Owner review – Saab 9-5 TTiD XWD

UPDATE – Pictures added

When XWD was first released, one of the most desired vehicle combinations was TTiD with XWD. The drive system gives you the traction and the diesel gives you the low-end grunt.

That combination is now available in the new Saab 9-5, and a guy who signs in here with the name TTAero recently picked one up. He’s sent in the following for your consideration.


Today, this afternoon, we have had our TTiD XWD for 8 days. And this is my third new SAAB.

The dealer gave us an hour to walk us through the most important features in the car and check all the chosen options.

This happened just before closing time so we took the first trip in on cold, dark and icy roads. We took her for 190 km straight away. The car felt comfortably and stable. This night wasn’t the real testing night, but the impression was very good.

The lighting is phenomenal, and it’s a feature I need where I live because moose, reindeers and deers comes running up the roads. Probably the best safety feature there is and a feature many car makers just don’t care about. All the electronic assistants in the world can’t help you if you don’t see the road or the surrounding areas.

We now have 1100 km on the meter and have done some more testing. The car feels even better now than the first 600-700 km. The fuel consumptions is down and the car makes “less resistance” when changing gears and accelerations. It’s getting smoother. I knew this was going to happen because the same thing happened in my former 9-3 TTiD SC. I guess the car will be broken in after 6-7000 km.

Some thing I did notice and frankly got a bit worried about was the engine sound. At first, it sounded like a pimped bimmer M3 with an exhaust pipe the size of a waste bin when doing 80-110 km/h uphill or accelerating. But after some driving during cold climate I realized that the sound was only apparent until the engine got up to working temperature. And if the outside temp is under 30 degrees C then it takes a bit longer. The temperature inside the car is not a problem since it is equipped with an electric extra heater. I didn’t realize at first that my car was “actually freezing” one bit when I had a warm and comfortably ride. The first 7 days we had no higher temperatures than -20 C. And the record was 32 degrees below zero.

This morning, when driving to work I tried hard to hear that sound. It’s gone! No matter how hard I accelerated, the smoothness, comfort and stability was great.

Now, lets go to the road handling… it is so good. It’s feels surreal and it’s difficult to find the words. I have stopped a couple of times just to “manually” check if the road is slippery. The grip just don’t let go if I’m not provoking it. And if you put your foot down in corners, there is nothing dramatic about it, just a nice flow thru and a constant acceleration.

WARNING: This is addictive.

We have now tried the entire configuration range (Drivesense) and my choice of chassis settings during the cold, dark and icy part of the year is “comfort”. It smoothens out the small but hard ice vibration we have gotten used to and the direct contact with the roads are seldom possible since there is a layer of packed snow or ice in the roads.

This is by far the best winter vehicle I’ve ever driven. Overtaking with 15 cm of snow between the lanes is not a problem. Just turn, accelerate, turn back and you are done!
I do many rentals in my work and compared to those the XWD 9-5 is nothing but wonderful. The A6 (the old), VW Passat, Volvo V70, Skoda Octavia, Toyotas, Ford Mondeos and so on just don’t measure up to this. I’ve tried the Volvo, Audi and Passat as a 4×4, but still there isn’t the same stability, grip and comfort as in my new 9-5. Astonishing is the only word that I can find to describe what I feel.

48 thoughts on “Owner review – Saab 9-5 TTiD XWD”

  1. Excellent reading. Just a few questions for curiosity: What is your average diesel consumption, and did you ever have the feeling the car is underpowered?

    • We are now down to 7.3 litres/10 km on highway. But this will decrease futher.

      It took our former TTiD 9-3 about 4-5000 km until the consumption went down to 4.6-4.8 litres per 10 km during the same conditions as the above.
      @ Swade: The low consumption is importent, not fore the money or environmental thing. It’s importent for the simple reason of me not willing to stop. And with hi fuel consumption I have to look for gas station al the time. Now I will be able to go 1000-1200 km on a full tank. And that is ok 🙂

      • TTAero,
        I don’t expect that you reach very low consumption values at -20°C. Nobody does 😉

        And 7.3 l/100km on winter conditions with a new AWD car is very good, IMHO.

        • And that was the “hot” part of the week! Now our temperature is rising and we have today -12 degrees C.

          I expect it to get down to 6.0 l/10km on winter roads when doing hiway crusing. (I’ve not told anyone what the consumption was during “inspired small road driving”…)

          • Are you also missing the HiPer struts?? 😉

            From the Specsheet this car has almost everything the 9-5 can offer in terms of chassis.
            – H-arm rear suspension.
            – Drivesense
            – eLSD
            – variable effort assisted steeringbut n
            – XWD

            But no HiPer struts in the front.

          • Yepp!
            I read somewhere last summer that the HiPersturs should would be available in the hi performence dieasels. Never thought thought about it until Runa and I started to discuss it.

            But “miss it” is a bit strong. I’ve never driven a car with is 🙂 But as a man with a “need” for gadgets: Yes

          • Well after so many said that the Turbo4 9-5 was quite crappy because it hadn’t the HiPer struts without even driving the car ….. 😉

            The car performs, and it performs really good, and BTW, BMW doesn’t have a 5 series Diesel with xDrive, at Audi you have to buy the 3.0TDI Quatro, and at Mercedes the 350CDi 4Matic.
            In Germany the Saab 9-5 Vector TTiD XWD costs 43.900 €
            the Audi 3.0TDI Quatro costs 51.400 €
            the merc 350CDi 4Matic 54.500 €
            and the Volvo S80 D5 AWD cost 44.200 €

            Competitive prices anyone???

      • Boy, you must be doing long trips often, if you need a range of 1000 km that bad… 😉

        Personally I stop more often as long as I don’t have to mess with the smelly diesel… 🙂

        Sounds like you are a bit further north, TTAero. Wonder if it’s from places I know.

        • Yes I do a lot of long trips. I usaully stay for something to eat half the way.

          I’ll probably do 30000 km a year and 85-90% are long trips.

        • Smelly diesel?

          You’re living in the past…you cant smell a modern diesel engine….old 70’s and 80’s non turbo mercedes did smell alot, I remember it from when I was a child. Today you cant tell…

          • mats, I recently stepped on diesel spillage (because now we also have to share pump with the farmers…) , and there was a disgusting diesel smell inside my petrol Saab. 😉

      • Excellent writeup, TTAero.

        I just hope that you mean 7.3 litres / 100 km 😉

        That yould be quite good, then.

  2. Great reading and congrats!

    Just as I expected a XWD Saab to be. The polar opposite of what you described has to be RWD beemer. Before our buying this latest 9-3 me and missus took a 320d for a thorough testdrive and boy was I scared when I tried to overtake and drive over a “wall” of snow between lanes. Total and aprubt power-cut at the instant when front wheel met resistance. Downright dangerous IMHO.

    My current dreamcar is like yours but SC. Next year perhaps… 🙂

  3. I love my new 9-5 as well.

    Off topic question for the guru’s. I’m having issues with the TPMS system. I just installed some winter wheels/tires on my new 9-5. I removed the 19 in Turbine wheels and swapped in 18 in Carve wheels with Verdestein Wintertrac Xtreme thread. Both the Carve wheels and TPMS sensors were purchased from Saab Parts. When the tech at International Saab made the swap – everything worked fine. But after the first re-start of the car – the system cannot seem to locate the TPMS sensors. I’m getting a ” Service TPMS Monitoring System”. I’m taking the car back today but still interested in feedback, thanks.

  4. Great stuff – I would buy one right now, but its manual only…

    Does anyone knows something about Saab plans with 2.0TTID with auto gearbox?

  5. Fantastic! This is what I’ve been telling the naysayers.

    A simple question to importers. How the… are they going to get customers into buying Saabs if there aren’t any test vehicles available in various countries? (very hard to find a MY11 9-3 TTiD for instance and that one’s been available for a long time by now).
    Saab is losing sales like crazy the way things are handled right now. These multi brand dealers are ignoring our beloved brand completely. To sell Saabs you need to get people on the road.

    • Completelly agree with your comment on getting the potential buyers really driving the car. Following the recent discussions on the US sales and the bad handling (by SAAB NA and some dealers) of the brand as reported as well as reading the Hyundai strategy in US for selling in their Lexus-like brand (Genesis), it is clear that a good strategy must be ageed on.
      Hyundai will sell in their cars by sales-men contacting potential buyers, coming home to them and let them drive the car(s) without even entering the sales hall. Is this done in the US and other countries? It must be better doing this during your working hours instead of keeping the cars in the sales halls without showing them on the road. This strategy will have double effect – get in contact with potential buyers and showing the cars on the road. Hyundai plans to have up to 700 persons involved in this. Note, the price range of Hyundai’s are planned to be 35 – 50 k$…

      • Note, the price range of Hyundai’s are planned to be 35 – 50 k$…

        Note, how much money will Hyunday invest in that effort ??

        The idea that dealers move around with the cars and make some “arranged” visits to current customers, or better, to former customers is a good one, but Saab can’t finance such efforts in the same way Hyunday can.

        • It doesn’t cost THAT much. A bit of extra miles on the car, but it is supposed to be doing rounds anyway, and a salesperson on their way to the customer’s is spending their time much better than sitting around in an empty showroom.

          Generating some buzz with the help of a local Saab enthusiast could work miracles as well. “The Saab 9-5 will be available for test drives during lunch hours at the Whatever Office Centre” – email around front desks, assistants and colleagues from the office building, send out formal invitations to companies, arrange with the administrator to have the car cleared and some Saab gear (flag? tent? brochure stand?) put in. The whole sight of people going towards a car standing centrally in the office centre will generate even more buzz and interest.

          Don’t forget to ask everybody for their emails and suggestions where the next drive event could take place. Perhaps somebody could use one in the evening to show off to their neighbours and invite them to share the fun.

          That’s active and efficient selling!

          • Bravada,
            yes you are right. I only meant that I don’t think that SaabUSA can afford to hire 700 extra people for doing that. As long as the current salespersons do that, should be a no-brainier. 🙂

            As my Saab dealer once said to me, nowadays even a Mercedes salesperson has to actively sale a car, in the past they had only to look smart 😉

    • Arild, are you missing any traction? I do not remember having any problems with my 9000 in the snow.

      XWD for me so far, has added a bit to the fun factor, since I’m now able to let the rear go a bit sometimes when hitting certain curves (at low speeds I have to admit — when in cruise speeds I do not provoke oversteering). I do not think I’ll be able to go faster than my 9000. eLSD is the missing piece of the puzzle, but I have not had the balls to provoke eLSD into action I suppose.

      What is more tangible is the added weight and resulting fuel consumption (but that is a boring topic 😉 ).

      • No. not really. I am very pleased with the car’s behaviour on snow and ice. I got the Nokian Hakkapeliitta R studless tires which work well on the 9-5. The car feels very safe. If the car starts to skid then most of the time the balance of the car corrects the skid without any electronic system intervening. The next step seems to be the traction control intervening and if that doesn’t correct the skid, then the ESP intervene. But still I want XWD. I don’t need it, but still want it 🙂

  6. Guys, don’t forget to change engine and gearbox oils after a few thousand km in your new cars. Manual transmission also needs fresh fluid at least every 100k / 2 years to keep it smooth and healthy. Nothing broke transmissions of old 99/900 like dirty, watery oil.

  7. What a lovely piece of writing and what a great feeling of jealousy I just had. Congratulations! If you have the time, can you try to put this excellent review on some car-review-website(s)? Saab needs this!

  8. I tried to shot i pic of how the snow sticks to this car. On previously cars, the snow builds up to monstrous big blocks that is hard as bones. So far, the snow builds up like arms behind the wheels. I figured this was a bit different.
    I’ll se how this arms will do after another 400 km this weekend.

    • Saab sells mudflaps as an original accesory for the new Saab 9-5 and they would probably be great as snowflaps for you. 🙂

  9. You got yourself the Aero as well! Great choice. I think this engine with XWD is an excellent choice. This winter I have noticed that 4 wheels getting you car forward is better than 2 wheels. I have only driven the 2.0XWD, the V6 and the TID. I loved the XWD handling on ice covered roads and I was surprised by how quick the TID was. Happy driving!

  10. Having never driven a turbodiesel powered car the one thing that always comes to mind is one word – torque. Great review. Jealous here!!

  11. I´ve only driven the 2 wd turbo4 with aero package, and the thing that struck me was that it never lost grip. This was a rainy day, and I provoked it thrue roundabouts etc, but it never lost grip.
    btw, I was going home from work today in the dark, and I saw 10-15 cars ahead of me, a new 9-5, you just won´t mistake it in the dark, later on I got closer to it and in an intersektion I could see it from the side, it looked really impressive, it looked like nothing else around it.
    I live in the Gothenburg area and I see one or two different new 9-5s every day now, each one makes my day.

  12. Does anyone know if the TTiD come with the “Aero” styled front bumper?

    If so, a XWD TTiD Sport Combi with manual transmission would be such an ideal Saab.

    • The TTiD engine is available for both the Linear, Vector and Aero of which the Aero has the more aggressive looking bumpers. 🙂

  13. The New York Times just published a less than positive review of the 9-5 Aero:


    Although like the styling and actually like that it’s a Saab, there we 2 main points of criticism. First of all they claim it’s a crappy drive. Second, the amount of luxury offered is not on par with the competition.

    In short, the author really tries to like it, especially in view of the miraculous survival of Saab, but concludes that the new 9-5 will not be the brands savior.
    So, whatever spin you want to give to this article, it’s a pretty damning story. Although the NY Times has not the greatest of car reviews, it is still widely read. This could prove to be pretty detrimental to 9-5 sales.
    I also have the feeling that the article would have been much less damaging if the 9-5 Aero would have been priced closer to $40k.

    • I just read the review and agree that it’s a mixed bag. As GerritN says, the review found a lot to lile, and there are plenty of lines like this:

      There’s much to admire in the 9-5, beginning with its graceful lines. ……The 9-5 looks modern yet stately. Like the best Saabs of the past, it’s an individualist’s car, with a timeless character that should look as good a decade from now as it does today.

      but then you have

      The cabin shows more good design. It is so attractive and comfortable that you nearly overlook the mediocre materials or the many bits obviously borrowed from the G.M. parts bin.


      The driving experience is similar: taken on its own, the Saab’s smooth personality elicits modest applause. But once marquee rivals come onstage, delivering the fiery, polished performances that buyers expect at these prices, there’s no getting around the Saab’s second-banana status.

      However, while all of us wish that he would have said this is the car of the year, run out and buy it, I don’t think that it will do too much harm, and will likely help a lot. Let me explain. The NYTimes reader is intelligent and perhaps a bit cynical. They know that nothing is all good or all bad, that reviewers are sometimes concerned about little things that are of no concern to them, that to be a reviewer implies that there will be some not=picking and criticism. On the other-hand, there are enough good things said about the 9-5 to tickle the interest of anyone who has ever owned a Saab, especially those that have owned and liked their GM era 9-3s. But most importantly, it brings to a wide readership the fact that Saab is alive and has a new car, warts and all. For those that Saab was closed, for those looking for an alternative to the Germans, this is huge!!! They at least know now that there is a new kid on the block that’s worth checking out. Will they all buy? certainly not, but I’m equally certain that it will increase traffic into dealer’s showrooms and potential buyers and evaluate and decide for themselves.

      PS I had a chance yesterday to see my first 9-5 and take it for a test drive. It was a 4cylinder with automatic transmission, And wow, it was great. I’m almost ready to buy the first 9-5 combi off the boat next year!

      • The reviewer also mentioned he did not drive the Turbo 4 and thought the price was good but wondered if it had enough power. Too bad he did not because we have heard that most people who have think the Turbo 4 model hits the “sweet spot”.

        I also wonder what tires and wheels it had since he said that only comfort mode setting on DriveSense seemed adequate?

        • For a car of this size Saab will have a hard time convincing Americans to buy the Turbo-4 model. V6 and V8 still rule here for big cars.

          I agree with HughW that even not fully positive reviews put Saab back on the radar, but the price tag (around $50k) will discourage prospective Aero buyers.

          The road tests seem to vary to a large extent with respect to drive quality. Although we would love to just blame the soft butted journalists, it is clear that the 9-5 seems to be very sensitive to how the suspension has been set up. If this is really true then Saab has done a very bad job in not making sure that optimal configurations ended up in the proper journalists hands. I remember something similar happening in GB. Someone is not paying enough attention.

    • I agree the review is not a complete disaster, but not helpful for the immediate future. The review clearly writes that Saab has new ambitious ownership, and a new product with some core strength. But the message to the reader is: Don’t buy it now, it is overpriced given its qualities, and reconsider if Saab tackled some quite important key weaknesses.

      What is really required for Saab is to take ithe criticism serious, analyze point by point and to make the product top notch, not to go the other way, to lower the price.

      In more detail the reviewer criticises:
      – interiors are poor compared to a … Nissan Infinity M37. Which now has an upgraded, top notch interior for My 2011.
      – acceleration is .. okay, but competitors are far faster
      – weight is too high, and the 220 hp engine is underpowered given the weight
      – The automatic the transmission is mediocre, and even with the paddles not a big thing
      – the drivesense is useless, especially the sport mode
      – steering is without feeling

      No word is lost about the XWD, the fantastic roadholding capacity, in cornering, on snow, Saab safety features, the smooth ride on highways, the seats and so on. , .
      I think it is an unbalanced statement with some true points
      I would take the mentioned weaknesses serious, and try to tackle ithem in one big shot for My 2012 I don’t think their central recommendation – to lower the price to 40k – is correct, but rather to tackle the weaknesses and keep the price close to where it is. The 9-5 is at the start of the production cycle, and will (have to) be improved in a first refresh, and then in many more small steps, as it was with the OG 9-5.

    • Must say that opinions are like… and everyone’s got one. I’d be interested where Lawrence was driving? (on the 5th Street in Manhattan at 30mph?)

      I’ve got my first test drive in a new 9-5 and think SAAB is kicking some serious butt even with its base model. Read below, shortly.

  14. Where should I start, what a day. I’ve read all the reviews all the critique, all the praises all the FWD, XWD comparisons and today finally decided (after TTAero’s write up) to test drive the new 9-5. The weather was perfect. -10 C degrees, very windy and the roads where 100% covered with ice.
    Upon arrival had a short chat with the dealer, we both laughed a little when I said ”- You still sell real cars”, he responded ”- It got quite close to not happening”.

    First thing that struck me sitting in the car inside the showroom was the fact (like with all the modern Saabs) you don’t find the good driving position right away! The Saab seat takes tweaking.
    It reminded me of something that happened way back in 2004 when we test drove the 9-3ss and I almost stopped (stupid me) my spouse from from falling instantly in love with the car.

    The thing is, and I believe many of the less favorable reviews spring from the following; the Saab seat has to be set exactly right for the designated driver! I cannot emphasize this enough. The same thing happened when we jumped into the test drive car.

    Let me explain a bit.
    The car was market as a 9-5 TID 160hp (autobox) Linear (FWD) and knowing (at least I thought I knew) a little about the options, I already had some prejudice about the car especially as it was a ”no good” MY10 😉

    First, I’ve never liked auto transmission cars. The last one I’ve driven was ovloV V70 a few years ago and it felt unrefined, the gear changes where jerky and you ended up standing on the bake in traffic lights all the time.
    Second, I’ve read the seats are not up to par with the Saab standard. To make sure I had the calibration right in my head I sat in a new 9-3ss a few times during the showroom visit.
    Third, we all ”know” the the dash is hideous, especially with the basic SID. My god the nightpanel is drowning in the sea of black matt plastic.
    Fourth, the suspension could be better and the diesel is loud.
    Fifth, I’m not going to by a sedan ever again and sixth, I hate electric handbrakes.

    Okay, in eight word: No, or non of that had any relevance.

    The dealer brought the car and left it running. I started off by turning down the radio. The green screen was there with the information about temperature, time and so on. Just as you want it either green or in something more refined. This time it was green like in the 9-3. Check.

    The bloody handbrake… okay let me see, put gear in D push on the brake and release handbrake. Not so hard after all. Very logical. Check.

    Getting on to the road. Noticed (as it was getting dark) the lights are good as they should in a Saab. The engine is not noisy and in fact much more quiet than our old TID’s. First gear, second gear, third… wait a second the transmission is very smooth. Check, check and check.

    First ramp onto the motorway (very slippery and still searching for a good driving position). Turns and behaves like the good old hydraulic 9-3 steer. From 40 to 120 no rocket and could swear the 9-3ss is quicker (faster than the OG9-3 TID though) but still had to brake a little as I was catching cars on the motorway fast. Check.

    Saw the led real light of an Audi about 500m in front and had to floor it. The autobox pondered a split second kicked down and started picking up speed. No trouble what so ever on the (still) icy road at 170 km/h (the Mrs wasn’t one bit worried, was mainly talking about how it felt like home). Winter tires (don’t know the make) where quite noisy, but that was basically the only thing you could hear. Check.

    Still fighting with the seat a bit. Had a feeling I was sitting simply too low. Couldn’t find a relaxing position and couldn’t really get connected with the car, so we pulled over and changed driver. Noticed right after getting back to the motorway/freeway that the passenger seat felt more comfortable than the drivers seat!? and started toying with the buttons on the side. One switch to lift the seat and one for adjusting the lumbar support. Wait a second! These are Vector seats. In all our excitement, darkness and car changing we didn’t notice the seats where cloth/leather (Vector seats).

    Asked the spouse, who really started enjoying the drive by now, to take the next ramp off. Got out of the car and took a look at the drivers seat. There it was. The hight switch. Took the seat a good way up (previous driver was probably Michael Jordan) and voila. The feel of the car changed completely. I could start attacking curves, feel the suspension and get much more engaged in the driving. Check.

    Summary: Even the base diesel is a hell of a good car. There is no other way to put it. It’s the perfect size (a bit wider than the 9-3ss) for a highway cruiser. I could feel a bit of ‘surface hardness’ at high speeds in the suspension even with high profile winter tires, but without reading about it there is a good chance I could have missed it during my relatively short drive.

    Any reserves I may have had about the car are gone. We both agreed we need to get the 9-5 SC ones it comes out and that this is a real Saab, even if the steering wheel feels ‘funny’ small compared to previous Saabs we’ve had 😉

    PS. If the fascia prevents you from buying a new 9-5 you’re a sissy 🙂

  15. Hi, you must have done some miles by now…..how does it stack up ? Has the gear change improved ? How is the fuel consumption ? Is it close to what Saab claims ?

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