or 5 Series. The same goes for servicing costs, because all three companies charge similar rates for maintenance work.

Trade view

Kurtis Williams

Horrible dash. Very solid car that feels safe. It's just ugly

Kurtis Williams
Buyer,
Lex Vehicle Leasing

The 9-5’s reliability record makes fairly depressing reading, according to figures provided by Warranty Direct, especially when you consider that Saab is supposed to be a prestige brand. Our last reliability survey found the 9-5 to be one of the most troublesome cars you can buy, so spend some time on finding a good one.

The electrics cause the biggest number of problems, so play with all the switches and make sure everything works properly before you hand over any cash. Also, check the service history for any signs of past problems. Suspension faults are the second-biggest area of complaint, so check for irregular squeaks from underneath, and uneven tyre wear.

If something does go wrong, however, your repair bills should be slightly cheaper than average. Saab’s franchised dealers charge very reasonable hourly labour rates, and BMW and Merc owners will pay a lot more for their work.

Trade view

John Owen

Big load-lugger - good value, avoid Aero variant. Diesel a good option

John Owen
Buyer,
Fords of Winsford
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