EVO talk about British Saab 9-5 road tests

The Saab 9-5 received very good reviews except when tested by British motoring magazines. This has obviously been pretty distressing because Great Britain seems to alternate between being #2 or #3 on the Saab sales chart.

EVO were one of the few British publications to come out and proclaim an enthusiastic admiration for the Saab 9-5, so like many of us, they were wondering why the Saab 9-5 had been panned by the their countrymen.

In a piece that’s actually written about the 2011 European Car of the Year winner (the Nissan Leaf), they come up with an answer:

Other cars which weren’t on my shortlist were the Meriva (all doors and no driving delight), the Volvo (nothing outstanding here at all) and the Dacia Duster (cleverly designed to be remarkably good for something so cheap, but old in technology and hardly a Car of the Year). So my hit-rate was just three out of seven. My four that got away were the Jaguar XJ (it should have won, given the opposition, but it’s against today’s austerity mood), the Peugeot RCZ, the Nissan Juke and – a wildcard, this – the Saab 9-5.

Let me tell you about the 9-5. It felt good on the press launch in Sweden, but has been almost universally panned here on the basis of the UK-market road test cars. The combination of a lumpy, agitated ride and an overall wooden-ness of feel are the chief reasons, although some have disliked the cabin’s pervading blackness. Saab GB made the disastrous mistake of specifying its press cars with Sport suspension, big wheels and ultra-low-profile tyres, and this was the result.

Stung by the criticism, Saab converted one car to non-Sport spec. I tried this car on disintegrating UK roads and it was brilliant: crisp but fluent, agile well beyond its size, an unexpectedly capable cross-country weapon. This was the car I had in mind when I said on the launch that I’d rather have one than a new 5-series or an A6, and it was a relief not to have to change that view. It deserved its place on my shortlist, being rather more engaging than the Volvo. Sadly, perhaps because some judges hadn’t experienced the Saab in the correct form, too few others agreed with me.

Chalk it up to experience. An expensive experience, but experience nonetheless. Saab have to get these launches right, first impressions and all that.

Thanks to “Me” for the link.

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