CAR magazine in the United Kingdom had a 2011 Saab 9-5 in their fleet for a long-term test. It is a beautiful Laser Red Aero diesel and it is certainly not something you see every day. The arrival of this Saab 9-5 was in August last year and the Saab administrators and finance company in the UK finally reclaimed the car a few weeks ago.
There were a lot of good things reported about this Saab 9-5.
Our red 9-5 was a beacon of hope for Saab. It's far from best in the executive class, but it provided a great alternative to the German hegemony.
Here is a big saloon with space in abundance and a conservative style which is discreet and neat. It looks particularly good from the back at night time, that horizontal LED bar lighting up the width of the car.
It's a big car, the 9-5 - the room on offer is frankly gargantuan. And on a winter's night like yesterday the typically Swedish thoughtfulness shone bright. The heated seats were searingly hot in seconds, unlike the lukewarm efforts in my Infiniti M35h. The windscreen defrosted quickly. The superb seats need little introduction. Such practicalities make life onboard so much easier.
And also other areas that were not so good.
But putting the 9-5 in context, it's also clear to see where the pennies were pinched. While I respect the design DNA and thoughtfulness, dynamically the 9-5 is some way off the pace. And it's virtually all to do with the GM technology that Detroit is so keen to protect.
There's a rich irony here. General Motors essentially scuppered Saab by blocking the planned sale to Chinese suitors - claiming that its intellectual property was at competitive risk in one of its biggest markets. But firing up the 2.0 TTiD reminds us why that was an optimistic claim.
This GM four-cylinder diesel is some way off the pace, chugging and rattling like a diesel from the old school. Our 9-5 weighs the wrong side of two tonnes - just - and performance is weak. The manual gearchange is long and notchy, too. And just to seal the belief that it's not as well engineered as it could be, the digital read-out last night knocked out a Jackanory-spec tale of wrongly inflated tyre pressures and open boot warnings the whole way home. (We've checked, and the tyres are fine, the boot was safely shut).
They also have an interesting comparison with the Jaguar XF.
The two cars are incredibly close on performance figures. XF is quicker to 62mph by just 0.3sec (8.5 beats 8.8) but tops out 3mph behind at 140mph. That’s the data, but subjectively the Saab doesn’t feel any slower to 62 – both cars are rubbish at getting themselves off the line, but once up there it’s neck-and-neck. The Jag rides better, though, and feels more refined generally.
Planet-wise the Jag wins out on fuel consumption, its 52.3mpg beating the Saab’s 47.1, but the Saab counters with 142g/km CO2 against the Jag’s 149.
And the Saab scored a big fat victory when the snow and ice descended this week, easing its front-wheel-driven way out of my drive where the XF impotently spun its driven rear wheels.
The last Saabs from press fleets are being reclaimed. We will not see any more Saab reviews show up in magazines and on car enthusiast websites. While there still is hope for a restart of the company, this second generation Saab 9-5 (and Saab 9-4X) will be a rare sight on the road as they will probably never be manufactured again. Saabs always had a difficult time to win the hearts of automotive reporters in the last decades but at least they were something different from the main stream.
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