Saab 9 5. All the nice little things.

There are vehicles that are particularly closely linked to the fate of the brand. At Saab it is the first 9-5 generation. For GM he stood for the "Rise of Saab to the world brand, off the eccentric Scandinavian". A quote from Eric Dymock's book on the brand's 50th anniversary.

Cup holder origami. Beautiful.
Cup holder origami. Beautiful.

The 9-5, a real GM Saab? Yes, and the first Saab according to GM philosophy at all. Let's forget the 900 II, let's ignore the 9-3 I. They all had this strange, large tailgate, the hatchback, and thus stood for what the Americans were guaranteed not to expect from Saab. It is difficult to explain that they existed at all, because even with the 50% investment in 1990, GM only wanted sedans and station wagons. But you could only prevail with the first 9-5.

A GM Saab. Still a true Saab.

The development of the 9-5 took longer than planned and it was released later than intended. Even then, there were difficulties in bringing production to quantities. Which, in retrospect, might not have been that bad. Otherwise there would have been no Saab 9000 Anniversary for the 50th anniversary and no 98 model year guaranteed.

Readers who now suspect I want to write the 9-5 in the GM corner are wrong. Because on the one hand I like the 9-5, on the other hand Saab did a lot right. In the design, emphasis was placed on Saab DNA - Einar Hareide delivered a masterpiece. The shell-shaped bonnet, to name just one example, is very much in the tradition of Saab 900 and Saab 99. In production, of course, more expensive than conventional hood panels, it represents one thing: for attention to detail.

Saab 9 5. All the nice little things.

The first Saab 9-5, the generation with the traditional grille in chrome, inspires with many small, well thought-out things. Almost 20 years have passed since then; 1997 was almost luxurious to name the Saab. The Swedes were serious, the Americans were serious. Unfortunately not for long, and both thought in opposite directions. Only you did not realize that at the time.

One result of the Nordic drama is the history of 9-5. Because with each facelift disappeared one or the other beloved kindness. Tragic? Yes, in any case. While other manufacturers gave aging models more and more features to keep them attractive, GM put on the 9-5 from the first model to the chrome frame the red pencil. Radical! And drivers of chrome Saabs should better not read on now.

Cup holder origami.

Our project saab is a 1999 model. A very early 9-5 station wagon, with many details that were no longer available later. Let's start with the tailgate. The 9-5 had the option of a 7-seater, which unfortunately never went into production. In the tailgate there is a child safety device and an inner opening for the rear seated passengers. The detail quickly disappeared, the lights in the tailgate stayed much longer. Two lamps provided light in the loading zone, two more lights in red warned the moving traffic. They were also later deleted without replacement.

Just like the pull-out floor in the luggage compartment that Saab was the first manufacturer in Europe to offer. Or the exit lights in the back of the doors. The real wood in the dashboard was later replaced with plastic, and around the shift knob or automatic lever, it was only available as an accessory.

The double sun visors and the world's most beautiful cup holder in the dashboard have survived for many years. He plays perfect cup holder origami and still inspires with his grace today and for all time. In contrast to the 9, the leather in the 5-9000 was no longer a noble Scottish product. There should never be so much upper class in a Saab, but in the first few years it was thick and valuable enough to be fun even after a long time. Later it got thinner and thinner, chrome glasses riders can feel it every day.

Ventilated seats. 1997 a world first.

The comfortable, plush armrests in the door panels were eventually replaced by cheap artificial leather, the number of exit lights in the doors reduced to two, the remote unlocking of the fuel filler flap disappeared. Always on board remained the active headrests, always there was a surcharge the ventilated seats. They helped the 9-5 to become a high-class character.

The 9-5 has remained a great car with fun potential throughout its construction period. The austerity spree, from 1997 to 2010, stands for the ratio of American owners to their Swedish investment. Less than 10 years after the complete takeover, there was the first reconstruction, not much later GM's final exit. Saab 9-5 with the traditional grill are today cheap to get. Even very good vehicles are rarely more expensive than 5.000,00 €, they offer all the nice little things that did not exist later.

21 thoughts on "Saab 9 5. All the nice little things."

  • Thanks for the great contribution. Miss our 9-5 station wagon, a brother of Paul, very much. We were the victims of a rear-end collision and this did not endure the chassis. The Aero-Kombi in black of the first generation has been my favorite car since the introduction and I am glad to have experienced all the nice little things. These details were really big!

  • All the nice little things are with my 2002er combi 2.3t still installed.

    However, I was not spared by a naughty nicety (it is certainly due to GM): The 3 plastic covers of the tailgate cut were crumbling on.
    Now thanks 1-2-3 I have good old ones in it.

  • Very well written! Tom, as is so often the case, it is one of your articles about the little Saab peculiarities in the context of the general Saab development and that of the entire industry that inspires me ...
    For me personally, it's nice that the two “wallflowers” ​​902 and 931 are mentioned in this context, as the last hatchback series that Saab ever built in series before GM's market research put an end to this body shape. The Saab hatchback is regularly about the 901 and 9000 CS, only to complain about the lack of 951 and 932: The gap in between is worth paying attention to with everything that was already influenced by GM at the beginning of the 90s (as you can see in the corresponding Youngtimer- Articles also worked out)!

  • I always find the 9-5 awesome to drive. Knowing that I will drive a company car from this year on, I couldn't really imagine giving up the 9-5 for it. Instead, I swapped the existing 9-5 Aero with automatic for a 9-5 Aero with HirschTuning and manual transmission. The car is pure joy and I like to leave the business V60 behind from time to time. At some point, I dare to guess, the 9-5 will give up its wallflower existence, at the latest when there won't be many left on the streets. Against this background, I also found the "Paul Action" exciting and was very happy about it. Because I also find the 9-5 very worth preserving.
    For me, however, the 2004/2005 9-5 SC Aero are still the most beautiful of the series - very harmonious in black with tinted windows from the B-pillar.

  • Good idea! We'll give the TTIP proponents a late 9-5 for practical testing, after all, this model is, so to speak, the three-dimensional prototype of the political construct ...

  • the tailgate lights are cool. Can you retrofit?

    • I think so. Should be feasible, there are only one bulb on the right and one on the left, electricity can be drawn from the flap. Maybe cannibalize the flap of a “junk vehicle”?

      • On eBay, swinging tailgates are offered without this fairing, but not the fairings. Funny. Maybe all slaughtered to retrofit chrome glasses?

      • It works very easily. On one of my many trips to Sweden at returbilen, I removed a corresponding tailgate panel on a 9-5. I took the connection from the ceiling light in the trunk - simply pull a cable from there through the cable guide on the tailgate and connect it. But be careful: Loosen all the plastic clips and panels with great care so that no tabs etc. break off.

  • The collapse of SAAB is again clearly seen that the American GM's fault for the demise of SAAb. A good and probably the best brand just had to disappear. Therefore: steer clear of TITP.

  • Even if I have to forego some “early-time specials” with my 2006 Aero, I'm still satisfied. Of course, the early 9-5s may not have some creaking and / or rattling noises, but overall I can't complain about the quality. The electrical system in particular has not yet produced any failures and the double sun visors are really very helpful. The aero engine and the “only” five-speed automatic fit together perfectly. I often wonder why it takes at least seven, eight or even more courses today. Many of today's “premium car manufacturers” are probably following the motto: “Everything will be better, but nothing will be really good!”

    • Absolutely right. Aero and automatic are a dream. The 5 steps are great and it does not matter if it's chrome or not. In addition, the suspension of the late models is better.

  • That is the 9.5 dilemma. A really great car that was ruined in the wrong place by senseless savings. (I puked myself up on my blog before.) The 9-5 is a Saab in the subjunctive. Would, would, could ... a shame.

    The early 9-5 are still fairly nicely processed, but technically fragile; the late technically useful, but feel too much like GM-cheap scam.
    Actually you would need an early 9-5, in which you put the technology of a late one. Or a late one in which the interior of an early one is transplanted….

    • The "technically fragile“I only accept if you take the 9k as a model. A 9-5 with regular service and all improvements is a robust car by today's standards. What was missing was consistent model maintenance. Unfortunately.

      • I had three 9000s, six 900s, two 90s, and also two w123s and one w126. It may be that my standards have been shifted a bit ... but for me the 9-5 is clearly fragile. Ok, maybe every modern car is fragile for me.
        I've had my 951 for 7000km now and still don't trust it. With Snow White I would go on a tour of the Arctic Circle at any time, with 9-5 I would hesitate. And put two throttle bodies and a DI in the trunk. And take out insurance cover ...

      • It will be like that. 9k, W123 etc ... are a different league. Cars that are designed to give the customer the best possible return for their money. That was ages ago. There is more than a decade between 9k and 9-5 in which the car world has changed radically.
        You will see the 9-5 with different eyes when you deal with a modern 3-cylinder downsizing edition. What is currently en masse on our streets. Then suddenly you will see the W9 of the late 5s in the 123-90 ...

      • Right, DI and KWS in the trunk in case of cases and good it is.

  • .... ventilated seats were “automatically forced” in our former 9-5 SC arc from 2002 (actually didn't want that at the time).

    But since then, this is an option that I NEVER want to do without (would rather save on Navi, sound system or performance) !!!

    Fortunately, the current Saab also has ventilated seats (albeit weaker than the old one). 🙂

  • Too bad that there was no hatchback and certainly a large convertible would have done well.
    And trd. the desire for the first SC of the Swedes grows slowly ... now only the financiers have to be convinced ...
    Maybe you should really hit while it's still cheap.

  • Hello, Tom, again very nicely put together. And I can only confirm that, since we have an 2002er and an 2009er Aero at home, the differences are always in front of our eyes.
    The 2002 Aero has now become the family's favorite car (the 9000 is out of competition anyway). If you can, you should get something like that. Something like that will certainly never be built again ......

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