Part 1 of this review is here.
In an interview I did with Simon Padian (still to come) I asked him what was the more important part of a car’s design – exterior or interior? They’re both very important, of course, to a decision on these is a marginal matter, but he indicated that for designers, the exterior is still king.
It’s the element that gets you interested in the car in the first place. It provides that first emotional reaction that can mean so much, though as we know, some exterior designs have a habit of growing on you over time (see Classic Saab 900).
When considered over the long term of a relationship with a car, I’m still of the opinion that the interior is a major player. That’s where you spend most of your time so it’s got to be good. I’m pleased to report that the 2010 Saab 9-5 interior is very good indeed.
I’ll give you my thoughts on the interior in three separate sections – comfort, gadgetry, and materials and finish.
The V6 Aero version showing at the Frankfurt show was fitted with the optional premium leather seats and I’ve got to say they were super comfortable and the leather really does feel fantastic. It had the parchment trim and the contrast was nice, though I was more partial to the Vector they had on display.
That car had a black interior with ventilated seats. I don’t know if you’ve ever used Saab’s ventilated seats, but I did a test of a 2003 Aero with them fitted a couple of years ago and they were the best seats I have ever sat on, with a cooling ability that’s better than air conditioning (at least in Hobart’s summer climate).
And the all black interior I liked best from a personal point of view.
I’ve heard a few people mention concerns about claustrophobia due to the high sides and seemingly smaller windows in this car. I can tell you from sitting in it myself that this is a large, roomy interior, with plenty of room and from what I could tell, more than adequate visibility. You may still want to consider Parking Assist due to the size of the car and the convenience it offers, but I didn’t feel any sense of claustrophobia from the driver’s seat.
The rear seat might be a slightly different matter if the car’s fitted with a sunroof. In such models, the interior roof is somewhat lower in the rear due to the interior lighting being behind the sunroof. As this sunroof is quite large (the largest Saab’s ever offered), the interior lighting pod does impose a little on rear seat passengers. Having said that, I’m just over 6 feet in height and I never felt even close to touching my head on anything. You just notice it’s there in the back, that’s all.
Bottom line – this is a large and very comfortable interior and one that I could easily live with. 9000 and current 9-5 owners will find the dash provides a very good homage to those prior models, which is a nice carry-through from previous Saabs.
I’ve already spoken about the seat leather, so I guess the other areas to cover are plastics and panelling.
I’ll get this one out of the way right from the start – I absolutely loooooove the new dashboard panelling in the new 9-5. I’m not a fan of plain dashboards at all, which is why one of the first things I acquired when I got my Monte was a carbon fibre dash kit, as used on Viggens in Australia.
This new panelling is subtle, classy and very well executed. I don’t know who decided on it but I tip my hat to them for a job very well done.
As to the interior plastics, I can report mixed feelings on those.
The good news is that all of the common-touch surfaces like buttons, knobs, etc, all have great soft touch plastic finishes and the steering wheel leather on the show cars felt great.
The dash panelling not only looks great, but looks durable and feels good as well. When I put my hands on all the most common touch items, they all felt sold, well made and good to the touch.
There were some surfaces that I’m a little concerned about, though. The center console between the seats (i.e between the gearshift and armrest) uses a faux-metallic plastic that I would worry about scratching, fading or wearing. I’m really not a big fan of such finishes because even if they are harder wearing than what I think, they feel (to me) like they’re a little fragile.
The front seat headrests feature a new generation of Saab’s active head restrain system. This is great news as it’s a truly Saaby feature, but the look isn’t so great. They look very slab-like now and not nearly as elegant as previous efforts.
This is one area where the new 9-5 really excels over the previous one. The use of an all-new global chassis means access to all-new (for Saab) global technologies and fittings.
GPS systems should now be the same for all markets, for example. The new information and entertainment systems, the tri-zone climate system, the head-up display, lane change warning systems, bluetooth, Ipod connectivity…..
Saab have been able to offer a host of new stuff with this car. The vast majority of it will require a tick in the options box so you can customise the car you want. That has it’s good and bad sides (Saab were always great in my eyes because of a high level of standard equipment that others offered as options) but this is fantastic new technology and as always, someone’s got to pay for it.
I’m not a huge, huge fan of excess gadgetry. I prefer to just get in and drive, but the market demands this sort of stuff nowadays (Lord knows I hear about it enough in comments here) and so Saab have tipped the bucket and poured the content in.
From an interior point of view, Saab’s love for ergonomics seems to have served it well. Sitting in the driver’s seat, all the buttons are grouped, well placed and as mentioned before, pleasant to the touch. In an operational sense, I can tell you briefly that driving the car and operating some of these controls was quite easy, though I didn’t get around to everything (more on that still to come).
If you want to read more about the new technology in this car, I recommend you check out the press release on technical highlights. There’s some really cool stuff in there (DriveSense and adaptive headlights are my personal favourites).
Finally, whilst I’m not a big worrier about such things, I know some people will be keen to see the cupholders.
Here are the front ones:
These are in the center console of the car and are adjustable for different widths of containers. There’s also a place there to store they car’s ‘key’ if you don’t want it in your pocket.
Rear cupholders are part of the fold down center section of the rear seat.
Next, I’ll tell you all about actually driving the car, or one of the 9-5 test mules, at least.