The 1999 Saab 9-5 Wagon was introduced in mid-1999, about a year after the new 9-5 sedan. The front-wheel-drive 9-5 Wagon offers a large cargo area with flexible storage arrangements and easy access. Two turbocharged engines are available: a 2.3 litre four cylinder and a 3.0 litre V6. Prices start at $41,900.
New wagon combines luxury with practicality
The Saab 9-5 Wagon is one of only two station wagons in the ‘entry-level’ or ‘near’ luxury car segment, a class which includes the BMW 3-Series, Mercedes-Benz C-class, Audi A4, Lexus ES300, Acura 3.2TL, Infiniti I30, Mazda Millenia, and Volvo V70. The Volvo V70 is the only other wagon in the Saab’s price range although it’s a bigger, mid-sized car. BMW and Audi do make wagon versions of their compact sedans, but they are not sold in Canada.
The 9-5 Wagon was introduced in the middle of 1999, about a year after the all-new 9-5 sedan was introduced. The 9-5 is based on a European Opel chassis (Saab is owned by General Motors) and replaced the 9000 in the Spring of 1998.
Saab did a good job with the Wagon’s styling – its clean and harmonious lines don’t look like a sedan that’s been turned into a wagon. The wagon’s roof and rear doors were designed specifically for the wagon bodystyle for this very reason. Aerodynamically, the Wagon is almost as slippery as the sedan with a drag coefficient of 0.31, a little more than the sedan’s 0.29 drag coefficient.
Practicality is the Wagon’s forte. The 9-5 Wagon’s cargo area has roughly twice the space of the sedan’s trunk with the rear seats up, and four times as much with the 60/40 folding rear seats down. In addition, one or both rear seats in the wagon can be removed entirely for more cargo room.
The Wagon’s rear liftgate requires very little effort to raise, and an adult can stand under it. The loading height is very low, the cargo area is well-lit, and as an option, there’s a sliding floor device that can be rolled out almost half a metre to make lifting easier.
To secure cargo, the 9-5 Wagon borrows a feature from the aircraft industry: a pair of cargo tracks, one-grip locks, and special belts are used to make sure the cargo doesn’t shift under emergency braking, a good safety feature. A hard, foldable parcel shelf conceals the loading area from outside view.
A number of accessories such as straps, elastic nets, cargo guards and a complete roof rack system are available – roof rails are standard equipment.
Like the sedan, the 9-5 wagon is available with two engines, a turbocharged 170 horsepower 2.3 litre DOHC 16 valve four cylinder engine, and a turbocharged intercooled 200 horsepower 3.0 litre DOHC 24 valve V6 powerplant. Both engines use premium fuel. Both 5-speed manual and 4-speed automatic transmissions are available on the 9-5.
The optional 3.0 litre V6 engine in my test car proved very quiet, except under hard acceleration wheen it emitted a gutteral, throaty roar. At highway cruising speeds, it loafs along in the 2000 rpm range, but when called upon to pass, responds quickly. There’s no noticeable turbo lag, not much torque steer, and the Saab accelerates quickly and cleanly. The automatic transmission in my test car downshifted quickly, but at 80 km/h, it shifts from 4th to 2nd gear with a rather jerky motion.
Wagons are often noisier than sedans because the rear cargo area acts like an echo chamber, but I found the 9-5 Wagon’s levels of noise and vibration to be relatively low, and wind-noise minimal.
The 9-5’s suspension has front and rear sub-frames to isolate vibrations, and front MacPherson struts and rear multi-link suspension for a controlled, comfortable ride. I enjoyed the 9-5’s smooth ride and predictable handling, but I thought steering feel could have had more feel.
A well-equipped interior includes Saab’s trademark expansive dash with a flat, charcoal-coloured surface, woodgrain trim around the instruments, and large buttons with large lettering. Like all Saab’s, the ignition switch is on the floor between the seats, and the power window buttons are in the center console, not on the doors.
I found it easy to get comfortable in the 9-5. A standard tilt/telescopic steering wheel and multi-adjustable seat made it simple to find a good driving position, and outward visibility was clear in every direction. Separate driver and passenger temperature controls for the heater and air conditioner kept the temperature just right. By the way, charcoal filters are built into the ventilation system.
My test car had optional ventilated front leather seats with cooling fans built into the seats. These fans, which have three speeds, are designed to cool your clothing and make the drive more comfortable – and they work! In addition, the seats have a three-position heater for colder winter months.
All Saab front seats have the Saab Active Head Restraint System which brings the headrest forwards in a collision to help prevent whiplash. Other standard safety features include side airbags in the seats, three-point seatbelts and head restraints for all five passengers, traction control with a dash-mounted on/off switch, 4-wheel ABS, remote keyless entry with alarm, and battery rundown protection.
The manufacturer’s suggested retail price for the 9-5 Wagon with a four cylinder engine is $41,900; with the V6 it’s $46,340, but options can bring this price to over $50,000. Of course, as the only wagon in its class, it doesn’t have a lot of competition.