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2008 Saab 9-5 Wagon
Avg. Price Paid:$11,748 - $12,084
Original MSRP: $38,955 - $40,070
MPG: 17 City / 26 Hwy
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2008 Saab 9-5 Wagon Performance

This performance review was written when the 2008 Saab 9-5 Wagon was new.

The 2008 Saab 9-3 SportCombi has a four-cylinder engine in a class dominated by V6s. This engine's acceleration strength is debatable compared to competing wagons, but the SportCombi still offers snappy handling and a smooth ride. "Around town, the Saab 9-5 is responsive, nimble and downright quick," says Kelley Blue Book, "benefiting from a turbocharger that delivers its influence politely but firmly." Edmunds says, "Unlike most premium cars, the 9-5 hasn't put on the pounds over the years. As a result, it feels refreshingly lightweight and nimble when you're pushing through tight corners."

Acceleration and Power

The Saab 9-3 SportCombi is powered by a 2.3-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine that generates 260 horsepower and 258 pound feet of torque. This engine may have only four cylinders in a class where V6s and V8s are standard, but some speak well of it. "Despite its diminutive size, it generates impressive power with good fuel economy," says Forbes, "and it is more than sufficient to get the 9-5 up to highway speeds at a brisk pace." Others are more tepid. "Granted, it's turbocharged," says the Chicago Sun-Times, "but this engine simply can't match the linear power delivery and refinement of the six-cylinders in most competitors." And Edmunds says, "Once its 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." The Environmental Protection Agency rates the SportCombi with manual transmission at 18 miles per gallon in the city and 28 on the highway, and with the automatic transmission at 17 mpg in the city and 26 on the highway.

A five-speed Sentronic automatic transmission is standard on the 9-5 SportCombi, though a five-speed manual transmission is optional. Either is a respectable choice, although most reviews lean toward the automatic. According to Forbes, "Most buyers will likely be happier with the optional five-speed automatic." Edmunds says the automatic is preferable "as its shorter gearing is better suited to the turbo engine's unusual power band." And Consumer Guide writes, "Manual transmission suffers from long throws, imprecise clutch action," but also warns its readers about "the automatic transmission's occasionally slow downshifts."

Handling and Braking

The 9-5 SportCombi has smooth and competent handling that's almost sporty. "Handling is crisp, precise," says the Washington Post. "You can enter and exit highway ramps and change lanes with supreme confidence." U.S. News reviewer Rick Newman also notes the SportCombi's "refined ... crisp handling and brisk acceleration." And Edmunds says that "it feels refreshingly lightweight and nimble when you're pushing through tight corners."

The Chicago Sun-Times says, "The 9-5 handles almost like a large sports car, with sharp steering, flat cornering and strong anti-lock brakes." Kelley Blue Book doesn't find the same to be true, but still writes: "Only when you get that rare opportunity to really push the 9-5 through a few good twists and turns does the nose-heavy, front-wheel-drive 9-5 reveal its limitations. Still, even the sportiest sport sedans rarely get taken to task in such a manner, and so the 9-5 is sure to prove plenty entertaining for most."

Despite the crisp handling, the suspension on the SportCombi is tuned for a smooth ride with just a touch of tautness, and is even tauter in the Aero trim. "The suspension in the Saab 9-5 SportCombi delivers a relatively smooth ride with better-than-average handling abilities," says Forbes. "It's not as sporty as a BMW 5 Series Wagon, but then the 9-5's ride is a bit less harsh in the bargain." Edmunds says the 9-5 SportCombi does ride smoother than in the past, but "during a turn in the backseat, the suspension rebounded harshly over a few rough patches and there was more wind noise than we would have expected in a premium sedan." For sportier handling, drivers should consider the Aero SportCombi trim. "Those willing to accept a more-edgy ride in exchange for sharper cornering prowess," continues Forbes, "will want to opt for the Saab 9-5 Aero SportCombi, which features a sport-tuned chassis."

As befits the handling, most describe the SportCombi's steering as sporty with a touch of torque steer. Consumer Guide calls the steering secure, sporty and nicely weighted. "However, rapid acceleration off the line and from low speed triggers torque steer -- unwanted pulling to the side." And Edmunds notes "torque steer is still a problem under heavy throttle in this front-driver. It's a classic Saab trait, but if the company can keep it under control in the 9-3, someone should have figured out a way to suppress it in the more expensive 9-5."

The Saab's ventilated disc brakes are "swift, powerful, consistent," says Consumer Guide. And Edmunds says that "the car's fully ventilated disc brakes feel strong with a reassuring pedal feel."

Review Last Updated: 2/26/09

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