Joel Helmes reviews the new Saab 9-5.
About 20 years there was a car called the Toyota Lexcen, you may remember it, you may not.
What I remember most about the Lexcen (which was a rebadged Commodore) was the advertising jingle used in the TV commercials for the car – “It’s a little bit different, not like the car next door”.
Proving that some advertising certainly does get stuck in your head that tune came to mind while driving around in the new Saab 9-5.
It’s just somehow “different”.
There have always been a strong band of committed Saab enthusiasts, the problem is here in Australia, and in many other countries, not enough people have given them a go, hence the financial problems experienced by Saab in recent times.
It’s been a chaotic, roller coaster ride for Saab in recent times and this 9-5 is a product of these unprecedented times in their history.
To come up with a car so good given the circumstances is extraordinary.
It is a difficult car to pigeon hole and just when you think you have it nailed down it surprises you once again.
I will admit it I have never been a great fan of the shape and design of Saab cars, mostly I think because, well they have pretty much never changed.
So it was well and truly time for something different.
There are elements of that rusted on design in the new 9-5 but it is more subtle and dare I say it more aggressive than the Saab’s of yesterday.
With a radically different front, and rather unique rear the Saab certainly garners some attention from other road users.
The interior of the Saab 9-5 Aero is classic Saab. Sweeping windscreen, airplane inspired switches and dials and a general feel that is very different to its competitors.
The touch screen system is relatively easy to use and all the main controls are within easy reach.
The seats are superb, perhaps a touch on the firm side. There is however one complaint I will make here, and this is not an issue exclusive to Saab by any means, I wish designers would resist the habit of putting hard side bolsters on the lower seat.
I am what would be described as an average size and height Australian male yet I find that this hard padding, particularly on the right hand side of the seat very uncomfortable.
The padding is designed to stop you sliding around in the seat but I found myself shifting around trying not to rest my leg on the hard “bump”.
There is more than ample leg room in the back and the large fold out video screens in the rear will keep passengers more than happy.
One thing that stood out to me with the Saab is just how quiet the vehicle is.
The ride and handling is is where the Saab really excels and where my point about trying to pigeon hole this car comes to the fore.
The vehicle has three driving modes passive, adaptive and sports.
These controls really give you two very different cars.
In passive mode the big Saab lumbers around with effortless ease, potholes are barely felt and yet on the corners the vehicle is sure footed and secure.
Sports mode however is a whole different kettle of fish. The Saab becomes a growling Tiger, roaring up and down the six gears and clinging on to the road like it’s on the proverbial rails.
Adaptive mode traces your driving habits and changes settings like suspension and steering stiffness on the go, very smart.
Our test car was powered by the 2.8 V6 petrol engine with dual twin-scroll turbochargers.
The engine boasts 221kw and 400Nm which is precisely what the car needs.
It certainly never struggles pushing the big Saab around, the only point that is a little disappointing is down low in the revs when it takes just a moment for the turbochargers to kick in, otherwise it’s a delight.
On a drive encompassing a winding and narrow road with a 60 speed limit, urban and freeway driving, mostly in the adaptive mode setting, I averaged around 9.5 litres per 100 kilometres.
Consumption while in heavy city traffic jumped to about 14 litres per 100 kilometres.
All of these cars, including the Saab, will provide years of happy motoring.
But why buy the Saab?
Well once again simply because it is just that little bit different.
It catches the eye, catches the imagination and beware you may even get hooked like those other Saab enthusiasts!
NUTS and BOLTS
Engine: 2.8 litre V6 petrol producing 221kW and 400Nm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Safety: Not tested
Price: From $94,900