Saab 9-5 Aero XWD

This is the hottest new 9-5 we've tested yet, but how does the 'Aero' flagship compare with the rest of the range - and its premium rivals?

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

The 9-5 is an attractive leftfield choice. This muscular engine is more fun than the less powerful diesel options, but you’ll pay for it at the pumps. Numb steering and a sluggish gearbox mean the Saab isn’t as dynamic as its German rivals, or the Vauxhall Insignia on which it’s based, but it does offer superb cruising ability and a spacious cabin. Most importantly for fans of the brand, the 9-5 stays true to its roots by offering a quirky design coupled with a cabin that echoes Saabs of old – but with plenty of modern touches. 

Meet the car that’s flying the flag for Saab’s future. We’ve already driven a duo of diesel 9-5s, but it’s this flagship model that will have to impress if the Swedish firm wants to secure its status long-term.

We got a world exclusive passenger ride in this top-spec Aero version back in June, but this is our first chance to get behind the wheel and put the range-topper through its paces.

The styling is a mix of concept car flair and retro touches, such as the curved C-pillar and the wraparound-effect windscreen. The unique design manages to conceal the 9-5’s bulk well, and it looks sleek and refreshingly original from any angle. 

Inside, the trend for mixing old and new continues. The angled dash focusing on the driver is a classic Saab cue, but the LCD screen and optional head-up display give it a more modern feel, while trading on Saab’s aeronautical heritage. Cabin quality is high, and the comfortable leather seats give the driver a commanding view of the road ahead.

The engine on this top-spec Aero is a 2.8-litre V6 turbo, sending 296bhp to all four wheels through a six-speed automatic gearbox. Despite the 9-5’s two-tonne kerbweight, acceleration is strong, with the virtually lag-free power delivery perfect for overtaking.

Unfortunately, the gearbox gets in the way of the power – especially in manual mode, where the steering-mounted paddles are slow to respond to quick downchanges. On the flipside, the relaxed set-up makes the 9-5 an excellent cruiser. Its soft ride and superb refinement ensure that you can cover long distances with ease.

There’s limousine-like legroom in the back, thanks to the five-metre body, but the 515-litre boot is hampered by its small opening, which makes loading bigger items difficult. The Aero isn’t a practical choice though – the big petrol engine is very thirsty, managing only 26.6mpg, while emissions of 244g/km mean it will cost £750 to tax each year.

The 9-5 is an idiosyncratic alternative to more mainstream offerings from Audi and BMW. While it can’t keep up in pure driving terms, it offers enough in its Saab DNA to keep the brand’s loyal fans interested.

Rival: Vauxhall Insignia With its flowing lines and eye-catching details, the Insignia is a good looker. Strong residuals and aggressive pricing make it a fine-value alternative to the 9-5.

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