When Saab was purchased by GM in the early 1990s, many thought that it would be the end of the Scandinavian manufacturer, and that it would be just another badge under which the American giant peddled the same, boring cars. For a while, critics were right, but a few years down the line, someone at GM figured out that if they wanted to stop bleeding cash, they’d better let the Saab folks do their thing. So was the 1997 Saab 9-5 born. Even though it shared some components with other GM vehicles (the Vectra in particular), the Saab 9-5 was unmistakably a Saab, with the distinctive nose, awesome fighter-jet dashboard (OK, fighter-jet ‘inspired’) and several excellent engines to choose from.
The Saab 9-5’s most distinctive engine was the 2.3-liter, low-boost turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine, which produced an eminently usable and smooth 170 horsepower. It could reach a top speed of 139 miles per hour, with a 0-60 time of about 8 seconds. The transmission was a standard five-speed manual; a fully independent suspension ensured excellent handling.
The 1997 Saab 9-5 was only the beginning of Saab’s well-overdue revival; several other successful models came along to cement its position as a builder of fun and reliable cars.