2006 Saab 5-Sep Review

2006 Saab 5-Sep - Sportier, snappier Saab.


Saab, which began as an aircraft producer in the late 1930s, long has built sporty, ultrasafe non-mainstream cars for generally affluent individualists.

As with most Saabs, the redesigned 9-5 premium midsize sedan and station wagon edge more toward the mainstream for 2006, although unique Saab features remain, such as a console-mounted ignition switch.

General Motors owns Saab, and the small Swedish automaker is one of GM's upbeat operations. Sales last year of 38,343 Saabs in America topped 2004 results -- and U.S. sales through April totaled 11,366 units, compared with 10,518 in the same year-ago period.

The 9-5 wagon (Saab calls it the "SportCombi") I tested is virtually identical to the 9-5 sedan. The sedan has a big trunk, and the wagon has such a large cargo space with its rear seat folded forward that it outdoes some midsize sport-utility vehicles.

The 2005 model designations (Linear, Arc and Aero) have been merged into a single model, the 2.3T, in sedan and wagon body styles.

The 2.3T sedan costs $34,100 in base form and $35,195 in Sport form, with a sport suspension, specially bolstered seats and unique interior and exterior trim. The wagon costs $35,100, with the Sport version at $36,195.

The large amount of comfort and convenience equipment includes heated front/rear leather seats, power sunroof, upscale 200-watt sound system with in-dash 6-disc CD player and even a glovebox tied to the air conditioning to provide refrigerator temperature to stow, say, chocolate or a cold drink.

Ventilated front seats -- a nifty option for summer -- cost $400 for the 2.3T Sport and $995 for the 2.3T.

Safety items include front side air bags and Saab's Active Head Restraints, which help reduce the risk of neck injury in a rear-end collision.

The latest 9-5 has no less than 1,367 new or modified parts. The most obvious changes are cosmetic -- it has the most dramatic frontal design change since the Saab 900 was launched in 1979, although it's clearly a Saab with such items as a "clamshell" hood.

There's new front/rear fascias, front fenders, front/rear lights and new tailgate and trunk lid, with color-matched side moldings and door handles. A new grille has a horizontal bar representing an aircraft wing to salute Saab's aviation heritage.

The aerodynamic 9-5 has a sportier stance, with a wider rear track. And a revised suspension for the nicely evolved chassis provides crisper handling, improved body control and steering precision -- and new low-profile 45-series all-season tires on 17-inch alloy wheels.

The redesigned aircraft-style interior has new instruments and control panels. The main instrument panel curves around the driver and down toward the ignition key, hand brake and electric window switches -- all put between the front seats and ahead of the central armrest/storage box. However, it takes time to get used to the ignition switch and power window controls on the console.

Saab is a master at extracting lots of power from turbocharged four-cylinder engines, which act as if they have at lest two additional cylinders. The 9-5 has a 2.3-liter turbocharged, intercooled four-cylinder with dual overhead camshafts, 16 valves and twin balance shafts for smoothness.

The engine produces 260 horsepower -- or 10 more than last year -- and additional torque. This sedan/wagon can do 0-60 mph in less than seven seconds. The engine has virtually no turbo lag (delayed throttle response) and works with a five-speed manual gearbox or a responsive $1,350 five-speed automatic transmission with manual shift capability. The 9-5 happily cruises at 75 mph, with plenty of power for merging and passing.

Estimated fuel economy is 21 mpg city and 29 highway with the manual and 18 and 28 with the automatic.

The 9-5 handles almost like a large sports car, with sharp steering, flat cornering and strong anti-lock brakes. The ride is supple, even with the Sport version's stiffer, lowered Sport suspension. A stability control system helps a driver maintain control in difficult situations.

Saab buyers have an average household income of more than $120,000, but one need not be that affluent to get a Saab because it's among the most reasonably priced sports sedans/wagons. 

2006 SAAB 9-5 

PRICES: $34,100-$36,195

LIKES: Fast. Good handling. Roomy. Well-equipped. Non-mainstream.

DISLIKES: Console ignition switch and power window controls take getting used to.

Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

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