Design and Engineering

Design and Engineering

Good Arriving in Australia in April 2011, the all new second generation Saab 9-5 comes 14 years after the previous model first went on sale. At more than five metres long, the new model is noticeably bigger than its predecessor and is far roomier than the competing BMW 5-Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class or Audi A6. The 9-5 features a sporty yet sophisticated exterior character, incorporating only the best of Scandinavian styling philosophy. The car looks unique and uncluttered and although conservative, it’s distinctive and easily identifiable. The sleek lines are a pleasing change for a modern car design to do without 101 crease lines cutting up the body work. A wrap-around windscreen, and floating look roof where the top section of the door mirrors, windscreen and B-pillars are coloured black enhance the distinctive wraparound styling that hark back to Saab’s aviation history. The grille is inspired by Saab’s Aero X concept and the headlights, side indicators and tail-lights all feature a cool blue tint. Heavily raked C-pillars and a sloping rear windscreen echo those of a four door coupe, and the rear light panel which covers the full width of the 9-5’s boot looks fantastic, especially at night when illuminated. The Aero grade sits lower than the Vector and wears a slightly more aggressive front and rear bumper design.
Not so good The 9-5 is built on the same General Motors platform as the less luxurious Opel Insignia, however for the Swedish brand the platform has been stretched to provide acres of rear seat legroom.
Interior and Styling

Interior and Styling

Good The new model retains much of Saab’s famously unique interior touches such as the classic egg crate air vents and night panel button on the dash, which is perfect for long night time drives and all grades feature super comfortable seating, with the Aero’s (sports grade’s) front pews providing grippy side bolstering. The Aero variant is graced with with a flat bottomed sports steering wheel. Other neat touches include an optional characteristic speedometer in the instrument panel that rolls like an aircraft altimeter; however we’re bigger fans of the heads up display on the windscreen which in our opinion should be standard on all vehicles. We recommend the optional extra large glass panoramic sunroof and fans of Scandinavian design will approve of the interior door opening handles on sight. Both grades (Vector and Aero) feature good quality leather seats and rear leg room is much improved over the previous model. Whilst previously the 9-5 had sub standard levels of interior space, this is no longer the case – you can actually stretch out more than you can in similar priced luxury German models. Despite the sloping rear roofline a 185cm adult’s head won’t touch the headlining when seated in either of the three rear seats. Boot space is on the money at 513 litres.
Not so good The dash design features too much matt finished plastic but it is free of fake looking wood and the metal look finishes do look rather suave. Unlike the competition, the 9-5 does without a command System with a central mouse like control aka BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Lexus. Without this, the number of buttons on the centre console is higher than ideal. Rear visibility is less than class best due to the narrow rear windscreen though not a deal breaker, especially when the 9-5 looks so much more elegant than competition, including the Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
Performance

Performance

Good The 9-5 is available with three different engines. The Vector grade is offered with a choice of two 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder engines. The petrol variant (Turbo4) produces 162kW of power and 350Nm of torque, while the diesel (TiD4) generates 118kW and 350Nm. Both Vector grades are front wheel drive whilst the range topping Aero grade is all wheel drive. With a 2.8-litre turbo petrol V6 engine the Aero Turbo6 XWD produces 221kW of oomph and 400Nm of torque. We spent a week with both of the petrol grades and came away thinking that both of these engines suit the 9-5 well. The 2.0-litre petrol more than easily keeps up with traffic and at higher revs hustles along nicely. The Aero’s turbo six is refined – we’re fans of the twin scroll turbo and no doubt the variable valve timing helps too. It’s an extremely smooth and swift vehicle with plenty of excitement on offer in the Aero.
Not so good The 2.0-litre petrol engine’s criticisms include only average mid-range power, an engine note lacking in aural delights and the real world fuel economy is nothing to boast about. We don’t think however, that either of these points are deal breakers. The Aero grade also suffers from an engine note which cannot match the best sounding six cylinders and connoisseurs will notice a slight turbo lag (but nothing worse than the norm).
Ride and Handling

Ride and Handling

Good Unlike the competition, each of the three 9-5 grades features its own different suspension design. For the technically minded the Vector diesel features a MacPherson strut front suspension with a multi-link rear arrangement; the Vector four-cylinder petrol variant features the same MacPherson front suspension with a H-link design for the rear and finally the Aero features the same H-link suspension at the back with a unique ‘HiPerstrut’ front suspension design. Phew! The Aero grade also features variable power steering assistance which is also available as a cost option on the petrol Vector. Tech heads will nod in approval of the Aero’s DriveSense electronically controlled damping system which can be switched between ‘comfort’, ‘sport’ or ‘intelligent’- which adjusts automatically according to the driver’s inputs and the road conditions. Highlights of the 9-5 after road testing include an overall feeling of security and safety, with the Vector petrol grade keeping understeer to a minimum (no given for a big front wheel drive vehicle). Overall this is a well controlled large luxury saloon. The Aero rides well even on big 19-inch alloy wheels with low profile tyres, has an impressive lack of body roll, and stays calm even when pushing hard. Should drivers wish to be silly, the Aero can slide around if provoked at speed when approaching a corner (which of course you’d only ever do on a race track).
Not so good The steering can be accused of lacking feel and is a touch too light when driving through the city then slightly vague when pushing-on over country roads. We tested the Vector grade with optional 19 inch wheels, and whilst they look utterly superb, ride would be better on 18’s, but we wouldn’t blame a style conscious buyer who opted for the bigger wheels. We also think there is room for improvement in the 9-5’s low speed ride. The Aero is the sports model, yet be aware that it’s not trying to be as sporty as the German opposition. This isn’t necessarily a negative, for in a 5 metre luxury sedan it’s more important to get comfort right over outright handling prowess.
Buying and Owning

Buying and Owning

Good The Vector grade comes standard with a large eight inch screen with satellite navigation of the right quality, Bluetooth and a brilliant Harman Kardon audio system that includes a 10 GB hard drive. This grade also features parking sensors, a full-sized spare wheel and Bi-xenon headlights as standard. The Aero grade adds big 19 inch alloys (over the Vector’s 17 inch wheels), an advanced park assist system and lovely perforated leather sports seats.
Not so good Not everyone will be willing to go for the more niche offerings in life and the Saab 9-5 is definitely more HBO than Fox.