2003 SAAB 9-5 Aero HOT 2.3 turbo


Can't afford an M5 or fast merc, consider one of these


Very little.

Xenon headlights flash when turned off, and sometimes the headlight warning alarm comes on, but turn them off and on again and they are fine.

Front indicator fell off in first day of ownership. Replaced immediately by dealer who acknowledged the mechanic had not fitted it correctly when replacing all bulbs. Been fine since.

General Comments:

I purchased this car to replace my aging Nissan Almera GTI, which had been a great car, but I needed something roomier with decent performance.

I found this Saab 9-5 Aero model on the Internet when I discovered how much mid-range power these things have. I am not suggesting they are as good as a BMW M5, but being a lot cheaper, they are very well equipped for what you pay for.

Exterior: Love em or hate em, the Saab styling is individual, but this is a big solid looking car, with the slight Aero body kit hinting at its potential performance. Looks far more expensive than the £3000 I paid for it. The paintwork appears to be of good quality, for a car that has done over 110,000 miles it has very few stone chips. The car is quite long, and vision of the front and rear extremities of the car can be hard to judge. Thankfully it has rear parking sensors which help, but you have to watch that front.

Interior: A great place to be, it is roomy and the heated leather seats are very comfortable even on long journeys. They aren't as bucket like as some, but are holstered enough to keep you in place when cornering sharp. The dashboard layout is a hat tip to the inside of an aircraft with everything working well and most controls easily reachable. Saab putting the ignition and electric windows in the centre console took a bit of getting used to, but that is minor. I love the standard of the equipment in the interior, lights come on when you turn the engine off, you can run the 7 speaker stereo (which is of very good quality) with the ignition off, vanity mirrors have lights on them, and the on-board SID computer is easy to use and informative (mpg, trip, max speed alarm, if a bulb blows etc).

Performance: Having 250bhp using a high pressure turbo, this car can be driven very smoothly. Keeping the turbo gauge in the green will allow you to cruise with little fuss and the car returns some reasonable mpg. I have managed 39mpg when cruising at about 70mph on the motorway. Put your foot down enough and the high pressure boost certainly has enough powerful for good overtakes. I can see why this is as quick as a Porsche 911 between 40mph-70mph. My only criticism is that sometimes you can catch it off boost. The engine seems pretty lag free for a turbo engine but sometimes it seems as though the engine computer has to have a think before it will give you full boost. It's hard to explain, but in general the engine strikes a good balance between being smooth and quick.

Handling: This car won't win any awards for its handling feedback. Great when you are in the mood for an effortless drive, but when you want to get involved in the drive, it's a bit numb compared to some. Being front wheel drive is another disadvantage when putting the 250bhp through them, especially if the road surface is muddy, wet etc. Saying that, being front wheel drive means it feels very safe and going into corners the car grips exceedingly well. There is a slight feel of body roll when you corner sharply, which felt unnerving at first, but your confidence soon grows as the car grips far better than some other saloons I have driven. Powering out of the corner you just have to be steady with your right foot to get that balance between power & adhesion. The traction control appears to do its job, preventing you doing anything too silly, and doesn't kick in too early, but I just switch it off if I want to get somewhere briskly in poor road conditions, as it becomes a hindrance, as it is still traction control and not a human. (I'm sure race enthusiasts know what I mean)

What could be better:

Well, Saab are starting to bring out 4x4 versions. If they could put their skill into making these 4x4 or rear wheel driven, and with a bit more driver involvement, they would handle even more power and would be one hell of a car. Oh and front parking sensors but thats me being picky, and lazy.


Great car and great spec for the money, with mile crushing ability. It's no M5 or Merc AMG, but it's hard to find an executive saloon car for the price these Aero's go for that will beat them for the performance/luxury/reliability. Get one before people catch on and the prices go up.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 10th February, 2009

21st Jun 2009, 07:25

Original reviewer update here:

Am still really pleased with the car. Just completed a long cross country motorway journey. Car computer reported 37.4 mpg at 70mph journey and 33mpg on 80mph journey. Not too bad considering, and the car was very comfortable. Only problem was that air conditioning not blowing cold, but suspect this may just need re-gassing. Will soon be doing a major service myself, so will report back with the cost and effort involved.

2003 SAAB 9-5 Aero Estate 2.3 HOT 250bhp


Superbly safe, fast, comfortable - I wouldn't have anything else now


Rain auto-sensor wipers packed up at 1,000 miles - fixed under warranty, although I'd have to say the sensing mechanism doesn't seem too sensible, and not responsive enough!

General Comments:

This is the first SAAB I've had and it has been wonderful.

Performance is simply stunning, even for an automatic, away from lights, throughout the whole range - max I've done on autobahn is 140mph, and it was still going. Felt as safe as houses. And for REALLY quick overtaking, the SPORT mode feels like you'll take off, as it kicks in a richer mix as well as changing up later, so no need to hold in any one gear.

You pretty soon get to realise torque steer is a limitation, but what do expect from front-wheel-drive? So it is advisable to be a bit slower in the wet, which everyone should do anyway. I've heard there's a 310bhp version on the way, and I can't wait to test drive it - hope they do an estate version as I'll never go back to a saloon or hatch-back.

Quality build fantastic - my wife didn't think she'd like it, but now sold on it - less costly than BMW, Merc or Audi for similar performance and much better equipped, with heated / leather seats all round - very comfortable either long-distance or sitting it out in incessant M25 jams.

Some nice safety touches, such as what other car has 3 sets of washer jets? Reactive Head restraints also very reassuring.

Climate Control in both zones very effective, and I like the recirculate option at low speed and other nice little touches.

Front tyre wear bit higher than I hoped, but again it's the front wheel drive, whereas the rears are negligible.

Lastly, the carrying capacity amazing - dragging daughter's stuff back and forth to uni etc, and performance still unaffected even with flat-pack IKEA-wardrobes and all.

Very good quality audio, with great bass and depth, even on AS/2 (ie basic system) with 6-CD changer.

To sum up, I can quite see why SAAB owners get obsessed with them.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 27th July, 2006

4th Aug 2006, 09:14

What other car has three sets of washer jets?? Try any Volvo S80 from 1998 to 2006.