War Of The Noses – Saab 9-5

Here’s a simple question for you, something that’s been occupying my mind for the last few days (sadly, this is true).

Which nose do you prefer on the Saab 9-5? The 1st series with the silver grille or the color-coded nose that came with the facelift?

Examples, using two Saab 9-5 Aeros. The earlier nose first…..


And the later nose……



Here’s the poll.

[poll id=”15″]


I’ll follow up with a few more Saab noses as we go through the week.

Yes, I have a theory.

Feel free to have your say in comments.

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  1. Chrome grilles have always been one of Saab’s generic identities. Keep it chrome and keep it old style. (Even though my ’06 9-3 is peeling a bit.)

  2. Viewing angle makes a huge difference with these two, IMO. From head-on, the newer one wins by a nose *rimshot*. From an angle, I think the newer nose looks a bit plain and perhaps too understated.

  3. The older nose has a few advantages — glass headlamp covers, shorter overall length, removable grille for easy service and the cleanness of the original design.
    Version 2 is a little sleeker and more aero, the extra length is a safety feature and you can have Xenon headlamps, which function really well but are kind of pricey to repair. However, v2 does not fit the design of the rest of the car as well as the original, not that it looks bad but compare the 2 cars and v1 is really clean and simple, v2 is kind of hacked up styling. As far as the Dame Edna, designed in Detroit by those people who still think Cadillac is the standard of the world. So much damage was done to the 9-5 with that restyle it might as well be a chevy.

    1. The Series 2 car was certainly more sorted mechanically, with 1200+ changes, but the styling was aimed at ‘younging-up’ the car, which it did. The testament to this is after 13 years the post 01 cars still look fresh enough to fool many who don’t know the model. Yes the lights fade with the UV and the bumper has to come off if you want to get at anything serious. But having two 9-5s for over 7 years I never ever had to take the bumpers off. Ever. The lights come out with one screw anyway.
      The more rounded front is better for pedestrians and if you look closely it is actually a styling graft that is rather neatly done. The bonnet and guard didn’t change at all and the SAAB stylists pulled a rabbit out of their hat with a lighter side strip all round. Cheap and cheerful, but better.
      Look at the clunky step and oversized black trim cover on the bumpers and you can conclude that they were never happy from day 1, given all the tidy ups that happened mid 2001.
      But the BEST nose on any 9-5 is the AERO 2005 nose. The best.

  4. The newer one of the two looks better… And even if you include the later ” dame Edna” one, it still looks the best. The dame Edna one looks really lame – like a cheap facelift, or changing it, simply because it was “old” and they felt they had to.

    1. Did see The Beast (and yes, an amazing tribute to dedication) but no, not the inspiration for this poll.

  5. I prefer the “silver grille”. For me, the grille can make or break the whole appearance of a car and I never classified the “colour coded” nose version as a true grille.

    I keep an extensive SAAB picture file, which I constantly add to and reference. It has always amazed me — when flipping through the pictures, how the smallest little change, tastefully done to a car can make such a huge difference in the overall appearance. I have seen so many different changes/enhancements to the silver grille, that when done correctly, absolutely make the car!

    I cannot argue how beautiful and seamless the integration of the colour coded nose is to the lines of the car. However, there is not much variation one can do to the original craftsmanship.

  6. The ’04-’05 Aero front end (here later nose)is the best looking nose for the 9-5. Too bad the picture is too dark, so you can’t see the lower grille, the part that gives that front end a classy sportiness without being over-aggressive as current cars.

    In the same model years the non Aero 9-5 had a different lower Grille, and it looked a little bit too utilitarian.

  7. could never understand why the pre dame edna 9-5 did not have single unit headlights. the two piece unit i.e separate indicator + and headlight is the only thing that makes this car “old”. it looks really naff if you have hid’s…

  8. There aren’t many of us from the land of Mr. Humphries (the real Dame Edna) that would consider the 9-5 Dame E as an attractive car. In fact the car is virtually unsellable down here. No one wants to be seen in one, and they are considred

    1. Considered by many to be unsightly and gauche. (Posting from the outback, sorry)

  9. With the exception of the Nissan Qashqai and maybe the last 9-3 I struggle to think of any (European) car that was improved by a ‘facelift’, although the changes above are at the minor end of the scale.

    1. Compare the nose of the 9-5 series 2 and the 9-3. Very very similar. For a good reason.

  10. The original OG-95 was what got me into the Saab family, and that was not so little because the original model gave an impression of having a well-balanced mass, to which the grille contributed.

    Now, as the car was updated, it did lose some of its stance, IMO. Not that I didn’t like the newer ones, but they were different, and the color-coded grille fit better with those newer ones, I suppose.

    Really like that interior too, not least the dashboard, actually.

  11. Damn. Too late. Anyway, even though I traded my trusty 9-3 ss for a keenly priced older 9-5 that comes with the silver grille when we moved from one country to another, I agree 100% with the majority view, the 2002-2005 9-5 with the colour-coded grille is the best looking. But don’t forget the rear end, because it too looks better too with the sleeker, more flush rear bumper. The Dame Edna looks garish by comparison in any colour except silver and that’s only because it tones down the chrome trim on the nose. Just think how good that revision could have been without the Dame Edna spectacles and a smarter-looking single-unit design! A face that resembled the Aero X could have been achieved. Oh well…

  12. I’ve had a few of the 2002 facelifted 9-5s now, and one early type which I still own. The facelift is much more complete, to me. In fact the 2004 Aero facelift is the best in my view, not so keen on Dame Edna…

    1. I remember Ryan at Saab History insisting on the name “9-3 CrossCombi” for the 9-3x, right up until its official release and for a little while after, too. Everyone else referred to it as the 9-3x during development – Saab had registered the name, after all – but he kept on barrelling through with CrossCombi.

      Nothing quite like conviction!!

    2. I am not sure what Saab was thinking with using the X on so many models. There were the concept vehicles 9X, 9-X Air, 9-X BioHybrid, Aero X. And the production models 9-3X (which was just a 9-3 SC with different suspension and XWD), the 9-2X (hatchback), 9-4X and the 9-7X. And the Turbo X. Oddly, the regular 9-3 SS and SC with XWD was not a 9-3X. Oh wait, there was also the PhoeniX.

      Never heard about the CrossCombi story but sure, why not. If Victor Muller was still captain of Saab, renaming the 9-3 back to 900 would have been even more confusing. 🙂 Not a big fan of using OG or NG for the various Saab 900, 9-3 and 9-5 models either.

      1. I don’t understand the X problem. I do, but then I don’t, too. Not something worth worrying about IMHO.

  13. I missed this. But to add nothing to the discussion, whilst commenting anyway.. it’s all about the 04/05 Aero nose. It was perfect for those 2 model years, and especially handsome in the steel grey.

  14. To add more nothing: I found out what the D Edna is. Regarding black with chrome: Boy, is that silly.
    (96, 97, 9000, 9-3)

  15. I slighly prefer the earlier nose as I like the glass headlights like my OG9-3, but the later nose isn’t too bad. Dame Edna’s another story!

  16. I like both. I used to be resolutely in the camp that the V2 was the best version, but my parents recently purchased a 2001 9-5 Aero and I have to say that this car is truly beautiful from every angle. With the subtle changes for the Aero, the first generation 9-5 looked right. I do not feel the same way about the non-aero versions of the pre 2002 9-5.

    In any event, the 9-5 Aero – when fully sorted – is an amazing beast. The only issue I have with it is the uncommunicative and over assisted steering on the Aero (although it is much better than non-aero versions). If fuel economy is not a huge factor for a driver, the 9-5 Aeros are cracking buys. My parents paid EUR 3,300 for theirs. Fully loaded, suspension refreshed recently, and the motor rebuilt/new clutch 40Ks ago (the car had 175K on it). I cannot believe how much car they got for their money!

  17. As I have a 9K [1998] I did not like the small grill at first, but over time it is better than the earlier ones.

    The Post 2005 9.5 does it for me.

    I also have a v3 Dame Edna version & just the other day saw a nice dark metallic blue one on the bay, that had it chrome headlight surround colour painted to the car….the grill was still chrome …Looked good!!