Date: Sun, 19 May 2002 19:46:15 -0400
From: Robert Levandowski <>
Subject: Three years with my 1999 9-5 SE V6

Early next month, the lease ends on my 1999 Saab 9-5 SE V6. This was my first Saab. Unfortunately, my financial situation right now prevents me from keeping it, or from getting another new Saab right away. However, as soon as I can, I'll be getting another one! WHAT I LIKE ----------- The car is incredibly sporty for a four-door sedan. When compared to other "performance luxury" European sedans, it's a lot cheaper for the same class of thrills. It's easily capable of three-digit speeds on country roads which are literally paved-over historical horse paths. It clearly communicates with the driver, giving plenty of notice that you're pushing too hard before you "hit the wall." The interior ergonomics are generally excellent. Saab lives up to its marketing hype. At first, I found the seats a bit hard to get used to, because they encourage a very upright posture. Now, I find American cars very uncomfortable to ride in, because their seats are all designed for slouching. The sound system is excellent as factory systems go, providing a balanced sound with deep, accurate bass. There's attention to little details. For example, the windshield washer reservior is very large compared to other cars I've owned. When the "washer fluid low" message appears, you can add an entire gallon of fluid... which means that you don't wind up with a half-empty jug knocking around the garage. Another example: the car will automatically turn on the windshield defroster and rear defogger when the car is started and the outdoor temperature is low. Thus, when it's snowy out, all you have to do is reach in and turn the key, then grab your snow brush and set to work. Once the car is swept off, the glass will be well defogged, and the car will be at or near your desired temperature. Power ventilated leather seats are something that you will never want to live without once you've had them. It's a very safe car -- see below. WHAT I DISLIKE -------------- As much as I love the car, there are a few nits. Some of the maintenance costs are higher than necessary. For example, the windshield wiper blades are not readily available in replacement packs at chain auto-parts stores in my area. Saab does not sell refills, only new wiper assemblies, at a fairly high cost. However, since the GM buyout, the cost has come down considerably. Also, since I have had the car, the headlight wiper blades were redesigned in a way that makes them much more durable and effective. The interval wiper adjustment is a glaring error in the car's ergonomics. It is very difficult to adjust the interval without removing your hand from the wheel. If you shorten the interval because it is raining harder, the shorter interval won't take effect until the next previously-scheduled interval wipe. The Traction Control System can be overly sensitive. This may cause problems in two situations: * When trying to turn into traffic ("right turn on red," for example), if the road is not dry and clear of sand, the TCS may activate if you accelerate too hard, potentially cutting back on the throttle input. In some circumstances, this can cause tense moments, if the traffic you're merging with is moving faster than it appeared or the loss of traction was unexpected. It's my opinion that the TCS is over-agressive about reducing the throttle in this situation. * On a steep incline, if a patch of ice is encountered, the TCS will reduce power even beyond the point where the car can maintain its forward momentum. This can potentially cause the car to slide backwards with a loss of operator control. This is an unusual situation, but if you have a steep driveway that is gravel- surfaced (and therefore difficult to plow) in a wintry climate, and icing is a possibility, you should make sure the car has true winter tires or chains, and be prepared to press the TCS override button quickly. The position of the TCS button may make this difficult in an emergency situation. Ideally, the TCS would take incline into account, and allow some degree of wheel slip if it detected minimal rear-wheel rotation, drive wheel slip, low outdoor temperature, and a steep uphill incline. The cupholder is really neat, but if there were some way to make it just a little bit bigger, it would fit a standard 20oz soda bottle. FM radio performance degrades noticeably when the rear defogger is activated. REPAIRS ------- I consider the car to have been quite reliable. It has never broken (due to a manufacturing or design fault) in a way that has stranded me. Most repairs were conducted quickly and competently by the local dealership. 2,340 mi: Passenger side exterior mirror glass popped out of the frame while parked, shedding its ground clip. Replaced under warranty. 5,623 mi: Moulding on the side of the driver's seat, where the memory seat buttons are, breaks loose. Replaced under warranty. 9,816 mi: An intermittent problem with the air conditioning blowing hot air through the rear seat vents and cold air through the panel vents is addressed with a firmware upgrade to the air conditioning controller. Covered under warranty. 11,675 mi: Intermittent air conditioning problem returns. Dealership now has tech bulletin from Saab regarding this problem, and makes a modification to the airbox to resolve a design issue. Fixed under warranty. 13,595 mi: Left rear door squeaking due to lack of lubrication. Fixed under warranty. At the same time a connector between the starter motor harness and engine wiring harness was retrofit with a missing seal, apparently as part of a service campaign, no charge. 15,000 mi: The hood emblem delaminated. Replaced under warranty. Two recalls were performed at this time: The engine computer PCB was mounted with faulty rubber grommets that could leach corrosive chemicals (third party parts issue). A wiring harness in the trunk for the optional CD changer was reworked to eliminate a risk of chafing that could start a fire. Both issues fixed at no charge. 16,000 mi: The trunk latch binds up during a particularly cold spell of weather, requiring a hard slam to close. Repaired under warranty. 16,000 mi (approx): The driver's side seat heating switch becomes intermittent. It had an internal short. Replaced under warranty. 16,905 mi: The air conditioning head unit crashes and refuses to boot, then operates intermittently. Diagnosed as internal electrical fault. Replaced under warranty. 16,950 mi: Passenger side low beam headlight requires replacement. $13 at AutoZone, a very easy do-it-yourself replacement. 16,975 mi: An accident causes approximately $15,000 damage. See below. 17,020 mi: While driving the newly repaired car, a loud BANG! is heard during hard acceleration, and then the car loses power and stalls. It refuses to start. Dealership determines that their body shop failed to install a hose clamp on the air intake hose where it attaches to the turbocharger, causing the hose to slip off. This totally confused the engine computer. Reinstalling the hose and attaching the proper clamp resolved the issue. 18,013 mi: An engine noise turns out to be an air conditioner evap hose rubbing against the fan belt. Temporary repairs are made until the new part arrives from Sweden. Repaired under warranty. The seat-heater controls stop lighting up; two burned-out bulbs replaced under warranty. 22,394 mi: Center and passenger-side windshield washer jets become intermittent. Inoperative check valves replaced under warranty. 23,398 mi: The sunroof binds up intermittently when opening, and something is rattling in the headliner. Broken wind deflector arms replaced under warranty. A few days later the sunroof refuses to close. Inspection shows that one of the clips holding the new arms in has not been seated properly into the recess intended for it. Pressure applied with the screwdriver from the car's toolkit snaps the clip into place, restoring proper function. MAINTENANCE COSTS ----------------- Costs include NYS/Monroe Cty 8% sales tax. Oct 8 1999 Wiper blades, front $ 55.08 Feb 4 2000 10,000 mi service $ 84.90 Dec 4 2000 Wiper blades, front and headlight $101.52 Sep 18 2001 20,000 mi service $153.85 Nov 2001 Wiper blades, front (approx.) $ 38.00 ACCIDENT -------- I had one accident which caused substantial damage to the front of the car, rendering it undriveable until repaired. The damage to my vehicle was approximately $15,000. I sustained absolutely no injury in the collision, not even a bruise. The car sustained no frame damage. It was fully repaired and doesn't seem to show any reduction in handling. It is obvious to me that the car could have sustained a far greater impact without causing major injury to me. The Saab reputation for safety is well deserved. SUMMARY ------- Compared to previous domestic and import vehicles I've owned, the Saab has been mechanically reliable and inexpensive to maintain. The performance is excellent. I would definitely recommend this car to others.

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