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