Currently reading: Used buying guide: Saab 9-5
Even a decade after the funeral, many enthusiasts are still mourning Saab. If you're among them, make the most of its wonderfully fitting parting gift
John Evans
News
5 mins read
27 September 2021

Is there a better rear than the Saab 9-5’s? Clamping eyes on it is to be reminded how much we car lovers lost when it was pulled a decade ago as Saab went bust.

The 9-5 came in for some harsh criticism at its launch in 2010 (testers bemoaned its pattery ride, wallowy handling and poor noise isolation), but all that’s forgotten when you see one today. The fact is it has future classic written all over it, for three reasons: it was Saab’s last hurrah, a defiant finger at a General Motors prepared to let it go; it’s handsome, beautifully made and classy; and it’s vanishingly rare. As an aside, it’s also roomy, well equipped and well built.

There was also a 9-5 estate, but the UK only received the saloon, with its aforementioned rear.

On the petrol side were three turbocharged units: a 180bhp 1.6-litre four-cylinder, a 220bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder and a 296bhp 2.8-litre V6 sourced from Holden. As for the diesels, there was the 158bhp TiD and the 186bhp TTiD, these 2.0-litre four-pot units based on a Fiat block with a Saab head. Don’t pass on the 1.6 petrol if you find one, because it’s strong and deceptively quick. The diesels are gruff and noisy but economical and quick – particularly the 2.0 TTiD.

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With regular maintenance, they will go the distance, too. We found a 2011 2.0 TTiD Aero with 108,000 miles, a full service history and a fresh timing belt and water pump for £5950. That’s serious value. We would have made it our ‘One we found’ choice but for the fact that the 2.0T petrol is the pick of the engines, being smooth and powerful.

By the way, regarding the particulate filter on the diesels, it should give no trouble, because it’s tucked up close to the exhaust manifold, where it gets nice and hot and therefore doesn’t clog up.

Versions of the 9-5 fitted with Saab’s XWD four-wheel drive system had an innovative rear suspension system that was claimed to improve ride and handling (eventually, Saab did tweak the standard set-up, too). To this, the 2.8T added GM’s HiPer Strut system at the front to sharpen the handling and improve steering feel. This version of the 9-5 is extremely rare and pricey.

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The more powerful models also came with magnetically controlled dampers and a system Saab called DriveSense, offering three modes (Sport, Comfort and Intelligent) and fine-tuning the throttle and steering responses to prevailing conditions. Reviewers rated it, especially in combination with the 2.0T engine. However, it does bring an extra layer of complexity to a car whose parts supply situation isn’t the best.

There were two trims, called Aero and Vector SE. Aero was the most expensive, featuring leather sports seats and headlight washers. Sat-nav was optional.

For a stress-free life, no matter which engine, gearbox and trim you choose, make sure the car has been serviced regularly by a specialist.

How to get one in your garage

An expert’s view - Chris Perrett, Finchley Saab: “We were a Saab dealer, and I’m still a huge fan of the cars. The 9-5 was impressive straight out of the box and, despite its GM underpinnings, very Saab-like: imposing, safe and comfy. Saab engineers were proud and independent. I remember one telling me how a GM representative had said he didn’t recognise the 9-5’s sat-nav; he was told they weren’t happy with it so had redesigned it! We still see 9-5s regularly for servicing. They have their issues but are generally reliable. Getting hold of parts is becoming an issue, but the people at Saab Parts work hard to get us what we need.”

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Buyer beware…

Engine: On high-mileage 2.0-litre diesels, an ominous rattle could be the dual-mass flywheel shaking, caused by excessive end float on the crankshaft. In time, it will cause the engine to seize. On diesels, ensure a new water pump and timing belt were fitted at 60,000 miles. The petrols have timing chains and are generally worry-free, although there’s more to go wrong on the V6.

Diagnostic equipment: When choosing a specialist workshop, ask which diagnostic kit they have for the 9-5, as some use equipment that recognises it as a Vauxhall Insignia. Still, it can talk to around 85% of a 9-5, so it’s better than nothing.

Gearbox: A stiff manual shift might be explained by a worn pivot on the gear turret. Reengineering specialist X8R can supply a kit to cure it. Workshops recommend changing the automatic gearbox’s fluid and filters every 30,000 miles.

Suspension and brakes: Rear springs are prone to breaking and rear brake discs can wear prematurely.

Bodywork: Any rust is likely to be repair-related, so check for respraying and irregular panel gaps. Check the LED brake light strip works, as replacements are ultra-rare. Fortunately, there are a variety of repair solutions to be found online.

Interior: Don’t expect the sat-nav to function flawlessly. Check the condition of the head-up display (if fitted), because spare screens are scarce. Given the situation regarding diagnostic kit, be sure no warning lights are illuminated.

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Also worth knowing: Buy a 9-5 and you will enjoy no end of support. There are owners’ clubs galore and many specialists (see thesaab-specialist-register). They have years of experience and know all the workarounds and sources of hard-to-get parts. Saab Parts (saabparts.co.uk) is the excellent official supplier.

How much to spend

£2500-£4999: Good choice of diesels, most of them manuals, with more than 100,000 miles but solid service histories.

£5000-£6999: Tidier, plusher cars with full service histories but mostly still high mileages.

£7000-£9999: Better choice of lower-mileage cars (about 80,000), including more petrols.

£10,000 AND ABOVE: The best start here, the priciest being a rare 2010 2.8 Aero 4WD auto with 85,000 miles up for £12,990.

One we found - Saab 9-5 2.0T Aero, 2011, 84,000 miles, £6495: This privately advertised 9-5 has a full service history and both keys. However, the owner has admitted to the clutch pedal feeling a little high so believes the clutch may be on the way out. We were quoted £1028 all in for a replacement, so now you know by how much to chip this car’s price…

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Sourdiesel 27 September 2021
"I remember one telling me how a GM representative had said he didn’t recognise the 9-5’s sat-nav; he was told they weren’t happy with it so had redesigned it!"

And this is why SAAB went bankrupt

FastRenaultFan 27 September 2021
It looks like it could have been launched yesterday. It really does still look great. A timeless design. There is a few of them on the roads here in Ireland but they are certainly getting rarer. Such a pity as its still such a great looking car both inside and outside.