Long-term tests

Saab 9-5

Does stylish Swedish saloon have what it takes to fill the shoes of an old favourite?

  • The attention to detail on the 9-5 is simply superb. On the outside, it features concept car looks, while the interior is awash with distinctive flourishes. Add helpful features such as keyless entry and a digital radio, and the car is an absolute joy to live with.
  • Due to its huge torque output, the 2.0 TTiD comes only with a manual box. The set-up is better than the auto on lesser examples, but isn’t perfect. A long throw and clunky action mean it doesn’t like to be rushed – it’s best to take your time and enjoy relaxed progress.

For the past few weeks, I’ve had a car-shaped hole in my life. I recently sold my first ever 
set of wheels – an 
old Saab 900 Turbo, which had occupied 
a massive place in 
my heart (and bank balance) for more than six 
years. And while I don’t regret moving it on, I still miss it.

But with the arrival of our 
new long-term 9-5, that void has been filled – and I’m once again 
a happy man behind the wheel. As a Saab enthusiast, I have a keen interest in the firm’s fate, and hope it overcomes its current struggles – because the latest 9-5 shows exactly what it’s capable of.

Having driven every variant 
of the brand’s new executive car, I knew which version would shine on our fleet. The sporty Aero model, with its deep bumpers, 19-inch turbine alloys and Glacier Silver metallic paint, really catches the eye. The addition of tinted rear windows ensures it looks every inch the expensive executive, 
and it has huge road presence.

So far, it’s attracted plenty of attention, stopping neighbours in their tracks and provoking lots of positive comments. Those who have ridden in the car have been equally impressed, particularly 
by the amount of room and its distinctive cabin design.

Saab’s trademark curving 
dash incorporates toggle air vent controls and green instrument backlighting, plus the starter button is mounted – where 
else? – between the extremely comfortable parchment leather sports seats. On a recent early morning airport run, the heated seats really came into their own, while the roomy 515-litre boot easily swallowed the luggage. 

What makes our car stand 
out from other models in the Saab range is the way it drives. 
A 2.0-litre diesel engine might sound a bit weedy for a car that weighs nearly two tonnes, but the twin-turbo unit produces a healthy 188bhp. And what really makes the difference is the 400Nm torque output, available from only 1,750rpm. It allows you to short-shift through the ratios and enjoy the virtually uninterrupted acceleration. The only criticism of the powerplant is a slight gruffness on start-up when cold, although this soon subsides, and initial economy 
of 38.6mpg is decent.

Crucially, our car’s chassis really impresses – not only does the Aero model benefit from the range-topping HiPer strut front suspension, but this variant is also specified with the £975 DriveSense control. The knob next to the gearlever lets you select from Comfort, Intelligent and Sport modes, which alter the damping, steering and throttle responses. It all adds up to a driving experience that can be tailored to conditions and personal taste. Our example is a cut above cars riding on the standard suspension. 

We’ve got plenty planned for the 9-5 – as a member of the Saab Owners’ Club, I’ll be taking it to various UK events over the summer, while the removable tow bar means it’s perfect for transporting my Saab track car 
to different circuits. It’s also been earmarked as wedding transport, and I’m looking forward to taking it to Scotland to see my parents.

So although it’s been with us for only a short while, the 9-5 has already made a big impression. And I couldn’t be happier with the gap it’s filled in my life...

Second Opinion

“It’s great that we’ve got a 9-5 on our fleet – this is one of the few cars on the road that really stands out from the crowd. And it has plenty of the character which traditionally sets Saabs apart. You’d never know that it uses pretty much the same running gear as the Vauxhall Insignia!”

Dean Gibson, Deputy chief sub editor

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