2004 9-5 New Car Test Drive
For nearly 50 years, Saab has offered savvy buyers a unique alternative to the mainstream European sedan. Turbocharging, front-wheel drive and cutting-edge safety technology have made Saabs popular with those living in northern climes, whether in Sweden or the United States. A distinctive design heritage and idiosyncratic details, mounting the ignition on the center console among them, endear Saabs to people all over the world.
Saab's first larger sedan, the quirky 9000, debuted in 1985 and quickly built a cult following. When the 9000 evolved into the 9-5 for model year 2000, Saab made its largest car even more powerful and, as some Saab-philes believe, more mainstream. Since then, the 9-5 has been steadily refined.
For 2004, Saab makes a few changes to the 9-5 model lineup. Both sedans and wagons are available. This year, however, the base 9-5 Linear comes only as a wagon. The mid-level 9-5 Arc has been freshened with lower-body cladding, while the line-topping Aero gets even more aggressive cladding. Saab has revised some of the standard and optional equipment packaging for the 2004 Arc and Aero models.
The biggest change: The 9-5 Arc drops its V6 and automatic transmission in favor of a more powerful turbocharged four-cylinder engine with a 5-speed manual. Automatic transmission remains optional across the line, and we recommend going with the automatics.
The 2004 Saab 9-5 isn't the cheapest car in the class, but the upper models are terrific cars and good choices for drivers who don’t want a cookie-cutter car.
The Saab 9-5 (pronounced 'nine-five') is available in three trim levels, Linear, Arc, and Aero, and the differences among them go well beyond their distinctly Swedish names. Each has a distinct personality, with individual interior styles, different performance levels, and different price points to suit the priorities of their buyers.
The 2004 Saab 9-5 Linear is offered only as a wagon. The Linear SportWagon ($32,220) is powered by Saab's 185-horsepower 2.3-liter light-pressure turbocharged four-cylinder engine, comes with an impressive level of standard equipment, including 16-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, leather-faced seats with leather-trimmed steering wheel, a walnut-trimmed instrument panel, power heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, cabin air filter, power windows, power central locking, steering-wheel audio controls, AM/FM/CD/cassette stereo with seven speakers, and front and rear fog lights. Also standard are a host of features you'll pay extra for with many cars in this class: a cooled glovebox, heated exterior mirrors, an integrated antenna in the rear glass, and a removable parcel shelf in the back. The 9-5 Linear delivers a good value among luxury wagons.
Options available on the Linear SportWagon include a five-speed automatic transmission ($1,350); the OnStar emergency communication system with hands-free telephone ($699); a Cargo package, which includes a park assist system and retractable cargo net ($795); and the Comfort package, which adds a power sliding glass sunroof, high-pressure headlight washers and heated front seats ($1,695).
The Arc model is intended to fill the 9-5's sports-luxury role, and to emphasize that point, it gets a sportier engine for 2004: a 220-horsepower 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. It comes standard with a five-speed manual transmission. The 9-5 Arc sedan ($34,430) and wagon ($35,140) come standard with everything you'll find on the Linear SportWagon, adding unique 16-inch alloy wheels and walnut interior trim, color-matched body trim, heated front seats, headlight washers, power glass sunroof and integrated front fog lamps. Ventilated seats are no longer standard on the Arc, but they're available as an option.
Options for the 9-5 Arc include a five-speed automatic transmission packaged with the ventilated front seats ($995). The Premium package ($1,495) includes auto dimming rearview mirror with integrated garage door opener and digital compass, three-position memory function on the driver's seat and an upgraded nine-speaker, 200-watt Harman Kardon stereo system. The Touring package ($795), which requires the Premium package, includes rain-sensing wipers, Saab park assist and auto-dimming outside mirrors. OnStar is available with a hands-free telephone. A 17-inch sport wheel and tire package ($750) and bi-xenon headlamps ($500) have been added to the Arc's option list for 2004.
The Aero delivers the ultimate in 9-5 performance, starting with a 2.3-liter High-Output Turbo (HOT) four-cylinder engine rated at 250 horsepower. Aero sedans ($39,465) and wagons ($40,170) also get the full-on sports treatment with features not available on other 9-5 models. These include a lowered sports suspension, unique 17-inch wheels, chrome exhaust tips, a sport steering wheel, special bolstered leather sport seats, and metallic-finish dash trim. Also standard are the an auto-dimming rearview mirror with digital compass and integrated garage door opener, power glass sunroof, memory for the driver's seat and the nine-speaker Harman Kardon audio. Perhaps the most exciting standard feature of Aero models: an intensive two-day driving school at the Road Atlanta circuit exclusively for Aero owners. We recommend taking advantage of it.
Aero options include the ventilated seats, Touring package, automatic transmission and bi-xenon headlights. A Sport Tech package ($500) adds two-tone seats and a carbon-fiber instrument panel.