Long celebrated as the car company that enjoyed breaking the mold - two-stroke engines and front-wheel drive, not to mention ignition switches on the floor - Saab now has cars that may seem mainstream. That is, until you look below the surface.
The new Saab 9-5 bridges the gap between innovation and mainstream goodness. Entirely new for 1999, the 9-5 is also a showcase for three world-first technologies: the Saab Active Head Restraint system, ventilated seats, and an innovative, asymmetrically turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 engine.
Production of the V-6 engine began this fall. This unique design uses an integrated low-pressure turbocharger on the front cylinder bank, one that feeds compressed air to the entire transverse-mounted V-6 engine. The engine’s usable power band is both broad and low. And when matched to an electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission with economy, sport, and winter driving modes, it’s a pleasure to drive.
However, the base 9-5 doesn’t come with that engine. A four-cylinder turbo is the base powerplant, with 170 horsepower and a quick-footed feel, especially with the five-speed manual transmission. You may not even miss the six-cylinder for all the base 9-5’s features: it includes an air-conditioned glove box, six powerful windshield wiper nozzles, an in-dash CD player and cassette audio system, dual-zone automatic climate control, four cup holders, double divided sun visors, and much more.
If you’d like, you can add a four-speed automatic transmission ($1,110), a power glass sunroof ($1,110), an integrated rear child seat ($270, and a front and rear heated seat package ($500), a leather interior package ($1,315), or the industry’s first ventilated front seats, packaged with the leather option and adding driver-side memory ($1,800).
Of course, if you won’t settle for less than the V-6, Saab can put you in the top-of-the-line Saab 9-5 SE, with the 225-hp high-output V-6 and automatic transmission, plus a leather interior, a premium Harman Kardon nine-speaker audio system, a Saab Car Computer that performs multiple trip calculations, a power glass sunroof, and memory/power front seats. The price for the Saab 9-5 SE is $36,800.
Standard on both four- and six-cylinder models is Saab’s excellent safety equipment package. Saab uses frontal and two-stage side airbags, as well as a new force-reducing front seat belt and pretensioners. Anti-lock brakes are standard as well The newest safety innovation is the Saab Active Head Restraint system, which uses the force of the upper body in a collision to brace the seat headrest, reducing whiplash injuries.