For nearly 50 years, Saab has offered savvy buyers a unique alternative to the mainstream European sedan. Turbocharging, front-wheel drive and cutting-edge safety technology have made Saabs popular with those living in northern climes, whether in Sweden or the United States. A distinctive design heritage and idiosyncratic details, mounting the ignition on the center console among them, endear Saabs to people all over the world. Saab's first larger sedan, the quirky 9000, debuted in 1985 and quickly built a cult following. When the 9000 evolved into the 9-5 for model year 2000, Saab made its largest car even more powerful and, as some Saab-philes believe, more mainstream. Since then, the 9-5 has been steadily refined. For 2004, Saab makes a few changes to the 9-5 model lineup. Both sedans and wagons are available. This year, however, the base 9-5 Linear comes only as a wagon. The mid-level 9-5 Arc has been freshened with lower-body cladding, while the line-topping Aero gets even more aggressive cladding. Saab has revised some of the standard and optional equipment packaging for the 2004 Arc and Aero models. The biggest change: The 9-5 Arc drops its V6 and automatic transmission in favor of a more powerful turbocharged four-cylinder engine with a 5-speed manual. Automatic transmission remains optional across the line, and we recommend going with the automatics. The 2004 Saab 9-5 isn't the cheapest car in the class, but the upper models are terrific cars and good choices for drivers who don¿t want a cookie-cutter car.