Some things in Sweden could have gone better. For example, if Saab had presented the 9-5 sports car in parallel to the sedan. The quantities produced would have been higher and the future less cloudy. Because, to say it in advance, with the sports car would have had a product on par with Audi A6, Mercedes E class and 5er BMW.
Not better, but more individual and charming than the Ingolstadt, more stylish than the Mercedes and more understated than the BMW. But one after anonther. Our one-week test drive, which unfortunately and unpredictably became a very exclusive test, took place with a Saab 9-5 TTiD XWD Aero sports car, which would have cost more than 60.000 € in the full equipment. What would have been a very competitive price with regard to the German competitors.
The 190 PS four-wheel-drive diesel gets on better with the heavy 5-meter-long car than you think. Part of that is the well-graded, manual 6 gearbox; an automatic transmission would not have existed. What is incomprehensible, because all-wheel drive and powerful diesel would have been the optimal combination with automatic. Because it's a long-haul car built as a business jet for those on the highways every day.
The Saab plays this role perfectly, and during the week when I traded from dealer to dealer with the 9-5, it became a pleasant and unobtrusive companion. The seats in the 9-5 Aero are great, the suspension has been retuned for the 2012 model year, leaving the Drive-Sens switch in the normal position.
The Drive-Sense switch is for everyone who is equipped with the play instinct of the big boys. In addition to the “Intelligent Mode”, which fits all situations, there are also “Sport” and “Comfort”. In sports mode, the sports suit makes you into a racing car. Because in addition to the chassis settings, the response to the accelerator pedal also changes. The engine is snappier but also more nervous on the gas, reacts more spontaneously.
In comfort mode, the 9-5 lapses, glides along like a big Citroen and spreads a bit of comfort. No matter which mode you choose, you drive like on rails. Responsible for this is the four-wheel drive, which would have been equipped in model year 2012 for all Aero versions with e-LSD.
The e-LSD is not a drug, but an electronic differential that distributes the slip between the wheels according to the XWD. In contrast to most systems from other manufacturers, the differential at Saab is always preloaded and can thus react faster than other all-wheel drive systems. You notice what you get from it in everyday operation. Because you notice - nothing. On the way on wet cobblestones you can accelerate without hesitation, the propulsion is perfect. So perfect that you forget to be on the road with a four-wheel drive Saab.
If you are on the road with the Saab team and Saab boss Jan-Philipp Schuhmacher, you get the opportunity to test the cars in construction pits or on fine sand. Because, as it should be, Saab management in Germany “experiences” all model versions to give reports and suggestions for improvement to Sweden. Therefore, we can say that the Saab all-wheel drive system is a fine thing even off the beaten track.
A station wagon is a station wagon, is a station wagon. The rear is important, that's what counts. And since I have the Opel Insignia tailgate, a badly designed barn door, in mind, the “rear” of the 9-5 sports suit was particularly important to me.
But at Saab one did not make the mistake that was made in Rüsselsheim. The Saab tailgate is not as oversized as that of the Insignias and can be opened both by remote control and from the interior. There are different opening heights and thus also a garage opening, in order not to collide with missing gate height with the gate of the garage. The U-Rail system, known from the Saab 9-5 sedan, is really playing out its strengths in the station wagon. By moving the telescopic rods in each direction, it is the optimal solution for sensitive cargo. Travel bag and photo equipment in, fixed with the U-Rail system in seconds and off you go!
And our journey is going very quickly. The test station wagon, a model from the pre-production series, presented itself as a tired Swede for the first few kilometers from Trollhättan. Probably because of the boring test drives on the speed-limited country roads in Smaland and Västragötland. With every kilometer on German autobahns, it became livelier and more powerful. The specification states that it has a maximum speed of 225, which is in line with our GPS measurements. If the station wagon had gone into series production and there had been a model year 2012, our Swiss friends would also have had a performance cure on offer.
Much has been written about the handiness of the Saab 9-5. With a length of over 5 meters, it is a big car, the question is how suitable a station wagon can be for everyday use. In narrow parking lots, one or the other bad thought occurred to me about this 5 meter Swedish engineering. Because 5 meters is an announcement, but after a few days you get used to it. The best test, but only for strong nerves, is a parking garage. A particularly nasty, rotten parking garage from the 60s is in Berlin, not far from Kuhdamm. It's tight, very tight and I think drivers of an Audi A4 or 3 Series BMW have to be careful. Millions of traces of paint on the walls and pillars speak for themselves, and it was a ride that you won't forget anytime soon.
Of course it is with these car parks so that all parking decks are occupied, only the very high up, they are free. So go up and down over many floors with a 5 Meter pre-production car where nothing is allowed to happen. It works, it is even very fast. The head-up display draws dramatic flashes as a warning of the imminent collision, the cart produces a sound cacophony without limits. Unfortunately, unfortunately, there is no switch to turn this stuff off. So ears to and through. High without a scratch, down very fast, even without a scratch. 5 meter Swedish steel and suitable for everyday use? In any case.
Which brings us to the head-up display. Also in the Aero with 1000,00 € it would be a recommendation that you have to take. I have to say because the head-up display makes sense especially in the Saab. Night flight over the highway. Nightpanel on, navigation and everything relevant on the display. Night flight can be so relaxed. Born from the jets, reload ...
The 9-5 sports car would be a competitive car, one with potential for conquest. A car for those who are too embarrassed by the Audi fairy lights and flashbacks, who do not like the restless design of the Mercedes E-Class or who want a little more restraint than BMW's products.
But also a car with weaknesses in detail. Weaknesses, with which one can live, because they are the price for the individuality of a small series manufacturer. The navigation system is too slow and unmotivated, there are now better solutions. The can holders in the center console are annoying when you drive a 9-5 with manual gearshift. The good, old, fold-out cup holders made of 9-5 I and Saab 9-3 were a clever idea and would have suited this car. That's it! Small details that would be outweighed by numerous improvements of the vintage 2012 but.
The question of all questions, and it is quite delicate, I conclude. Is the Saab 9-5 sports suit a real Saab? Since I celebrate my 20-year Saab anniversary this year and know almost the entire model history, the response is not easy.
Let me put it this way: the 9-5 sports suit is a real Saab. However, softener, compatible with the usual premium manufacturers. A Saab with conquest potential, suitable for everyday use, a pleasant and comfortable companion for every day. Subdued in design, not fashionable, but modern. Long-lasting and still beautiful, if in many years the competitors have long since made the final round somewhere in Africa.
So, yes, the 9-5 sports suit is a true Saab.