Saab 9-5

Bioenthanol boosts power and cuts emissions, but few outlets sell the alternative fuel

Overall Auto Express Rating

2.0 out of 5

Bioethanol boosts power and cuts emissions, but few outlets sell the alternative fuel. While the 9-5 can happily run on unleaded, its £600 price premium and dated dynamics make the BioPower Saab a clever but unappealing prospect – unless you live next door to a garage that stocks the green stuff.

Alternative fuels and green technology are big news these days – barely a week passes without the introduction of yet another new eco-friendly solution that’s promising to save the world.

But until a single system or idea steals a clear lead on the rest, deciding which to put your money on is a lottery. Choose the wrong one, and you could end up losing out in a big way.

Bioethanol is one of the latest options, and along with the Ford Focus Flexi-Fuel, Saab’s 9-5 is among the first cars to use it. Reassuringly, the clever BioPower range allows the model’s 2.0-litre engine to also run on unleaded, which means if you can’t find a garage selling the alternative fuel, you can simply brim it with petrol and continue your journey. The nifty engine management will sort out the rest, optimising performance from the resulting mixture.

Sounds good so far, but there is a major problem. Only a handful of outlets currently sell bioethanol in the UK – and the few that do are confined to predominantly rural areas.

That’s a shame, because if you run the 9-5 on unleaded you’ll get only 150bhp instead of the 180bhp available from the eco-friendly stuff, and the 0-60mph time increases by 1.3 seconds.

On the plus side, bioethanol is slightly cheaper than petrol and Saab says it reduces CO2 emissions by 50-70 per cent compared to conventional unleaded. Still, because the car’s official CO2 output of 204g/km is measured using petrol, there’s little benefit for com-pany car drivers – especially as it costs £600 more than the standard model.

The good news is that when cruising, you won’t notice which fuel is being supped, despite the difference in power. Elsewhere, it proves similar to the standard machine, with too much body roll and a soggy ride.

A dated cabin design also makes it hard to recommend – and BioPower does little to boost the car’s appeal. Only the shortage of rivals makes the Saab worth considering if you must have an executive car that drinks bioethanol.

Most Popular

New 2020 Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport turns up the wick to 296bhp
Volkswagen Golf GTI Hatchback

New 2020 Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport turns up the wick to 296bhp

The new Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport adds more power and gets an aero overhaul
13 Oct 2020
New Land Rover Discovery Sport PHEV 2020 review
Land Rover Discovery Sport

New Land Rover Discovery Sport PHEV 2020 review

The Land Rover Discovery Sport P300e plug-in hybrid promises 135mpg and an all-electric range of 38 miles, but does it deliver?
21 Oct 2020
Car exhaust smoke explained
British Steam Car
Tips & advice

Car exhaust smoke explained

Is your car suffering from a smoky exhaust? Our troubleshooting guide tells you the causes and what you need to do to fix it
22 Oct 2020