First test drive Saab 9-5 Sport Combi

First test Saab 9-5 station wagon
First test Saab 9-5 station wagon

Tjänstebilsfakta, Swedish car magazine, exclusively tested the new Saab 9-5 Sport Combi. Background: Tjänstebilsfakta is an online magazine, especially for fleets and leasing customers, so important for later sales volume.

The first test took place with pilot series models. Invited were fleet managers and leasing experts.

Here are the facts of what Tjänstebilsfakta says about the latest Saab 9-5, our analogous and certainly not entirely error-free translation from Swedish:

The Saab 9-5 Sport Combi is highly anticipated and necessary to take Saab to profitability. The biggest fear in the leasing market is not getting enough future residual value, but that fear is misplaced.

The first estate versions of the new 9-5 rolled off the assembly lines just before Christmas. After some necessary adjustments, along with a select number of residual value experts, we got behind the wheel of car #2 and #3, and took the cars just over a month old for a test drive.

With the new 9-5, Saab will reach its revenue expectations in the segment of the large sedan segment in the year 2011. Now it's up to the new 9-5 SportCombi to show the full potential.

The wagon is the same car as the sedan from the front to the back seat. The ceiling over the rear seat has been raised approximately 10-15mm for better headroom and pulled out into the roofline with an integrated spoiler, ending in a steeply sloping tailgate divided by a side light bar between the rear lamps.

The C-pillar is strongly bent, a Saab design classic known as a "hockey stick". The hidden D-pillars seem to make the rear window and rear side windows form one unit.

Someone said the Sport Combi is nicer than the sedan. It's a matter of taste. But the car is really attractive and elegant, which is important in a world where looks are becoming more important with cars and in principle all cars are good, serviceable and safe work tools. It's almost like a hatchback, as one participant put it.

As a result, the new 9-5 SC also has a few liters less loading volume than a comparable Volvo and BMW 5 Series Touring. But the 530 liters to 555 liters and 560 are quite enough to suit most families. They survived with the old 9-5 for twelve years - and it was much smaller.

Tjänstebilsfakta is testing the new Saab 9-5 Sport Combi
Tjänstebilsfakta is testing the new Saab 9-5 Sport Combi

The wide and strongly inclined C-pillar unfortunately obscures the view for the rear passengers. Competitors with larger glass surfaces offer a significantly more airy sense of space.
As in the sedan, there is a U-shaped rail in the floor where a telescoping cargo divider (optional) can be used to secure luggage. The bottom can be opened in three stages. When folded, this is held by a strut and then functions as a shopping bag holder. A tire repair kit is standard, the spare wheel optional, but then you lose the extra-deep cargo bed and have to make up a 6,5 centimeter deep space.

Saab is not in line with the practical 40/20/40 foldable Volvo seat back, but uses the traditional 60/40 seat back. A warning triangle is neatly secured in a compartment in the tailgate - useful in the event of an accident.

The remote control, which can be programmed for different opening heights, is optional. The old hard luggage compartment cover from the old 9-5 has disappeared and has been replaced by a regular, thinner cover hooked to the D-pillar, similar to a 9-3 from 2006.

The test drive was supposed to take place on the Saab test track, but was moved to public roads due to intense rain in the morning hours. You can see the self-confidence Saab has in the toughest competitors standing by: Audi A6 Avant and Volvo V70. The BMW 5 Series Touring is Saab's goal and is considered a benchmark. For reference we had a standard 9-5 SC.

Behind the wheel one can see the welcome improvement in interior materials. The sedan will benefit from these improvements beginning in the 2012 model year.

Saab has worked hard to keep the model on sedan comfort and handling. The rear has been modified to handle the increased weight. Under the loading floor and the wheel arches there is additional insulation to minimize the usual station wagon noise. We ride on soft Nordic winter tires, which are kind to the ears. But from the driver's seat of these pre-production cars, there's nothing to suggest that Saab has done a bad job.

The driving characteristics could not be tested under any major load on public roads, as the chassis was not yet fully coordinated with power steering. But the car is just as responsive, safe, and eager to turn corners and conveys just as much driving pleasure as the sedan.

On its rivals, the BMW 5-Series steering feels more direct and precise, but the 9-5 isn't far behind. In the same discipline, the 9-5 beats both the Audi A6 Avant and the Volvo V70. The Audi steering feels too light, the chassis is bumpy and the noise level is higher. The Volvo V70 is indeed a safe vehicle, but it is not a pleasure to drive for its driver. The steering is too inexact, gives a light and uncomfortable feeling.

The BMW interior conveys a higher quality and the eight-speed automatic transmission in combination with the two-liter diesel with 184 hp is hard to beat.
But the driver's environment, or the Saab's cockpit, is a little bit more comfortable in Sweden. The tunnel of the center console of the BMW console interfere a little on the right leg.

Both the Saab standard and the sports seats are very comfortable with good adjustment options (and would have been even better if we had gotten rid of the Opel lever and would have received a variable adjustment of the Lehnenneigung). Volvo V70 seats are good, but have too short cushions. To offer the same comfort as the Saab 9-5, sports seats are required in the Audi.

In the case of personal, but still very real perceived quality, BMW is in a class of its own. However, the Saab corresponds to the current Audi A6 and Volvo.

The new 9-5 SportCombi shares components with the Opel Insignia and has Fiat diesel engines, but everything is optimized and "Saabified" in Trollhättan. The SpotCombi has the same petrol, bioethanol and diesel turbo engines as the sedan and also the same all-wheel drive system (Saab XWD). There are three petrol versions with 180, 220 and 300 hp and two diesel versions with 160 and 190 hp.

New for the 2012 model year will be a small 136 hp diesel engine. Both it and the 160 hp version are optimized to emit less than 120 grams of CO2 per kilometer. Saab could not say the exact time of the introduction today.

We drove the car with the two 160- and 190-hp diesels. The smallest marched across the streets at a comfortable pace at 1100 rpm. Shifting means shifting down to third gear to overtake. Both diesels are efficient (around 5,5 l / 100 km when driving comfortably are not a problem) and powerful enough for the needs of most drivers.

The most economical in our round was the Audi A6 with a 170 hp two-liter diesel and a consumption of five liters per 100 km.

Official figures are not yet clear, but we expect a slightly higher CO2 emissions than the sedan.

There are also some technical innovations for the 2012 model year. In addition to the already available HUD, there is a lane change warning, radar brakes combined with adaptive cruise control and an automatic start / stop function.

The world premiere will take place at the Geneva Motor Show. Then the books are open for orders and after the summer break the first customers will have their cars.

After a few winding kilometers outside of Trollhättan, one can see that the new 9-5 SportCombi has every chance of conquering market share in this segment.
It's at least on par with or better than some "top sellers" in this class. It's a distinctive car with a host of premium features. Dealers guarantee the residual value for leasing customers. It's going to be a hot hit for families with kids in the used car market if they haven't already decided to buy a new vehicle.

The large station wagon market is getting more fun and an interesting vehicle. Sweden would be a lot more boring without Saab.

Source: Tjänstebils Fakta

Photos: Tjänstebilsfakta (1), Saab (1)