Stylish. Secure, yet aggressive. Headlights with chrome surround. Could this truly be a Saab? Find out, as Adrian Ion takes a pair of Swedish beauties out for the weekend
The 2006 line of the Saab shows that even the most conservative car manufacturers such as the Swedish cannot ignore style and design trends. Without loosing the characteristics that make a Saab stand out from the crowd the engineers and designers are making the best use of the latest fashion in car design.
With the redesign of the 2006 Saab 9-5, the Swedish car brand is making a statement without reinventing the model. The differences from the previous model are subtle, yet noticeable, with the use of chrome.
The most striking aspect of the new design features are the headlights being completely surrounded by chrome. This gives the new 9-5 an aggressive look, especially when the body is in black. The car sits a little lower in the front, slightly higher in the back, underlining its imposing stance.
The other elements of the body are more conventional and the back of the car follows the intentional design and placement of the tail-lights.
The Sport-Combi is identical to the Sedan except for the rear quarter.
The company’s historical legacy as an airline industrialist is present in the 9-5’s cockpit. Most of the instruments are oriented towards the driver, creating a safe atmosphere. The colours used for the dash illumination and the controls are green and white, yet simple, avoiding the distracting multi-colour interior lights so popular these days.
The seats are very comfortable and the model we test-drove had quality leather seating and great side support, for the Aero version. Power adjustment is available in different packages, as are heated front and rear seats (it is, after all, cold in Sweden). Power window controls are clustered in front of the central console, rather than on the driver’s door - this aspect was a bit annoying and difficult to operate. But the Saab is a car that you have to get used to as you will find a strange placing also for the ignition key, not in the usual dashboard, but between the front seats.
The steering wheel is an item that I particularly liked in the 9-5, with aluminium coloured sport handles. The wheel underlines perfectly the sensations you should expect for a sporty Aero model.
The entire interior is well-fitted, but still far from the quality and luxury of its premium German rivals. The look is tasteful, but you need to be a Saab-design fan to fully appreciate some more unusual interpretations.
On the Road
The engine choices in the 9-5 range from the 150 hp diesel to the 260 hp petrol version available in the Aero.
Saab has been known for its turbo-charged engines and, faithful to its heritage, they have fitted a turbo gauge in the dashboard that enables the driver to know when the boost has been engaged.
The turbo is very smooth, providing linear power and a little bit of jet-like noise from under the hood. The road feel is smooth and comfortable, something that one will appreciate fully on Romanian roads, but does not compromise the sporty feeling. The 9-5 inspires confidence in a driver, with excellent road handling and ample power reserves.
Its nice to know that Saab is very proud of its safety features, but we must trust the results and hope never have to test them.
On your marks
Saab provided, during a two day test drive, with some adrenaline sensations and I was most impressed by the new 2.8 V6 power plant, Saab’s most powerful engine yet fitted to the 9-3 model. This engine offers real fun.
Saab wants to become a real contender among the sports Sedans, convertibles and sport wagons in its class. Whichever body style fits your needs and desires, the Saab 9-3 is sporty, it’s tight and it handles well.
Together with the 2.8-litre turbocharged V6 an improved 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine has been added for 2006. Saab, originally a Swedish aircraft company, calls its top models Aero to complete the connection. And the sensation you feel pushing the throttle of this car compares to that of a plane taking off.
The 9-3 was completely redesigned for the 2003 model year, the convertible followed for 2004, and for 2006, the lineup includes the new 9-3 SportCombi, a sport wagon. The 9-3 SportCombi fitted with the V6 engine was the most impressive to drive and combines perfectly the style and versatility of a combi with true sporty feeling.
The SportCombi is definitely a cool looking station wagon, front to back. The huge white-lens vertical LED tail lamps don’t intrude on the cargo opening and finish off the body shape perfectly.
Let’s go inside
The Saab 9-3’s interior is pretty much what one would expect in a near-luxury car, although certain faults remain. The instruments are arrayed in an easy-to-view layout and it’s a relatively high dashboard compared to that in most other cars. The Sedan and SportCombi feature wood trim, while the convertible goes with a more matte-black finish. Door handles and the centre console shifter surround are trimmed in brushed chrome. The Aero steering wheel is wrapped in leather with brushed chrome trim on the spokes. The front seats are firm but comfortable. More aggressive sport seats being available as an option.
The Saab 9-3 handles impressively well, especially as the test car was a combi. The steering is soft and easy to control, making the car easy to drive in the city. The ride is smooth and the engine sounds sporty, due to the double exhaust fitted on the Aero model.
One area in which the 9-3 excels is the way it develops the torque of the engine. It is constant and gives the impression it doesn’t run out of power. The V6 delivers all the punch these cars need, with 250 horsepower and 258 Nm of torque from 2,000-4,500 rpm. Saab official figures for the 9-3 Aero SportCombi we drove show acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in 6.9 seconds. The Saab 9-3 Aero is a delight to drive and the Sport Combi is a nice combination of sportiness and everyday functionality.
After two days driving the Saabs in a landscape that took us from highway to mountain roads and the volcanic mud of Buzau county, I am able to say that Saab is offering some interesting choices for every type of personality on the current model range, where there are now fewer choices in trim and engine. The result is simply a better car with real character.
If you’ve just got tired of seeing parking lots full of certain models, then the Saab may be the choice for you, and it is worth paying a visit to local importer Augusta Motors.