Friday 4th January 2013


SOTW: SAAB 9-5 AERO HOT

A turbo'd Swedish barge for Shed money? Yes please - that'll do nicely


Scandinavians are different. In the Saab museum in Trollhattan there’s a 1959 Saab 93 powered by two 750cc two-stroke triples sitting side-by-side between the front wheels. Saab’s motorsport development drivers called it the Monster. Why? Because, at speed, the rear end would lift off the ground. The rear end. How would you deal with that?

Facelift Aero had 250hp - sprightly, then
Facelift Aero had 250hp - sprightly, then
Later, a thoughtless scribe ventured the opinion that 200hp was the absolute limit for a front-wheel drive car. For the madness-loving Saab folk, that was a challenge that had to be answered. Shed remembers only too well that grisly day when a 9000 Griffin, a callow right boot and a damp road in New Malden came together to prove that journalists are not always wrong. 

Since then, eyeball-swivelling torque steer and chin-wobbling axle tramp have been effectively vanquished by nancy-boy traction control electronickery and sophisticated chassis designs. Which means that even the most lead-footed buffoon in PH Land should be able to enjoy the big-stick temptations of this rather handsome 9-5 Aero HOT.

There’s an addictive quality about a big Saab that’s hard to explain if you’ve never experienced it. Despite being based on the Vectra chassis, the 9-5 serves up a generous dose of specialness. When new, this lavishly-equipped Aero car (the highest trim level available) would have cost around £29K. Now it’s here for greedy exploitation by some lucky Shedder at just a grand.

Comfy, leathery goodness for peanuts
Comfy, leathery goodness for peanuts
What’s to like? A lot. As all PHers will know, ‘HOT’ is an acronym, not an adjective. Having said that, it stands for High Output Turbo, which does make the car hot, or hottish anyway, in lower as well as upper case. This 250hp version of the Aero was one of the fastest 9-5s, with an electronically-governed top speed of 155mph. In manual form, it rapped out 0-62 in an authoritative 6.5sec. This one’s an auto, which knocks that back a fair chunk to 7.8sec, but you can reclaim a few tenths’ bragging rights by factoring in the 20hp remap and the correct Imperial 0-60 measurement. Even in slushbox mode you’re most definitely operating in a real performance zone.

Wonderfully comfortable seats make long journeys a pleasure, as does a great cabin ambience, especially at night when the dash lights up like a Heathrow traffic controller’s workstation on Bank Holiday Friday. Or not, if you select Night Panel to blank out most of the lights bar the speedo – very restful, that, especially for the somnolent Shedman who may be hoping to catch up on a few zeds on some of the straighter sections of motorway. That’s a joke by the way.

Boot's big enough for a bike. Sort of.
Boot's big enough for a bike. Sort of.
Another 9-5 plus point is space. The estates are massive, but the saloon version is not exactly lacking in boot room with 500 litres. Some might smile appreciatively at the bluff solidity of that saloon roofline. Others might note the exclusivity of the saloon relative to the estate, and the usefully depressive effect this has had on its used values. 

The owner of this car has a saucy whiff of Garlick about him, in that he seems to be incapable of running a car in anything other than tip-top condition. It’s as well to be dealing with a dream vendor like that, because 9-5s plus bad luck can equal major financial pain. Potential issues cover the whole gamut, quite apart from the usual trail of malfunctioning electrics and corroded brake pipes that can plague any Shed. Hoses pop off or split, temporarily de-tuning your motor. More persistent absence of turbo boost could be a failed one-way valve in Saab’s EVAP gas-dispersal gizmo: new valve kits that replace the original plastic items with aluminium ones come in at under £40. Engine misfiring might be a duff DI (Direct Injection) cassette. Replacements can cost anything from £80 to £270 depending on how aftermarket or used you want to go. Used cassettes can be a false economy though, as misfires can crock the catalytic converter. At least the DIC’s drop-in four-bolt design means that even a chimpanzee can stick a new one in in under a minute.

Yep, seems to have an engine...
Yep, seems to have an engine...
Suspension parts are vulnerable, principally front wishbones, anti roll bar bushes and drop links. Crankshaft position sensors can lose the plot. If the 2.3 engine is a B235L or B235R, without the redesigned breather system, it can suffer from oil sludging, particularly if it’s not been run on fully synthetic. A contaminated strainer and gummed-up pickup starves the motor of oil with predictably ruinous consequences. For peace of mind, the service history needs to show the sump’s been dropped at some point for pickup and strainer degunking. This car comes with that reassurance.

Even Shed’s mum knows about missing or dead pixels in Saab Information Displays (SIDs). There are plenty of specialists around to fix that for you. There’s an easy fix for the vendor’s errant Xenon headlamp levelling warning lamp, too. All you need is a small piece of black electrical tape, or possibly two if you can still see the light when the first piece of tape is in position.

What's a scraped rear quarter between Sheds?
What's a scraped rear quarter between Sheds?
True Shedmen will laugh heartily at the scraped rear quarter panel, as that’s all behind them and therefore irrelevant. Parts that are more essential to continued motoring are obviously going to get scarcer and/or more expensive now that Saab is no more.

Here’s the big danger of Saab ownership: being seduced by the idea of it and then getting sucked into an apparently endless programme of maintenance. As all powerfully-built PH types know, trying to recoup your roulette losses by increasing the size of your bets never works. Go in with your eyes open and your wallet shut, and don’t be scared to pull the ripcord if the ground seems to be approaching a bit too quickly.


Here’s the original ad:

SAAB 9-5 AERO HOT 2001  (£1,000)

I am selling my late 51 plate 9-5 aero, it has the 02 facelift etc, 250 BHP model remapped to around 270, otherwise standard.

It has 118K on the clocks and is taxed and tested until April 2013.

Electric windows, Xenon headlights, heated front seats, dual zone aircon (been regassed last autumn) Cd player, parking sensors and so on. HPI clear, with report printed when I purchased the car. Chassis and engine numbers all present and correct, v5 in my name and personal address, three keepers before me.

I have owned the car 14 months and when I bought it I serviced the fluids, plugs and filters, replaced all the disks, pads, springs, front top mounts, droplinks, dropped the sump and cleaned it and updated to the newest PCV system. I also did the gearbox oil which is extremely expensive due to do. Since then its had a further two oil changes, always mobil one oil always genuine filters and parts.

Service history is present up to when I purchased the car and then I have receipts for all the above parts I fitted myself.

Tyres are all in good health, checked pressures fortnightly and all in all the car has wanted for very little in my ownership.

Two bad points are that the front xenon level sensor lights up a yellow light on the dash, they level as they should and passed an mot like that. I have found sourcing a sensor difficult, always on back order. Second bad point is I bumped the rear quarter, ive had the dent pulled out by one of those paintless dent guys but it is not 100%, photo below.

All in all this is a real workhorse of a car with as much load carrying capacity as Ive even wanted with a young family (two kids and a wife) and will still show up some supposedly hot hatches on the open road.

I am asking £1000 for this car which is 500 less than the cheapest similar spec car I can find on autotrader etc. for that reason the price is firm and no offers, unless you happen to have a mk4 golf gti with the 1.8T engine in it that you want to swap.

Part exchange

mk4 golf 1.8T

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