The garage door opens and a Saab 9-5 NG Bio Power in Arctic White slowly pushes into the open with a sporty exhaust sound. Sporty sound in the four-cylinder? Yes sure ! Responsible is the Hirsch Performance sports exhaust system, which sends a pleasant shiver down our spine.
After writing about electric cars again and again in the last week, the petrolheads will be up for grabs in the next few days. Maybe not so hip, not so politically correct, but more fun. And in this article we burn a lot of Super Plus and E85.
Achim and I are in guest in Saab center Kiel, and in front of us are 619 kilometers to the south. It is freezing in northern Germany on this day, the thermometer showed in the early morning on our arrival in Hamburg minus 12 degrees.
But the freeways are snow-free and weakly frequented this Saturday, promising to be a swift and relaxed ride. Let's see what the Saab can do. It's my second encounter with a linear, which at first sounds unspectacular after abandonment. Linear Number One had been a very early, very poorly equipped, 9-5 TID model from the Saab Frankfurt inventory. With friend Marco and me he left an ambiguous impression. The processing showed room for improvement, the chassis without Drive Sense was insecure on bad roads. Now we are back in front of a Linear, one of the last to come off the line in Trollhättan in spring 2011.
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So far, the vehicle has been operating close to Gothenburg and is well equipped above average. Navigation, Harman Kardon sound system, color info display in the speedometer, the cargo system in the trunk and much more are on board. In Sweden, the low base price for business cars is taxed, and so linear models are often very well equipped with everything that made the price list possible. He has features on board, which would have had a German linear not as an order option, but again no Drive Sense, but only the normal sports suspension. Can he still like it? We will see !
In Kiel, the Saab was upgraded with the Hirsch sports exhaust and the Hirsch performance increase on 260 PS. The 9-5 is now doing with the soundscape in the warm-up on Turbo X. For the regularly reading visitors from Ingolstadt, Wolfsburg and Munich must be noted that it works without a sound generator.
With the additional 40 horses and the gain of 50 Nm, the performance of the 9-5 roughly corresponds to the 2014 model year, 250 HP and 400 Nm would then have been standard in the series. So nothing stands in the way of driving pleasure. We leave Kiel with a tank full of ethanol and head for Hamburg. The Saab depends well on the gas, reacts more directly and sportily than its big brother with the V6. The agility is amazing, the 4-cylinder is inherently lighter and the lack of all-wheel drive also saves weight. The first impression on board is positive. The workmanship is perfect, nothing rattles or creaks, everything fits as it should. No comparison with the first contact in 2010. The sports seats are as they should be on a Saab, you can immediately find the right seating position.
It goes through the Elbtunnel and further in the direction of Hannover. The highways are still limited in speed, which changes soon. The 9-5 is a tremendously casual vehicle, especially with this engine. You glide comfortably, enjoy the relaxed seats and the Dolby Digital Sound; If you then step on the gas and demand performance, the Swede is immediately wide awake. And now he is allowed to perform, because the further south we go, the more free sections you will find.
We run the Saab with 210, the winter tires do not allow more. He could be faster, the deer variant catches the 2 liter of Bio Power only at Tempo 250. The speed you take was not right, so quiet is the car. Only the Hirsch exhaust now announces presence and reminds us that we are traveling in a sporty vehicle. How well a suspension is tuned, you realize at the latest in the Kassel mountains. Fast, tight curves, nasty climbs. The Saab is like the proverbial board on the street. Long wheelbase, wide track and a low center of gravity result in unexpectedly good handling.
The chassis of the 9-5 without Drive Sense was in the premiere 2010 in the criticism. Which was certainly justified, and the Swedes hurriedly and successfully repaired. In England, the motor press was invited to present the new vote and received much praise for it. Unfortunately, this action came too late. Also, the first press vehicles had an unfortunate setup and the call was, again, struck. It did not matter anymore that 2011 got better with model year, and soon Saab produced other, more tragic-spectacular headlines.
We have to refuel shortly before Kassel. Our ambitious pace cost 17 liters of E85 per 100 kilometers, now we're filling up with Super Plus. Since the autobahn is almost deserted in the evening, we let the 9-5 fly further in the direction of Frankfurt. We will then stick to less than 14 liters, and I am sure: with a more economical driving style we would have ended up with a consumption of less than 10 liters. But do we want that when the autobahn gives us the rare opportunity to drive freely?
And by the way: with refueling and lunch break we need 5 hours for 619 kilometers this Saturday with empty highways, are always relaxed and under the legality on the way. So much for the consumption values.
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From Kassel, friend Achim takes over the wheel. His first ride with a 9-5 NG. A few months ago he bought a 9-3 TTID. A great car that he doesn't want to trade. Until this weekend and until this trip in the 9-5! In the meantime we are on the Fulda motorway in the direction of Hanau. Time to think about the Saab ... Would Saab have had a chance with the 9-5? In December Mark and I were on the road in Germany with rental cars from Ingolstadt and Stuttgart. If we take off our Saab glasses, the judgment is clear.
The Swedes would have been on a par with what is being built in Ingolstadt. Not really better, except maybe in long-distance suitability. Because the 9-5 is hard to beat. And the chassis suits me better than anything I've experienced at Audi, even without Drive Sense. Because while the brand with the four rings relies on driving that is largely decoupled from the environment, Saab pursues a different, long-standing philosophy and gives clear feedback on the road surface and condition, without appearing annoying or inharmonious. I like that, purely subjectively, better. There is also a little story on the subject of chassis tuning and sporty handling.
Shortly before production maturity, the 9-5 Aero XWD competed on the Opel test field in the Rodgau, near our Saab hangar, for a comparison test with the international premium competition and drove it to the ground. Driving dynamics, the 9-5 is at the front, what you would have expected of the 5 meter sedan really.
Only Saab never published that, why should it? In Sweden, great vehicles were almost always built that offered better detailed solutions than other makes. But by tradition it was not talked about. Additional public interest and more enthusiastic buyers ... what a disturbing idea ...
In the Bavarian-Hessian border area, Achim leaves me and I drive the last few kilometers on winding third-order country roads towards Spessart. The Saab is good, the 9-5 is the most agile big Saab ever. It's really fun and the cornering speeds on my home track are higher than normal. The well-coordinated automatic system contributes to sporty driving. For the first time in a Saab, it deserves the name adaptive 100% and supports the driving pleasure with a sporty note by skilfully shifting down.
The high cornering speeds are an experience that I had with the 9-5 NG sports suit on the same road. At that time I believed that the reason for the maneuverability of the 5-meter vehicle was Drive Sense, all-wheel drive and eLSD. The BioPower doesn't have any of that. It's just a well-tuned, conventional chassis that lets the 9-5 fly around corners. Saab had done his homework. Unfortunately only too late!