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  1. #1
    Frank
    Administrator nordwulf's Avatar
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    previous: 2006 9-3, 2001-06 9-5, 2011 9-4X
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    Saab 9-5 Buyers Guide

    One of the most frequently asked questions is about purchasing a used Saab 9-5 and what to look out for. This will be a work in progress but the goal is to make one comprehensive post with all information that can easily be understood by the average used car buyer.

    Let's bundle our efforts so please add to this thread with any helpful information for a prospective Saab owner. There are other sources for this information but most is scattered in the forums or very long threads with bits of info here and there.

    General

    The first generation of the Saab 9-5 was made from 1998 to 2009 (1999 was the first year in North America). There were 2 major updates to the model line through the years and they are commonly known as 1999-2001, 2002-2005 and 2006-2009. For all differences and updates through the years, see this thread with more information: link

    Equipment levels:
    Linear: Base model with limited equipment.
    Arc: More luxury and equipment, comfortable ride
    Vector: Sportier version between Arc and Aero
    Aero: The sport model with lower suspension, sport seats etc. Firmer ride

    Transmission

    • vibration in steering wheel on automatic trans/4-cylinder engines when in Drive and idling. Saab improved on this through the years. 2006 and up don't seem to have this problem anymore. It's not something to worry about on earlier models. Saab issued a TSB about Vibration at idling speed.
    • automatic transmission is very reliable. Saab specified ATF changes of 100K miles/160K kms but reduced to 60K miles/100K km for the later model years. Besides ATF changes, no repairs or other maintenance are usually needed.
    • manual transmission is reliable but clutch plates can wear out depending on the driving style. It's not the smoothest or quickest shifting transmission but many owners seem to like it.

    Chassis

    • Rear shocks usually need replacement sooner than front shocks and can start to leak at even lower mileage.

    Interior
    • On model year 1998-2003, the SID (Saab Information Display) above the audio unit can have missing pixels making it difficult to read the information on the display. There are companies who can repair these displays for not too much money. 2004-2005 has a different style of display and no problems have been reported with those.
    • Check the fault codes for the ACC system. Push the AUTO and OFF button at the same time. It will either display a 0 or a combination of a single-digit and double-digit. Investigate further if anything other than a 0 is showing.

    4-cyl petrol/gasoline engines

    Model Year 1998-2003

    Engine sludge is a big problem for the earlier Saab 9-5 model years. A combination of issues:

    • long oil change intervals
    • use of regular or semi-synthetic oil
    • faulty crankcase ventilation system (PCV)
    • catalytic converter right under the oil pan


    The combination of all these factors caused engine sludge which can end the life of the 4-cylinder gasoline/petrol engine early. The sludge will slowly starve the engine of oil by clogging up oil passages in the engine/turbo and can also block the oil pickup tube in the oil pan.

    These model years can still be a good buy but... you can reduce the risk of buying a 9-5 with engine problems:

    • Make sure the car has service records with details about frequent oil changes. The frequency of oil changes is often debated but the average is about 5,000 miles/8,000 kilometers with full-synthetic oil. Saab specified 10K miles/16K kms for the earlier model years.
    • Make sure the latest PCV update has been installed.
    • Remove the valve cover or drop the oil pan/sump to physically check the inside of the engine. The condition under the valve cover may give you a hint but dropping the sump is the best way to check.


    From model year 2004, all 9-5s have the latest PCV system. Full-synthetic oil was specified for the 2000-2003 Aero so those models are usually a safer buy when it comes to the sludge issue.

    Turbos
    Gasoline engines

    • Garrett GT17 low-pressure turbo - 2.3t Linear and Arc models
    • Mitsubishi TD04 high-output turbo - 2.3T Arc and Aero models


    The Garrett GT17 seems to fail around 100K miles/160K kms. The turbo seals wear and cause oil to leak into the intake system. When this happens, there will be a puff of blue smoke from the exhaust on start-up when the car hasn't been driven for 12 hours or longer. It's still safe to drive the car but the turbo has to be replaced sooner rather than later. In the US, this can easily set you back $1,500 if replaced with a new turbo by a Saab dealer. Re-manufactured turbos for about $500 are an option. While it requires some mechanical skills, it is relatively easy to do this yourself.

    The Mitsubishi TD04 turbo usually lasts much longer and 200k miles / 320K kms or more shouldn't be a problem for these turbos.

    Ignition
    Direct Ignition Cassette (DIC) wears over time and may need to be replaced very 60-80K miles or more. Cost is about $280 in the US.

    Timing chain
    The timing chain is reliable and often doesn't need attention for 150-200K miles. Check for rattling sounds indicating a worn chain, guides or tensioners.

    V6 petrol/gasoline engines

    Tuning possibilities are limited and the engine can be thirsty. 200hp is middle of the road for the 9-5 but provides for a relaxed cruiser and quiet/reliable engine.

    There are no issues with sludge or head gaskets like the 4-cylinder engines.

    Timing Belt
    Replacement every 60,000 miles or 100.000 kms. Replace tensioner and idler pulley at the same time. This is an interference engine which means if the timing belt fails, pistons may hit the valves stuck in the open position. This can be a very expensive engine repair so make sure it is replaced when needed. Check the engine for any stickers mentioning the last replacement or check the maintenance records. It should be replaced if there are no records at all.

    Turbos
    The V6 has a GT15 low-pressure turbo which is part of the exhaust manifold. It's not necessarily difficult to replace but the cost of the turbo is higher than other models. Expect $600 for a rebuilt turbo and much more for a new one.

    Diesel engines

    Typical problems for the 3.0TiD ('01-'06 Isuzu) engine are the EGR valve and dropped cylinder liners. Both can be very expensive to fix and many avoid the 9-5 with 3.0 liter diesel engine. 2.2TiD engine ('02-'06 Opel) and 1.9TiD ('06-'09 Fiat) seem to be the better diesel engine choices.

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    Last edited by nordwulf; 03 September 2013 at 20:09. Reason: Added PCV update link

  2. #2
    Frank
    Administrator nordwulf's Avatar
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    The previous post is mostly facts. But what about a personal choice and opinion? As with many things, there isn't really a year of the 9-5 which you should avoid or buy. I owned a 2001, 2005, 2006 and now a 2005 again.

    The consensus is material quality has been going downhill over the years. Some like the 2006 re-design, others don't. The 2006 look and feel more modern.

    2006-2009
    • better steering and suspension
    • audio system with better audio quality, aux-in, MP3/CD and XM radio with in-dash CD changer
    • interior with new door trim, black carpet and trim
    • parchment replaced tan interior
    • exterior styling with painted trim/door handles
    • Sport seats are standard in 2.3T "base" model for 2008/09
    • 5 year/100K miles powertrain warranty for 2007/2008
    • green/white dash lights

    2002-2005
    • nicer quality dash material and 4-spoke steering wheel
    • better interior build quality, less noises
    • older-style button interior without GM radio/ACC
    • exterior styling, especially the 2004/05 Aero front
    • more Saab-like

    1999 - 2001

    • better interior materials like the leather used for the seats
    • original, neutral exterior styling

    The first reaction with the latest generation is often based on the chrome headlight trim and GM radio/climate controls but there are many other differences. I thought I would never own a 2006+ but my opinion changed after a few test drives. They really are good cars and reliability is probably best.

    The perfect 9-5 would be the material quality and some features from the early model years, exterior and interior styling from the 2004/05 Aero (with a few modern updates) and all the improvements and new features from the 2006+ models.

    Or a 2006+ with all the updates and features but with better quality materials. I really like the look of the 2006+.

    So.... there really isn't one 'best' year to buy for me, even though I would avoid the <=2003 models because of the sludge issue. it mostly comes down to personal preference and what's important for you.

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  3. #3
    ALDO
    Saab Fan oviedo's Avatar
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    2002 Saab 9-5 2.3 turbo, ex- Saab 9000
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    Hi Frank.

    Very very great contribution this guide and great idea too!

    Only 2 very little points; I personally would bet that part of the reason why Garretīs17 fail with around 100.000 miles or 160.000 kms in USA 9-5īs was the use of semisynthetic oil.
    As you said, only Aeros got in sooner years full synthetic oil. Thatīs crucial.

    The prove is in other markets (for example in Spain or Sweden) where all models (not only Aeros) got full synthetic oil changes from the beginning, itīs the oppositte: garrets17 last a little bit longer than Mitsubi****D04.

    For example:

    Personally know one owner with a 2.0 LPT (garret17) with 430.000 kms on it (about 250.000 miles), engine and turbo stock. This owner name is huerta:
    Club Saab Espaņa &bull; Ver Tema - A tomar viento fresco!!

    Another one (aure), 2.3 LPT no garrett17 change, with 461.000 kms (260.000 miles aprox)
    Club Saab Espaņa &bull; Ver Tema - El motor suena muy raro en frio

    Second: in Western Europe a lot of 9-5 3.0 Isuzu tids were sold. They have been proven to be extremelly unreliable. After many very expensive things to be fixed, at around 160.000 kms (100.000 miles) the whole engine will have to be changed in 99,5% of the models.

    The 2.2 Isuzu sourced tid and 1.9 FIAT tid still arenīt 50% as reliable as saabīs own sourced 2.3 liter engines. EGR problems, and many internal things to get fixed. Still, 1.9 FIAT tid is somewhat more reliable than 2.2 Isuzu tid. But, unless someone does more than 20.000miles/year or even more, gasoline models are much better for your wallet.

    And you can also add that in JD Power 2001, the 9-5 was above the Lexus competition. With the introduction of diesel engines, the 9-5 lost a big part of its reliability reputation.

    Just my 2 cents on this. Great guide.
    Regards.

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  4. #4
    Jared
    The young one J-Rod's Avatar
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    2003 Saab 9-5 ARC ( and care-taker of a '98 900SE)
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    Small correction for the OP; the V6 Arc uses a GT15, not a GT17. Awesome guide Wulf, this is the first time I noticed it.

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    I don't drive fast...I fly slow

  5. #5
    Frank
    Administrator nordwulf's Avatar
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    The V6 didn't have the turbo model listed so I added the info. Thx!

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  6. #6
    Saab Psycho bullet's Avatar
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    1996 NG900 2.0 Turbo automatic
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    Does anyone know the difference(s) between the Scandic trim on the 9-5 and the others (Vector, Linear, Aero) ?

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  7. #7

    Join Date
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    2007 9-5 Aero
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    Adding to the post on experience with 2007: I have owned an '01 9-3, an '02 9-5 Aero, and now the '07 9-5 Aero, which I like a lot better. Yes, there is more interior plastic, replacing leather from earlier years, but the things that count - seats, ride, power, handling are all there or even better. I particularly like the downshifting transmission - on down grades, if you light brake for a few moments, the tranny kicks down one gear automatically. Also, the front brake pads dust the wheels A LOT less on this year - i'm still on factory pads at 35k.

    Anybody considering an Aero needs to keep in mind that you will rub the front nose on all parking curbs due to the lower suspension, and need to get in the habit of stopping sooner...

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  8. #8
    Saab Fan
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    2006 9-3 Aero Sdn (sold 8/2013). 2010 9-5 Aero (11/2012-present). 2009 9-3 2.0T (11/2013-Present)
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    Ok so I'm stuck with my NG 2010 9-5 and all it's electric/tech gremlins (Nav/GPS/Bluetooth/Compass/Voice Commands no longer working due to a faulty radio unit, rear LED light bar, driver seat warmer failing, what's next). It's worthless as a trade in; I'd be $10,000 upside down. I've decided to get a 2nd car to use as my daily driver so I'm torn between a 2008 9-5 or a 2009 9-3 2.0T. I really do miss my 9-3 Aero and I've only found one 2.0T near me that has the same features (park assist, Xenon headlights, front fog lights, heated seats, plus it has the nav). I'd love to have a 9-5 with appearance package and ventilated seats for the summer. Anything I should look for as far as faults in a 9-5 when shopping besides the items mentioned above?

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  9. #9
    Kracalactaka's Avatar
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    2008 Saab 9-5 2.3T
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    How can I tell

    @nordwulf, Just got a 2008 Saab 9-5 2.3 Turbo with 80,450 miles, how can I tell if it has the Garrett GT17 low-pressure turbo or the Mitsubishi TD04 high-output turbo

    I'm not a "car guy" so it's all foreign to me.

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  10. #10
    Frank
    Administrator nordwulf's Avatar
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    All 2006-2009 9-5 in the USA have the 2.3T engine with the TD04 turbo.

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