Swede little mystery
Spacious and comfortable, the Saab 9-5 Aero Version is a car with a few surprises to a usual luxury saloon
When looking for a luxury sedan, there are a lot of options to choose from and Saab is one of the least common. I can imagine why. BMWs are faster, a Lexus is more reliable and a Mercedes more luxurious.
That is why these brands greatly outnumber Saabs on the road. While Saab may not be the best in any single one of these categories, I would have to say it provides a sporty ride with great power, reliability, gas mileage, comfort and luxury. And although it may not have the prestige of the other brands (you will never see a Saab in a hip-hop video), this makes the Swedish brand better value and a driver has the satisfaction of not finding ten of them in every parking lot.
In a demanding business environment, image is an important asset, so investment in a luxury car will win you a few extra points in the eyes of the superficial. Therefore I took the Saab 9-5 Aero version for a drive and found I was enjoying a beast with a 250 horsepower turbo engine.
Handling and ride
Both quite good for this car. It handled like a dream, took corners well and gripped the road with determination. The ride was exceptionally quiet, with only the most minimal of air noise and it went over bumps with so much ease I could barely feel them. The suspension was taking care of business, smoothing out the potholes and humps in the road and making for a crisp and clean ride.
Acceleration was great, though the automatic gear box cost the Saab a whopping 1.3 secs in the dash to 100 km/h. (7.8secs vs. 6.5secs). The engine was powerful, quite obviously, but was not making all kinds of noise that could be heard in the car. The transmission was one of those odd but brilliant inventions where you can either go manual or use it as an automatic. If you select manual it will still shift if you forget, but give you the opportunity to shift if you want, from two little pads at each side of the wheel, much like a Formula One car. If you choose automatic, of course it's like any other automatic. Bur there is a catch: a little button on the gear knob, with an 'S' on it will get you into the active mood and the gear change becomes fast and sporty. Usually I hate automatic drive, but this time I forgot I was using the setting. An amusing motif was the turbo activity dial next to the speedometer, with a scale coloured in white, orange and red. When you reach the red zone, the fun begins. The car will offer quite a strong sensation and push you back into the seat.
These seats are firm, supportive and very comfortable. The 9-5 handles excellent-ly, staying smooth and quiet at all speeds.
Interior from a different view
There is a chromed airplane air blower used for reading light and the ignition stays between the seats and not on the dashboard, as in 99.99 per cent of cars. The trunk opening button is on the driver's door and the electric window controls are between the seats, not where you would expect. I admit: every time I wanted to start the car, I tried to stick the ignition key into the usual dashboard place, then I realised… it's a Saab… I have to look elsewhere.
I noticed a lot of these things and saw that the Saab engineers tend to place the controls in a different place to other manufacturers. This, I guess, is what is meant by thinking outside of the box.
My first reaction to the interior was to find that the dash is centred around the driver. This is something that has traditionally been attributed to BMW, but nowadays the German firm is moving away from this, especially in the new Series. I find it is always good to see a car focused on the driver, so at least in this Saab things are going in the right direction.
The dash is positioned well forward of the driver and is very vertical in appearance. In fact, unlike most cars, your knees are actually not placed under the dashboard, which starts in front of them. The surface of the dash is a carbon fibre effect, and although the overall look is quite dark, this works well. The rest of the dash is a good quality plastic with an excellent finish.
Some unique features of the dash include a clear instrument cluster. Contrary to the general trend, this has no silver or enhanced dials and they are instead very simple and clear. The speedometer, for example, consists of just numbers and marks, with no dial as such. In addition, the scale of the graduations reflects real experience (and legal speeds). Zero to 140 km/h, for example, actually utilises three-quarters of the space, with the remaining one hundred km/h taking up a disproportionately small area. Thus the speedometer is clear for the speeds you are likely to be driving 90 per cent of the time.
Anyway, the seats were leather (this was a nicely loaded version) and not only that, but they had heaters for those cold mornings when leather would not necessarily be so luxurious. There is also ventilation: in summer days, after all, who wants to melt into their seat like a chocolate bar left on the dashboard? Not me. Temperature controls were separate for the driver and passenger and these were also automatic. You can set the degrees you want, and let it be as cool or warm as needed.
The trunk has plenty of room for almost anything. Luggage or even a small coffin could fit easily in the trunk. As for the back seats, there is plenty of leg room there, regardless of where the front seats were located. It is a very comfortable interior all the way around.
This is a great car that rides well, looks unusual, has all kinds of convenient features and would make a nice addition to anyone's garage. Of course it is a luxury car, so how many can afford this is beyond me.
The 9-5 2.3 HOT Aero costs around 27,000 Euro. The good news is that the Romanian importer, Augusta Motors will offer a 2,000 Euro discount for the International Diplomatic Sales program if you are a diplomat.But don't despair if you are not on a foreign mission, the dealers will also give the option of a package of fun freebies worth about the same sum for other buyers.