The Saab 9-5 vs. the Chrysler 300M

Review Notes: 2001 Saab 9-5 SE Automatic
Gas mileage 27-33 mpg
Superior in: Gas mileage
Above Average: Handling, acceleration
Needs Work In: Gas mileage, price
Review Notes: Chrysler 300M
Clearly Superior In: Elegance, style
Above Average In: Handling, acceleration
Needs Work In: Luxury items, gas mileage, lack of manual transmission

One fun thing about the Chrysler 300M is the way you can compare it with considerably more expensive cars. Take the Saab 9-5, for example. While quite spacious by European standards, space is equivalent to the 300M. Acceleration and handling are roughly equivalent, as a whole, as are noise and road manners. However, the 300M throws in better gas mileage (than the 9-5 SE, at least), a taste for regular gas, and sensible controls.

The Saab 9-5 does excel in two places the 300M does not - it is available as a station wagon, and it can be purchased with a manual transmission. Every 9-5 is turbocharged, but the end result is not necessarily better than Chrysler's standard V-6, which produces 250 horsepower (more than any 9-5 engine) while using less fuel than the 9-5's V-6.

9-3 instrument panel - 9-5 is identical.

While the 300M makes do with a single transmission setting, albeit one that learns how you drive, the 9-5 has three - winter, normal (set by default every time you start), and sport. The default is smooth and luxurious, but does not make the most of the engine, so we ended up using Sport most of the time.

The six had some turbo lag, but otherwise provided good power and acceleration. Handling on both cars is very good. The Saab provides three different memory settings for the seats. However, the cruise control is oddly designed, set up the opposite of other cruise controls. The moonroof and wiper controls are also counterintuitive. In the European fashion, power locks and windows are in the middle. Automatic headlights operate regardless of where the headlight switch is, and headlights go off when you take out the key.

Saab defoggers and windshield washers are powerful, but so are Chrysler's. Likewise, both cars have strong but somewhat noisy vent fans.

The price of the 9-5 is $10,000 more than that of the Chrysler 300M. That, a more elegant interior, and a more efficient engine, are Chrysler's advantages. A wagon or manual transmission option and known Saab-owner enthusiasm, not to mention higher resale prices, are Saab's advantages. Take your pick, unless you can't afford the Saab!