The best car tuning modifications for the 9-5.

"Work 9-5 then have fun with your 9-5"

Engine choices for the tuner include the TiD engined model - yes a diesel engine. More on that later.

The 2.3 HOT, which stands for High Output Turbo, really is a hot hatch running the 0-60 sprint in 6.9 seconds!

Power starts at 230bhp and this can be raised to 290bhp with a remap, sports exhaust with sports catalyst and air filter (a more conservative tune/remap is usually better and will retain reliability, driveability and economy.) Without the exhaust and sports cat this power figure will be nearer to 275bhp on a more modest remap.

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The power gains on the Diesel engines start to make petrol ownership irrelevant. Hence the HOT model.

Then there is the 3.0t V6 engine (pre 2001) after 2001 the 3.0t v6 was noticeably slower and less economical! It is not easy locating performance parts or tunes or remaps for the 3.0t so it is not ideal for a tuning project - especially when the lineup includes the supremely tunable 2.3 HOT engine option.

The following modifications are usually performed by our members, decide how far you want to go before you begin.

Getting the right mods for your planned usage of the car is vital. Stage 3 (competition) mods just don't work well on the road.

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Best Engine Mods for your car

  1. Engine Tunes - engine tuning/remapping provides the most advantage in terms of cost savings,  aftermarket ECUs, and piggyback ECUs are all alternatives.
  2. Fast road cams are one of the most significant mechanical changes, but they must be installed by someone who knows what they're doing and they are not always easy to source but you might find a local firm to regrind a stock camshaft.
  3. Intake and Exhaust - Note that on their own these mods will NOT ADD POWER in most cases, but they can help enhance power after other mods by removing the restriction.
  4. Upgrades to turbochargers and superchargers - forced induction is the most efficient approach to increase air supply, allowing you to burn more fuel and make more power. It is one of the most costly upgrades but provides the best gains.
  5. Head work - The goals of porting and flowing the head are to get air flowing into the engine while removing flow restrictions and turbulence.
  6. Typical stage 1 mods often include: Exhaust, Panel air filter, Engine Tunes/Remapping, lighter flywheel

    Typical stage 2 mods often include: Ported and polished head, Fast road cam, fuel injector & fuel pump upgrades,power clutch

    Typical stage 3 mods: Engine balancing, adding or upgrading forced induction (turbo/supercharger), Internal engine upgrades (pistons/head/valves), competition cam, sports gearbox.

    Superb braking is standard across the range with the ABS, Handling would need some attention so uprated springs and dampers will dramatically improve handling.

    The 2.2TiD offers 120bhp in standard form but a tune/remap can lift this to an impressive 160bhp. One of the best value mods around has to be a tune/remap for a modern diesel. It is worth noting that the recent 52 plate model cannot be tuned/remapped so earlier cars are better.

    The 1.9 TiD offers 150bhp in standard from and this can be tuned/remapped to 190bhp.

    The 2.0 V6 TiD starts at 166bhp and with a tune/remap will produce around 217bhp.

    Saab 9-5 intake and exhaust modifications.

    Before you start doing engine mods you have to get the breathing right and remove any restrictions in the system that could inhibit air flow.Derestricting the airflow into the engine is the primary part of tuning so get a better flowing air filter. Induction kits sound great with the induction roar they create but due to the warm air in the engine bay they will not add noticeable power and actually rob you of power. (The standard 9-5 airbox is NOT RESTRICTIVE unless you have achieved a massive power hike! Panel filters are all you need performance wise.)

    A good high performance sports exhaust is an essential to balance your engines need for free flowing air, just adding an induction kit on it's own will do little to increase your power. See our article on performance exhausts for details of the issue around large bore exhausts and how to choose the right size for your engine.

    Gas flowing the head will allow you to maximise your air/fuel charge but TorqueCars suggest you refer this job to a professional though who has a proper flow bench and machine tools Your 9-5 clutch can sap a lot of your power if it starts to slip and the standard clutches are only ever good for power gains of up to 40 or 50%. Fit a performance clutch (double or triple plate) to avoid power losses through the transmission if the clutch does start to slip after a performance mod. Remaps offer significant power gains on all turbo charged cars.

    On NA (naturally aspirated) engines the benefits are doubtful. However a tune/remap on a NA (naturally aspirated) engine will help unleash the potential if you have done a lot of mods. Adding forced induction will see big power gains but this is usually too expensive to be cost effective. It is easier to bolt on a supercharger than it is to get a turbo working. With a turbo the boost curve is related exponentially to the engine speed making it hard to map. It is easier to map a supercharger because the boost is proportional to engine speed on a linear curve. Adding forced induction will usually require a lower compression ratio or water injection.

    Saab 9-5 Wheel modifications.

    Alloy wheels will help the brakes cool down and are usually lighter than the steel ones. The downside to large alloy wheels on your 9-5 is that you alter your effective final drive ratio and this will have a detrimental effect on acceleration and performance. For this reason we would advise sticking to a maximum wheel size of 16 inches, although we know some of our members have gone larger than this with no problems.

    If you would like to know more, or just get some friendly advice on Tuning your car please join us in our car forums where you can discuss 9-5 options in more detail with our 9-5 owners. It would also be worth reading our unbiased Saab tuning articles to get a full grasp of the benefits and drawbacks of each modification.

     Read through our tuning articles to see what the benefits of each mod are and please join the chat in our new friendly SAAB forums.

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    3 Responses to “Tuning modifications for the SAAB 9-5”

    1. Palm3r says:

      wanted to tune my saab 9-5 03 to its full potential but keeping the tuning limited to the safest power that the engine will be durable egine handling ect… rough idea on cost of mods jus roughly plaes

    2. ian findlater says:

      i think clip holding rods together next to turbo has come away ,dont no how long its been like this ,is this easily fixed?

    3. Carlos McMiller says:

      Very good, informative writeup. Always enjoy any knowledgeable advice regarding the tuning of the Saab 9-5, especially since there seems to be a tad more regarding the NG900/9-3. As the proud and very happy owner of a 9-5 Aero 2.3 HOT, I can attest to the power and performance, without any tuning or modifications! Seeing how Saab was on their A-game when it came to turbo performance, wouldn’t the most cost-effective way to tune for mild power/performance upgrade, while maintaining reliable daily drivability, be with the use of a stage-1 or 2 remap/tune and the use of upgraded Saab turbo hardware like king cobra intake pipe with turbo housing from the ’06-’09, larger air snorkel from the diesel and possibly a d.p. and performance intercooler? Since the 2006-09 2.3 HOT was rated at 260 hp, such upgrades should add 10-15 hp gain on a 2002 2.3 HOT or would it be considerably less? Thanks again for sharing, big help for the Saab 9-5 community!

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