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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I'm looking into purchasing a wagon, but I'm a NG 900/OG 9-3 guy, so I could use some info.

I think I see from the specs that the three models have 182, 217, or 247 HP in these years (corrections appreciated). Beyond that, I can't find many specifics on the model level differences.

My questions:
- Are those HP differences just a tune-option, or does the hardware (turbo, IC, etc) vary between them?

- Are there other option / feature differences between the three model levels? Suspension differences?

- Are there specific wear points I should look for? I know the Saab 2.0/2.3 motor basics and generally what to look for on any used car, but what are the specific 9-5 wagon issues I should check?

EDIT: I just realized the 3.0V6 was available in these through 2003... comments on that engine option appreciated. I know nothing about the V6.
 

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Hey Bob! :cheesy:

The hardware differs to some extent between the three tunes. The base model is a 4 cylinder with a Garrett turbo. The middle is the V6, and the highest output is the Aero. The Aero is kind of like a HOT 9-3 SE in that the basic engine is the same as the base model, but the turbo and tune are different. Fix those, and you'll have equivalent output. The Aero adds sodium-filled valves, like the Viggen, but they don't seem to be necessary to hit Aero HP levels.

The Aero's suspension is noticeably lower, and the Aero adds skirts and lip spoilers all around. 2002+ Aeros got a silver dashboard and fancier seats. For a few years, the mid trim level had ventilated seats as standard equipment, but they were always an option, and a very nice one at that. My wife's bummed that only one of our two 9-5 Aeros has them.

The big 9-5 wagon issues have to do with the rear suspension, which us NG900/9-3 guys don't ever to have to deal with! :D The biggest one is sagging rear springs, but there are spacers available online that fix it. They're not like regular spring spacers that go in between the coils. These are metal discs that sit underneath the springs and raise the seat height so there's no impact to ride quality or spring life. A couple of other 9-5 issues you'll run into are failing suspension bushes in the rear suspension (there are 6 that go bad), which cause camber issues; and broken blend door arms in the climate control. Since it's dual-zone, you may have two arms that break. Repair kits are available for those, too.

Other than the rear suspension and blend door arms, the cars are more or less like bigger cushier 9-3s. If you go for a 2004+ model, you won't have to worry about sludge, and 2002+ models had 5-speed automatic transmissions, so they got a few more upgrades than the old 9-3 ever saw. I'm more than happy with my mine, and I do enjoy driving them, but there's still something special about my 1997 900 that a 9-5 can't replace.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks.

If the suspension appears to be at factory height, is the car OK? Or is it the kind of issue that shows up under load?

I'm guessing that installing the spacers isn't too long a job, but what about the bushings? Is that major work involving someone with a press? Is the problem usually found by tire wear... or perhaps after visiting the alignment rack?

If the climate controls work, are they considered OK? Is fixing the doors a long or parts expensive job?
 

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Linear and arc has normal suspension. Vector and aero has sport suspension.
2,3t has 136kW/185hp and Garrett.
2,3T has 162kW/220hp and Mitsu.
Aero has 184kW/250hp and same mitsu as 2,3T (only difference is sw).

V6 has 147kW/200hp and totally different (integrated) turbo.

Linear is base model, Arc has some improvements: mainly leather interior and wood dash.
Vector has sport seats and suspension.
Aero has half leather interior with sport seats and sport suspension.

You will notice lack of torque steering comparing to og 9-3.

Rear suspension is weak point, if you do not have nivomat.

I highly suggest my -04 or newer.
 

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The suspension sags even with nothing in the back of the car. It's pretty obvious when you see them. When I bought my 2000 Aero wagon, the tops of the rear tires were nearly up inside the wheel wells.

The alignment issues show up in both of those places, and sometimes even visually. My same Aero wagon had the wheels noticeably tilted when you looked at it from the back. I replaced all of the bushings in my driveway one afternoon. I had to rent a small press to do the large ones that the trailing arms pivot on. The two smaller "rose bushes" can be done with a special tool you can get from England, but I did it with a socket and a small mallet by pounding the old ones out and the new ones in. I did have to get an alignment afterwards.

You can run the ACC diagnostic check, and if it comes up okay, then everything should be fine. Broken blend door levers trip a code for each side. The fix should be less than $30 per side if you have to do it. I imagine that by now, a lot of the affected cars have been fixed. Saab came up with some repair sleeves themselves, and some other companies, like our favorite ProParts, have made nice metal replacement parts.
 

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I did exactly this. :cheesy:

Just like making sure the suspension is up to snuff on a 900/9-3, same with the 9-5. I went further than Jeremy, replacing the six front subframe bushings as well as a bunch of the rear suspension bushings. One of the rear springs was broken, so new springs. Shocks will need replacing, same as on a 900/9-3. Bilstein B6 are fairly stiff without being insane. I can't imagine how rough a B8/Aero suspension/17" wheel setup would be, but some people like that.

The ventilated seat option is very, very nice. I have it, and would consider it near-essential. I don't like running the A/C, and the vented seats makes this much more feasible.

The Garrett turbo in the 2.3t can fail and in fact the first owner of my car had it fail and got it replaced at the dealership.

I don't intend to tune my car at all. However, though Saab calls it 'linear', it's certainly not, in comparison to my 900 with no turbo. You will probably be familar with the response, though the gearing is taller and the car is heavier so a (manual trans) gear that works okay in the 9-3 might not do much in a 9-5.

If you are planning to use the wagon as a load-bearing animal, maybe towing, the Aero brakes front and rear will really help. The base brakes are not significantly different from those on the later 900/9-3 cars, and a 9-5 wagon is going to be heavier even before loading it up. Edit: the upgrade requires front caliper brackets, rear calipers/brackets, and of course rotors. But rotors and pads are a regular replacement item. Front brackets are fairly easy to find in the junkyards; and rebuilt rear calipers aren't that expensive (I think I paid about $60/ea over the counter in Canadian bucks).

And again, a proper suspension overhaul is a really good idea.

The uplevel Harman-Kardon sound system is very nice, except for the dash corner speakers which I plan to replace. I don't know how the stock system is. The rain-sensing wipers cause more angst than pleasure; I would consider them to be an undesirable option. Not sure if you can get backup sensors without rain-sensing wipers, though, and the sensors are useful. HID headlights, if working, are great because they're load-levelling. But there are expensive parts and troubleshooting pretty much requires a Tech II. The Aero cars have nicer, more bolstered seats, but if I had to make the choice, I'd take vented over Aero. But I'm on the lookout for good vented Aero seats, of course. :cool:

And to edit some more, while the engines got progressively less sludgy over the years, de-contenting started after 2003. The earlier cars seem to have gotten better-quality leather in the seats and woodgrain in the dashes. Various lights such as the loading lights in the tailgate vanished in I think '04, as did the weather band in the stereo. Much of this can be retrofitted, of course.
 

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I forgot about the front subframe bushings. I replaced all of those in one of my 9-5s, and they're set to be replaced in the other one. For some odd reason, the bushings Saab used got worse after 2001. You won't hear about many failures in 1999-2001 9-5s because the rear bushings are solid, the same as the 2006+ cars. 2002-2005 cars had voids in all 6 bushings, either for comfort or to allow the subframe to more easily shear off in a crash. I've heard both reasons. The rears will generally always fail by 100,000 miles if they're solid. Solid ones can almost go 200,000 miles.

Another annoyance I forgot about on the 9-5 is all of the soft touch buttons on the SID, radio, and ACC. They're very nice feeling when new, but the soft touch finish gets gummy and wears off. Fortunately you can completely get rid of it with some adhesive remover and a lot of rubbing. The only 9-5s I've ever seen at Pick and Pull that still have the coating in good condition were obviously garaged most of their life.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Not that it's a concern at this point, but while we're talking about it... I assume the solid bushings from earlier and/or later years can be retrofitted?
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Can I reliably use the engine code to determine the level via the VIN? Sellers don't seem to know what they are selling from what I see listed.

It looks like the Linear is always a B235E, the Arc (Vector) a B235L, and the Aero a B235R. Is that a good way to evaluate from a distance?
 

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Not that it's a concern at this point, but while we're talking about it... I assume the solid bushings from earlier and/or later years can be retrofitted?
Yep, that's what I did.

It was actually pretty educational to consider your question. I have always assumed that "Why, this is hell, nor am I out of it!" was from Webster's Duchess of Malfi. Turns out it was from Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, which I still cannot bring myself to believe. (But Duchess of Malfi has the excellent quote "We are merely the stars' tennis-balls, struck and banded", so.)

Also worthwhile reminding myself that "What fresh hell is this?" is Dorothy Parker. For some reason I thought it was some other not-clearly-defined 20th century American author.

Application of the above quotes to purchasing an old Saab is left as an exercise for the reader. :cool:
 

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Can I reliably use the engine code to determine the level via the VIN? Sellers don't seem to know what they are selling from what I see listed.

It looks like the Linear is always a B235E, the Arc (Vector) a B235L, and the Aero a B235R. Is that a good way to evaluate from a distance?
Well, for 2003, the 'Model series' is a letter code in the fifth position (B-linear, D-arc, H-aero). The engine variants are E, G, and Z in the eighth position. Not sure what they did when the 3.0 went away.

I'd say it's all pretty moot; the condition of the cars will vary much more than they did leaving the factory as different models. The car I bought was shown as a couple of sideways pictures with not all of the body showing, and I believe the seller called it a "9-3X". :roll:
 

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Discussion Starter #12
DOH! I should have thought of the model codes in the VIN, since I always use them on the 9-3's to differentiate along with the engine codes.

Seems that every OG 9-3 for sale is a Viggen, and every 9-5 is an Aero! It couldn't possibly have to do with KBB specifying each as "most expensive" in the model selection area :)
 

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The rear of my 03 9-5 Aero wagon sagged visibly with with negative camber even when not loaded. The inner shoulder of the rear tires showed premature wear. So when one of the rear shocks blew, I replaced both rear shocks and had new factory rear springs installed at the same time. After a little while, the rear sagged again even with new springs. So I ended up installing rear spring spacers to increase the ride height and shims to minimize excessive negative camber, and that's the way it's been for the last 60k mi.

In the last 10k-20k mi, there's been more creaking from the rear when going over bumps or when the suspension is compressed. Eventually, I'll need to get all the worn bushings replaced in the rear suspension assembly.

The suspension sags even with nothing in the back of the car. It's pretty obvious when you see them. When I bought my 2000 Aero wagon, the tops of the rear tires were nearly up inside the wheel wells.

The alignment issues show up in both of those places, and sometimes even visually. My same Aero wagon had the wheels noticeably tilted when you looked at it from the back. I replaced all of the bushings in my driveway one afternoon. I had to rent a small press to do the large ones that the trailing arms pivot on. The two smaller "rose bushes" can be done with a special tool you can get from England, but I did it with a socket and a small mallet by pounding the old ones out and the new ones in. I did have to get an alignment afterwards.

You can run the ACC diagnostic check, and if it comes up okay, then everything should be fine. Broken blend door levers trip a code for each side. The fix should be less than $30 per side if you have to do it. I imagine that by now, a lot of the affected cars have been fixed. Saab came up with some repair sleeves themselves, and some other companies, like our favorite ProParts, have made nice metal replacement parts.
 

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I can speak for the 2002 and 2004 model year wagons - what everyone here has said is pretty right on. You probably don't want the base-level Linear, but might not need the Aero. The Arc has the same upgraded Mitsubishi turbo and the same larger ventilated brakes as the Aero. The Linear and the Arc came with 16" wheels standard, the Aero had 17" stock wheels. Seems like my Aero rear suspension failed sooner than my Arc - don't know if the 17" wheels had any effect? All the advice here about the rear springs/shocks/ride height adjustment is true - BEWARE! The 2004 model year brought an upgraded PCV system (along with 5000 mile synthetic oil change intervals), which helped greatly with crankcase sludging.

All in all, I really like my 9-5 (I have driven 900's and 9000's in the past). Take care of it, it will take care of you!
 

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spring spacers will bring the camber and toe-in back to spec in most cases.

No need for shims usually.

PM me and I will send you a "white paper" on 9-5 rear suspension.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Just thought I'd close this out (for me, you guys can carry on). I did end up finding an OG 9-3 hatch with lowish miles in good condition to meet my immediate needs. I went with that as my goal was to get some cargo capacity and the 9-3 has a mechanical familiarity advantage for me.

I will likely be back to the 9-5 wagon idea once my car life settles down... and I can look for one without being in a hurry... and I can find me an aero version with low miles!

Thanks for all the help.
 
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