2010 Saab 9-5 – the SU review part 3

Let’s start with a photo or two, shall we?
And just to prove I not only stood next to the Saab 9-5 test mule……….yes, I sat in one as well!!!
You’ll have to take my word when I say that I also drove it πŸ™‚
I’ve written a lot already about my impressions of this car from an exterior and interior point of view in the previous parts of this review:

I guess it’s high time I covered the driving experience that I was very fortunate to have just a few hours after arriving in Trollhattan last Thursday. It’s a compliment to the site and the people who hang out here that I was the first person to drive the 2010 Saab 9-5 who wasn’t mainstream-media person or a Saab employee.
First, a little insight about the particular car I drove.
Saab have a number of vehicles that they use for testing and proving various elements of the new Saab 9-5. These vehicles can be at various levels of specification and fit-out, the variations being aimed at focusing on particular elements of the car.
For example, I can’t tell you how the light reacts with the dashboard panelling because the test vehicle I drove wasn’t fitted with that dash panelling. Just a plain black dash. I can’t tell you about the head-up display or the DriveSense functionality, either, as they weren’t fitted to the car.
What I can tell you about, however, is how a 2.0T BioPower version of the Saab 9-5 feels on the road.
To be more specific, the car I drove was fitted with the following specification:

  • 2.0T Biopower engine (220hp and 350Nm)
  • 6-speed manual gearbox
  • Front wheel drive
  • Sport Suspension (McPherson front and H-Arm rear)
  • 18-inch wheels
  • 17-inch brakes
  • 8-inch touchscreen entertainment system
  • 11-speaker sound system
  • Sport Seats

Allow me to tell you this straight up – there are no significant criticisms for me to make with regard to this car. There might be one or two minor ones, but for me, this was a dream drive of what I regard as an excellent driver’s vehicle.
So let’s get down to it.

The 2.0T BioPower engine is the latest generation of Saab BioPower. It will also be Saab’s first BioPower offering in the United States (and possibly the first in some other markets, too). The engine features Direct Injection for the first time a Saab non-diesel engine.
Unlike Saab’s previous BioPower offerings, there is no differentiation between the power output when running on E85 vs regular gasoline. Power output remains at 220hp and torque at 350Nm for both fuels.
I’m no mechanical or engineering type so I can’t explain this engine’s performance in technical terms. What I can tell you is that the thought of a two-litre engine in a five-meter car had me just a little concerned at various stages.
I shouldn’t have worried about a thing.
I had around 90 minutes in the car and we drove two main sections of road in that time. One was normal highway driving and the other was some of the fun twisties just outside of Trollhattan that Jens, my host inside the car, described as roads the Saab people really do like to drive πŸ™‚
This 2.0T BioPower engine is likely to be the volume seller in many markets and it’s a great, versatile piece of work.
On the highway, the four cylinder engine and six speed gearbox kept the car moving with effortless ease. There’s plenty of torque for keeping pace with existing traffic, and watching that traffic disappear in your mirrors is only ever a gearchange away. There’s no stress, no breathlessness – just acceleration and plenty of it (when required).
When I first saw those output numbers (220hp and 350Nm), my mind went immediately for the 9-3 Viggen that I used to own (230hp and 342Nm). Whilst some might see those numbers and be tempted to compare, that would be pointless. The Viggen was mad where this car is engineered and refined. In the Saab tradition, the Saab 9-5 is capable of doing what you want, when you want it. It’ll power through 2nd and 3rd gear under boost just like a Saab should, and cruise effortlessly at higher speeds – just like a Saab should.
In the twisties, the six-speed and the 9-5’s sport suspension really came to the fore. It was three days ago that I drove this car and I had to consult my notes again because I initially thought this car was a Cross Wheel Drive (XWD) version, such is my memory of its stickability in the corners.
At just over 5 meters in length, this is a large car. But such is the pliability of the BioPower engine and the versatility of the suspension setup that it really does feel more like a car of the 9-3’s size when you get to the fun stuff. Only there’s less body roll than with the 9-3.
The Saab 9-5 V6 Aero is rumoured to have blitzed the Opel Insignia OPC in testing and having driven just a 2.0T with sports suspension, I can see why. It was so stable. This wasn’t just a twisty section of road, it was of various surface condition as well. The car gives you enough feedback to let you know the bumps are there, but it’s never unsettled and always went where it was pointed.
We need a picture to break up this text, right?
Whilst I was having all this fun, I also got to take note of a few of the Saab 9-5’s interior offerings.
As mentioned earlier, this car was fitted with Sports Seats. To be honest, they were a little firm for my tastes. The leather was quite nice, the seating position was fantastic and even with my ample 6ft, 100-plus kilo frame in the front there was plenty of room behind when I had a peek in the back.
Whilst I didn’t have a head-up display to play with (that’s Pilot Head-Up Display to you, sonny boy) I did have a chance to play with the computer display in the center of the speedometer.
This display can show seven different functions, the default being altimeter style extra speedo. Sure, it’s mostly gimmick, but what a gimmick!
The altimeter speedo sees some green lines on the sides and your speed rotating through the center of the dial. The non-gimmicky part of this the fact that you can set the altimeter speedo in either miles or kilometers, so those of you crossing measurement borders from time to time (think US/Canada for example) can get both readouts on your speedo at once.
The display also includes other trip computer type functions such as distance to empty, etc. There are nine different functions displayed and there’s a guide via some dots on the outside of the central screen, which act as an indicator for where you are in the menu system. Very handy!
Rotation through the various functions is controlled by a dial on a stalk to the left side of the steering column and is very easy to use once you get accustomed to it.
My test car also had the premium 11-speaker sound system installed, though we didn’t have a CD or iPod to make best use of it. I know there are some who are very interested in communications and entertainment capacity of the car and I’d refer you to the technical highlights press release for information on that as it really is an impressive sounding system.
There’s one more thing that I must mention about this car.
Whilst i’ve been here in Sweden, I’ve been either driving a Saab 9-3x or riding in a 2008 Saab 9-5 Biopower hire car. The 9-3x has been pretty good in terms of interior quietness but there were some squeaks from the 9-5 Biopower hire car.
Normally I wouldn’t notice these, but one thing that was noticed about the 2010 Saab 9-5 that I drove is that there was not one rattle or squeak in the 90 minutes of driving I did. This is despite it being a pre-production car that’s not subject to the same rigorous quality control as the cars you’ll possibly buy as customers. It really was impressively quiet and smooth.
The main things I’ll take away as my impressions of this drive are the following:

This new Saab 9-5 2.0T BioPower is most likely going to be the volume seller in the Saab range for many markets and I think it’s going to make a lot of people happy, especially with an Aero level of kit.
And yes, the 2.0T is available as an Aero and with XWD. Note the badges below….. that’s a Turbo4 badge, meaning four cylinder. The V6 has a Turbo6 badge on it.
Even in FWD form, the chassis allows this car to stick to the road in a manner that belies its large size and generous accommodations.
I think it really is going to prove itself to be a very versatile performer. From comfortable executive car to weekend twisty-tackler, this new Saab 9-5 is going to have something for everyone.
I can’t wait to drive the V6 Aero!!!!

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