Scandinavians are known for being masters of minimalism. It's an approach that reveals itself in myriad ways, from the spare, elegant lines of Danish Modern furniture to the bare-bones austerity seen in the films of director Lars von Trier. It's also evident in the 2007 Saab 9-5, and indeed, all cars produced by the Swedish manufacturer. Saab has carved a niche for itself as the marque of choice for those seeking vehicles with unfussy, idiosyncratic design.
Saab's 9-5 model lineup includes two configurations: a midsize sedan and a wagon. Last year, the 9-5 received a host of updates, including an exterior facelift, a retuned suspension and a new control layout. As a result, the car's handling has improved, with smoother overall ride quality. However, the Saab 9-5 still strikes us as a car that's in need of a full redesign, not just another update. Ride quality remains choppy on uneven pavement, and wind noise is excessive for a premium-brand car. Additionally, the car's 2.3-liter engine lags behind its current crop of rivals in terms of refinement. The car's interior is fine in terms of ergonomics, but materials quality is a bit spotty when one considers that this is a car with a mid-$30K sticker price.
The 2007 Saab 9-5 resides in a segment teeming with quality contenders. While the wagon (SportCombi) is still a reasonable choice for family use given its sizable cargo capacity, in general, the 9-5 is outclassed by its competition when it comes to luxury, performance and refinement. Those craving a classic Saab car may find it appealing, but we think that discerning buyers will find cars like the Acura TL, Lexus ES 350 and Volkswagen Passat more satisfying overall.
The midsize 2007 Saab 9-5 is available in two body styles -- sedan and wagon (SportCombi), each of which comes in one trim. Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, a moonroof, power front seats, heated leather front and rear seats, a cooled glove compartment, dual-zone climate control, full power features, heated exterior mirrors, a six-disc in-dash Harman Kardon CD changer and satellite radio. An optional visibility package adds bi-HID xenon headlights, rear parking assist, auto-dimming exterior mirrors and rain-sensing wipers. An Aero package adds a lowered, sport-tuned chassis, sport seats and metallic-finish trim. Stand-alone extras include ventilated front seats, rear parking assist, a navigation system and General Motors' OnStar telematics system.
Most drivers will find the 9-5's seats exceptionally comfortable, especially those equipped with the optional heating and ventilation feature. Materials quality could use improvement in some spots, but passenger room is excellent all around. A split-folding rear seat and nearly 16 cubic feet of trunk space give the Saab 9-5 an added level of versatility. The SportCombi wagon supplies 37 cubic feet of luggage capacity with the rear seats in use and 73 cubes when they're folded.
A turbocharged, 2.3-liter inline four-cylinder rated for 260 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque is standard on all 9-5s. A standard five-speed manual transmission routes power to the front wheels. A five-speed automatic with sport and manual modes is optional.
Once the turbo spools up, the 2.3-liter delivers plenty of power for this class, though not in as refined a manner as we'd like. Unlike most sport sedans and wagons, the 2007 Saab 9-5 is preferable with the automatic transmission, as its shorter gearing is better suited to the turbo engine's unusual power band. Last year's chassis upgrades provide noticeably improved handling, and this along with the 9-5's relatively low curb weight gives it a nimble feel through corners. Competitors have sharper reflexes, though, and torque steer remains an issue under hard acceleration. Ride quality is smoother than before, though it's still a little harsh over bumps.
All 9-5 models feature active head restraints and front seat side airbags that protect the heads and torsos of front occupants. No airbag protection is available for rear occupants. Antilock disc brakes as well as stability and traction control are standard on all models. In government crash testing, the 2007 Saab 9-5 earned a perfect five stars for driver and front-passenger protection in frontal impacts. In side-impact tests, the Saab received five stars for front-occupant protection and four stars for the rear. The IIHS gave the 9-5 a "Good" rating (the best possible) in frontal-offset crash testing and a second-best "Average" score for side-impact crash protection.
Saab adds a 9-5 Anniversary Special Edition to its lineup, though that model won't debut until midyear. Also, last year's Sport Package has been replaced by the Aero Package.