Drive – Saab 9-5 Aero XWD Review

27 Mar 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Drive – Saab 9-5 Aero XWD Review

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Spacious cabin

Generously equipped

Engine refinement and performance

It’s something different

Exterior styling



Lumpy ride


Interior quality short of segment standard

Poor resale value

New-generation cars are typically launched every seven years; Saab’s all-new 9-5 took 13. But we should be grateful it is here at all, because this is a car that nearly died. The new 9-5 was in danger of being stillborn as its then parent, General Motors, jettisoned brands to avoid bankruptcy.

Luckily, Dutch sports car maker Spyker brought it back from the brink.

Saab remains on the precipice, however, as its owner, now called Sweden Automobile, seeks funds from China to finance future production. But, for now, we assess whether this new rival for the likes of the BMW 5-Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class is worthy of establishing a new era for the brand.

Price and equipment

Whether you opt for the Vector or Aero 9-5s, Sweden’s newest model is served with a smorgasbord of equipment. The Vector has dual-zone climate control, bi-xenon headlights, rain-sensing wipers, Harman/Kardon audio, Bluetooth, keyless entry and engine start, electrically adjustable and heated front seats, leather seating, head-up display and satellite navigation.

Upgrade to the Aero and the list grows to all-wheel-drive, adjustable dampers within a sportier suspension set-up, sportier seats and steering wheel, bigger (19-inch) alloy wheels and headlights that swivel to illuminate approaching corners.

You don’t, however, get the optional driver-assistance technology – such as lane-keep assist, blind-spot warning or 360-degree camera view – found on the 9-5’s German rivals.

And the 9-5 doesn’t come cheaply. Pricing starts at $71,990, plus on-road and dealer costs, but this Aero XWD model costs $94,900 before on-roads are added, pitching it close to being comparable with Audi A6, 5-Series, E-Class and Jaguar XF models.

It is a big call for a brand trying to re-establish itself, and for a car based on a humble General Motors European car, the Opel Insignia.

A $55,990 V6 AWD Skoda Superb is also just as roomy, has a bigger boot and a better interior, while Saab’s resale values are a concern. Residual expert Glass’s Guide estimates the 9.5 Aero XWD could lose more than half its value after just three years.

Under the bonnet

For those familiar with Saab’s history, yes, every 9-5 engine is turbocharged. The flagship Aero XWD’s unit is a petrol V6 that has its origins at Holden’s Port Melbourne engine plant.

Catch the engine off-boost, below 2000rpm, and there’s a slight delay in response to accelerator pedal pressure – but this far from ruins the drivetrain experience.

Once past the initial turbo lag, the V6 revs sweetly and quietly. With 400Nm of torque available at 2000rpm, it also produces more than sufficient performance, despite the 9-5’s two-tonne kerb weight. The six-speed auto could be quicker with its gear changes but the transmission is intuitive enough.

Just be aware that keener driving will see fuel consumption spike to more than double the official consumption of 11.3 litres per 100 kilometres.

How it drives

All-wheel-drive isn’t new for Saab but a suspension with automatically adjusting dampers is. The so-called DriveSense offers three settings: Comfort (softer), Sport (firmer) and Intelligent (which sets the damper stiffness depending on driving style). Smooth mode seems to be missing, though, because the 9-5’s ride is generally lumpy, while potholes send the suspension crashing into its bump stops.

That means it struggles to offer the wafting comfort of an E-Class or Jaguar XF, while not driving as sharply as a 5-Series.

All-wheel-drive ensures the 9-5 drives well out of corners, wet or dry, and the steering remains free of torque steer, but there’s kickback over bumps and the helm lacks feedback.

Comfort and practicality

At more than five metres long, the 9-5’s size has more in common with the limousine segment than the E-Class category, with substantial space in the back seat and the boot.

The transmission tunnel and raised centre middle seat make the outer pews the optimum accommodation for adults, and those seats – as with the fronts – offer long-distance comfort.

If you hadn’t spotted the Saab designers’ continuing nods to the company’s aircraft heritage, such as the elegantly styled exterior’s wraparound-style windscreen and side windows, there are more cues inside. Besides the obvious (switchable) head-up display that projects information such as speed and revs on to the windscreen, there’s also an altimeter-style speedo. With a standard version, too, that’s three speedos in total.

The dash also carries over more old Saab touches, such as the asymmetrical, driver-oriented centre stack, egg-crate air vents and green instruments. Buttons are fiddly and numerous, though, and the dash plastics and switches lack the prestige feel of rivals.


Audi A6 3.0 TFSI

BMW 528i

Mercedes-Benz E250 CGI

Price From $95,300 Engine 1.8-litre 4-cyl, 150kW, 310Nm, 5-sp auto, RWD Fuel use/CO2 emissions 7.6L/100km and 179g/km Pros Interior quality; ride and handling; V6-like engine performance; well priced and equipped. Cons Current auto needs more gears; update with 7-speed auto due soon. Our score 4/5

Overall verdict

Rating: 3.0 out of 5 stars

But Saab’s large car doesn’t match the driving or interior sophistication offered by the Germans it’s priced directly against. And with the brand’s uncertain future contributing to heavy depreciation, there’s a considerable cost to buying into Saab’s quirky DNA.

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