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2012 Saab 9-5

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2012 Saab 9-5 Review

The car that could save Saab

Reviewed by Automotive on

The Saab 9-5 is the newest Saab that has been redesigned by the company, and the newest 9-5 in more than a decade of production. A lot is riding on the 9-5 after Saab's recent encounters with bankruptcy and financial problems, but fortunately the car delivers on Saab's mix of practicality, sport, and--of course--quirkiness.

The 9-5 comes with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine in front-wheel-drive guise, but is also available with a 2.8-liter turbocharged V-6 and Saab's advanced XWD four-wheel-drive system that varies power between all four wheels. In top Aero model, the 9-5 is a respectable performer, with a strong engine and all-wheel-drive poise.

Overall, the 9-5 is well-equipped with Saab's best safety features like active head restraints and rollover protection, while features like steering wheel controls, satellite radio, and traditional Saab quirks like the Night Panel (which blanks out the gauges except for ones in use) and an ignition switch in the center console are standard. Parking assistance, a panoramic moonroof, and adaptive suspensions are all standard on the Aero model.

The Range

Body styles: Sedan, wagon
Engines: 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4, 2.8-liter turbocharged V-6
Transmissions: six-speed manual, six-speed automatic
Models: Turbo4, Turbo4 Premium, Turbo6 XWD, Aero

What's New

For 2012 it's the return of the big Saab wagon: the 9-5 SportCombi will debut with 56 cubic feet of flat-pack-furniture-swallowing room. The stylish wagon will also feature the sedan's available XWD, but not the powerful V-6; only the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder will be available. Otherwise, all models get new interior trim, with dark wood and aluminum as options alongside the plastic carbon-look dashboard.


The Saab 9-5's clean lines are derived from its gorgeous Aero X concept from 2007, and it's clear to see the evolution of the brand's styling cues: The trapezoidal split grille is familiar, as well as a flat roof and elongated C-pillars. Larger 18-inch alloy wheels and chrome fog light surrounds differentiate the Aero from other models.


Saab's traditional 7-shaped dashboard is present, but the plastic trim is lackluster for a car of this class. The ignition key at the center of the console, a Saab standby, has been replaced with a starter button. Leather will be standard, along with automatic climate control and a heads-up display. A navigation system, an upgraded stereo, and adaptive cruise control are optional.

Performance & Handling

With the turbocharged V-6, the Saab 9-5 puts out impressive numbers to belie its two-ton weight. From a standstill, 60 mph comes in 6.1 seconds, which is very respectable for its class. Handling is also a strong suit with its well-honed chassis and XWD all-wheel drive system. However, the Saab's automatic transmission is slow and lets the car down, and the manual is only available with four-cylinder front-wheel drive models.


For the 9-5, all models include front and side airbags, side curtain airbags for all passengers, Active Head Restraints, rollover sensing, stability control, Lane Departure Warning, a head-up display and three-point seatbelts for all passengers.

EPA Fuel Economy

Turbo4; manual transmission: 18 mpg city/28 mpg highway
Turbo4; automatic transmission: 20 mpg city/33 mpg highway
Turbo6, Aero: 17 mpg city/27 mpg highway

You'll Like

  • Clean European styling
  • Lots of standard features
  • Stable XWD handling

You Won't Like

  • Lackluster automatic transmission
  • Chintzy interior trim
  • Pricey for the segment

Sum Up

The car that could save Saab

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