I want my colours back.

I love my dame redna, but often when I drive in the dark I get the impression that something is wrong.

First of all, the speedo has no low speed and high speed section with different scaling, but maybe the most annoying is that it is an all white speedo.

I think with the new 9-5 they have changed a couple of things, and the instruments look better.

Now we have once again a split speedo, and the needles are not white any more, but I keep getting the impression that something is wrong with the colours used.

But lately on the description of the Independence Day Special Edition 9-3 Swade wrote:

Orange turbo instrument needle (a-la C900 and Turbo X)

And I thought, is this what I’m missing?

Well, this is how the instrument cluster of my OG 9-3 used to look.

Call me old fashioned if you want, but I want my colours back. I want amber needles and green scales. I don’t know why, I think it looks better and it is different. I hope Saab in the NG 9-3 backs off from the white-red scales from the late GM era.

72 thoughts on “I want my colours back.”

  1. I agree, the old orange needles were very nice and had a look of quality. I have a memory sitting in my father’s then brand new 9000 in ’93, stopped in traffic at night looking at the SID thinking how cool it was. Then a Golf Mk III pulled up beside us and I saw the dials. They just looked so cheap… Probably that memory of the Golf alone will prevent me from ever buying such a car! It’s the details that count.. as they say.

  2. I want Saab to start using LEDs that can change color, it’s a minimal expense that companies like Ford and Jaguar/Land Rover have shown is very easy to do. Skip to about 1:30 to see what I’m talking about in this video showing the LRX concept. I’m anti-LCD screens replacing traditional needles, I like an analog look, but I definitely think Saab could put in “mood” lighting if you will that changes the look, and would be very cool if they could do it with the DriveSense option, as has been mentioned here before (I forgot who came up with the idea here, feel free to remind me). Imagine rotating the drive sense knob to Sport and having the LEDs change to orange from green or something. That would be pretty cool, right?

    • Sorry Jeff, I’ve got a problem with that DriveSense changing colours. The Insignia OPC does it 🙁
      When you press the OPC button, the DriveSense goes into sport mode and all the interior light becomes red.
      But otherwise ar eal needle is much better than those PS display from the S-Class or the 7-Series. 😉

  3. I never realised how great the dash of the OG9-3 was, I just love those orange needles. Maybe we should petition Victor and kindly ask for them to return. 😉

  4. As a user interface designer, I absolutely love the old 9-3/9-5 instrument cluster. It’s so wonderfully clean and simple, easy to read and uncluttered. No chrome, no accents, no separate wells, no unnecessary ticks every 2 mm. Just a handful of needles on a solid black background. Perfection. Wish they kept it this way.

    • I totally agree, that’s one of the things I absolutely love about my OG9-3. The IP is perfect in every way…besides the dead pixels on my SID.

      • +1

        9-3 OG Dash = Design & Ergonomy Masterwork.

        Colors, should be used to optimize reading,
        instead they should NOT be used to comply with your mood like in a Jacuzzi shower set.
        Sorry Jeff… 🙂

      • You can still buy a new SID- you’ll probably get away with $300 if it bothers you, I did as it really niggled me and was unreadable. Love my instruments-totally intuitive and I love the slightly old fashioned orange and green analogue look-to me its a bit military-all the jets had green MFD’s when the og9-3 was about I guess that’s where it came from-I cant think of a saab that wasn’t green and orange-I hope it comes back that would be cool!

  5. The instrument cluster in the dame Edna edition is right out of the GM design book — no design.
    The C900 had a great cluster, the 9k improved on it with better lighting and illuminated needles.
    The early 9-5 perfected it — only to be thrown away with Edna. The new 9-5 is pretty good, but it’s still a really cluttered design — all those little silver rings and wells are just decoration — and they don’t help to read the instruments at all. Fortunately the HUD makes the speedo sort of obsolete.
    I want the orange needles back — with a really simple background.

    • Well put, I second every word! 🙂

      Cheers from Norway
      Always on the longest road home when out there with my SAAB. Always!

  6. I love my pushbutton dash. I’m not in agreement about orange needles, seem old fashioned. How about making colors user-configurable, shouldn’t be too hard nowadays.

  7. I totally agree with you Red – green scales and orange needles, that’s the only way a Saab instrument should be designed, it’s so perfectly clear and easy to read. These colour combinations where researched and developed in co-operation with Saab aircraft engineers in the late60ies. You’ll find them in all Saabs from the 96/99 model year 71 until the NG 9-3 and the 2006 DE 9-5. This kind of ergonomics is a piece of Saab heritage that has been somewhat forgotten and need to be brought back into future models.

  8. I agree, SAAB needs to bring back the green scales and orange needles. This was originally selected based on research into eye fatigue. SAAB needs to do what provides an excellent user experience – not what’s fashionable – and then promote why it’s better.

    • I agree. The point of gauges is to inform, not just look cool. However, now I have yet another reason to be happy with my OG9-3. I’m also happy with my manual HVAC controls, which can be easily adjusted while driving, and without taking my eyes off the road.

      • I love my 900 HVAC system the way it hisses at you when you crank it from screen to cabin or cabin to footwell pshhhhhhhcahhhhhhhh like Darth Vader having an asthma attack-its superb!! bring back the a the wheezing HVAC!!

        • Ah yes, I almost forgot that great sound. I agree that those big switches were much better than the stupid little ones that you have to hunt for in the dark with gloves on. It looks like the new 9-5 has quite some not used real estate on the mid-console, maybe they can fill that up with some nice chunky switches.

  9. I’d be happy with a replacement for the plastic dash 🙂 And the 03-06 button dash was really nice to look at!

  10. The only thing I didn’t like about the original 9-5 gauges was the scrunch-up in scaling after 90mph. The OG 9-3 had a constant scale or the entire speedo and it seemed much better to me. The scale shift after 90 mph seemed to say “keep it slow” IMHO.

    I would pay for an aftermarket mod that would bring the carrot colored needles back.

    • Have to disagree! The “scale change” speedo is one of SAABs great inventions. I think it’s cool and really enhances readability in the important speed range.

  11. I love the green lights on the dials. You just can’t beat the green glow at night, and against the orange needles, fantastic. I would like to see the return of this style. And yes about the SID, I can’t read mine, but the just needs a little work. And I have the instrument panel down so I don’t have to look at any of the buttons anymore

    • I go for the OLED variant in that case. Even if Saabista like the old style it would have been crushed in the media if a new car had the old style dials.

  12. Since you mentioned the SID above, I figured I could take a detour as well. Make the ESP On/Off a button on the dash. My wife’s 2008 9-3 is a PITA to:

    1. Scroll through to ‘Settings’
    2. Press Select
    3. Scroll through to ESP
    4. Press Select
    5. Toggle Between ESP On/ESP Off
    6. Press Select to Set
    7. Press Clear or reverse out of the exit portion of the menu
    8. Switch display back to Temp, DTE, MPG, Etc

    Almost as bad as texting while driving! If you encounter a steep hill while driving and need to turn it off ASAFP so you can maintain momentum up the grade during a snowstorm – this is not a helpful ergonomic evolution! Come to think of it, there is NO GOOD reason for it to be this way period. Never mind if it is a driver with less than expert familiarity with the car or one of the worlds many sheeple who doesn’t have any idea why it could be important in the first place.

    Ahhh… It feels good to vent!

    • Do you need to switch off ESP often? I know it´s now more complicated to switch off, but maybe for a reason. ESP saves lives.

    • Saab was listening. I noted the other day in a 2011 9-3 that the ESP switch is back on the dash, where it originally was to the right of the instrument housing.

      • I noticed the change on the ’11s last week as well. I do not think they were “listening” so much as they didn’t want the 9-3 to have something that the Turbo4 9-5 did not. No Sport Mode on any Sentronic 9-3s or Turbo4 9-5s for MY2011.

  13. Totally agree that the instrument cluster in the OG9-3 and same era 9-5 was much better than what came afterwards. In fact, interior quality in general had been on a steady decline since then (although it seems not only in Saabs), we’re all hoping that will be turned around by Spyker. Orange+green on black seems like a good place to start.

  14. I’m a fan of the orange/green/black combo and think that SAAB does dash lighting really ,really well. However -I also like clean, white dials so the newer ones still look ok to me too. Nevertheless, the green theme of saab lighting is terrific. A lovely counterpoint to the orange one by BMW which is another personal favourite.

    One feature of the beloved Night-Panel which is very popular in our (naughty) household is how the speedo only lights up to 140km/h…..until you exceed 140 and then it goes all the way. How thoughtful.

  15. I’m usually all for more color, but I think the orange and green are a little too old-fashioned for the more modern/futuristic style Saab seems to be going for. That might explain all the black and silvers lately. I really like the newer (Dame Edna) dash pictured, but I haven’t driven many cars besides my C900 much at night. I sometimes peek at other dashes while on the road at night and usually judge them all to be annoying or ugly.

    I didn’t know that combination is supposed to be the best for reading the gauges at night. I imagine there’d be a tasteful way for Saab to integrate the green and orange combination that’s not old-fashioned.

    Having the interior lights change colors would be kinda neat–as long as there’s a way to have them OFF, haha. Saab is definitely the brand that could benefit off some of these interesting new ideas with color lights (in a mature sort of way, of course).

    • That’s not a question of fashion or taste. It’s all about cone vision. Our eyes are best suited for certain colours – like green and orange. We see them better and more clear than others, and the worst colour for eyes is blue.

      We have two types of cells in our eye. There are rod cells that are the most sensitive to the light. They are concentrated at the outer edges of the retina and used in peripheral vision. Rod cells are almost entirely responsible for night vision.
      The second type is cone cells that are responsible for color vision, their density decrease from the center to periphery of the retina, and these cells are also able to perceive finer detail and more rapid changes in images, because their response times to stimuli are faster than those of rods.

      There are three types of cone cells. The first responds most to light of long wavelengths, peaking at a greenish yellow color; this type is sometimes designated L for long. The second type responds most to light of medium-wavelength, peaking at a green color, and is abbreviated M for medium. The third type responds most to short-wavelength light, of a bluish color, and is designated S for short. The three types have peak wavelengths near 564–580 nm, 534–545 nm, and 420–440 nm, respectively.

      At moderate to bright light levels where the cones function, the eye is more sensitive to yellowish-green light than other colors because this stimulates the two most common of the three kinds of cones almost equally. At lower light levels, where only the rod cells function, the sensitivity is greatest at a blueish-green wavelength (because rod cells have a peak sensitivity at 498 nm, roughly halfway between the peak sensitivities of the S and M cones.).

      But you should also remember that when you drive and look on the gauges, the ability to just _see the light_ is not the top priority, you need to see crisp, clear, detailed image and note the image changes as fast as you can. The dashboard lighting is intense enough so that our cone cells could function, and in these conditions the eye is more sensitive to yellowish-green light also.

      Also, the density of S-cone cells (blueish colors) in the center is lower then the density of M- and L-cone cells (orange and green), and the lens and cornea of the human eye are increasingly absorptive to smaller wavelengths, so the image you see in blue will never be as clear and detailed as in green or orange.

      Also the monochromatic light (LEDs) is worse than the light of filament or halogen bulbs because it, clearly, stimulates less cone cells.

      So, the dashboards actually should be in these colors Saabs used to have. Always. That’s safety, not “old fashion”. And I think Saab should really explain this in their advertising. Saabs are usually considered smart, remember?


      • And you can make these colors look cool and modern, it’s the matter of form and typeface, not of using bad science-fiction blueish looks and glaring faux metal.

  16. With only there hours of daylight during the winters up here in the north of Sweden, you get to do a lot of driving in the dark. And my 2004 9-5 Aero has the perfect interior for it. The green light is soothing for your eyes, and the night panel gets extensive use.

    I do want a new Saab, but I don’t like the new lightning scheme. Even though it’s better than a dame edna and much, much better than say a Passat, it’s still not as great as my current Saab.

  17. Oh yeah, the dashboard… To me it’s not primarily about the button vs dial layouts, though I love the original 9-5 dash. I simply think that Saab has always had incredibly aesthetic, evocative, Saaby really, dashboards.

    That’s where the GM-ification of Saab hit in a very visible way in the last years, and I now have hopes to see something like the real Saab again, maybe even in just a few short months (it’s shaping up to be a great year!).

    • Ah, and have to add of course… that it’s really about beautiful function. Like PT above about how the night panel works. It’s not even the feature, it’s the way it’s done.

  18. Hi RED,

    I just had the exact thoughts about the instrument cluster in my Dame Edna (2010 TiD GriffinSport) this weekend while driving a 9-3 2010 SC.

    Saabs used to feel DIFFERENT driving, and looking at the instruments in the dark could be a nice way to pass time…

    What I DO like about the cluster in my Dame E is:

    The depth of the wells ( not to flat and not to deep ( like the NG 9-5))
    The silver of the inside of the wells
    The little more “worked out” theme of the cluster ( don´t need to be one dash per 10 km BUT I would like the scale to be compressed somewhere between the Dame E speedo scale and the OG 9-5 scale
    The way the left/right turning indicators and the high beam is “sunk into” the flat surface just a few millimeters

    What I DON´T like about it is:

    The white light
    No compressed speedo after 140 km/h (or scaled up before 140 km/h)
    The rings of the needles ( feels cluttered and confusing)
    The needles are white. Saabs HAVE ORANGE needles. Sharp and focussing. END of discussion 🙂
    The SID feels way cheaper and more generic than the old one. ( I don´t like menus, and I don´t want to be pressing a button 5 times in order to go to one specific function. I know that one button/ function makes a lot of buttons, but the way the OG 9-5 SID worked with two buttons was better and more Saaby IMHO)

    As for the NG 9-5, I have to say that when comparing these three images the NG 9-5 Although the instruments in themselves are beautiful and gadgetary, the complete theme of it all and the way the design is made it just don´t play together that well with me. The 3 DEEEEEP wells feels VERY generic GM to me, ( just have a look at the Opel Insignia/ Caddy CTS).
    The instrument bay should (IMHO) be more like the Dame E with a larger single well with the three instrument wells sunk in maybe 10 millimeter or so.
    Also I dont like the gree needles on the white background. ORANGE needles on green background is what a Saab should be, NOT just because it should, but because there was a reason for Saab using this in the past. ( It simply is easier to read and easier on the eyes in the dark)
    -I hear you say “NIGHTPANEL!!!” Which is a great feature that I love, but I´d rather have my car NOT tiring my eyes out FIRSTso that I HAVE to turn the instruments of… OG 9-5 was perfect in that aspect.
    Also, while the floating needle behind the SID is a cool, it makes it harder to read the position of the needle as it is only a short line and not a full needle. With HUD this may be redundant, but If the SID was to be positioned inside the instrument bay, but outside the instruments themselves, I´d rather have a full needle.
    I dont know… I guess you NG 9-5 owners out there knows best how you feel that it works…?
    Hmmm. Looking at the images above I can´t help to wonder whether the horisonal fake airouttakes, makes the car feel a bit toyish… I don´t know. I may be wrong, but I think I´d rather have it the 9-4X way… I bit cleaner… More “scandinavian” if you like,,

    Well, sorry for the rant…
    Just my 2 cents… Have yours as well!


  19. I think that we are kicking in open doors here as we all seems to agree that the orange/green instrument panel on the first generation of the 9-5 is very easy to read and comfortable in most driving conditions.

    The problem with it is that I believe that some marketing people thinks that it isn’t cool. And that they must add a lot of colors, touch screens and button clusters with a fancy design.

    Less is more so keep it simple! As someone said; I would pay for un upgrade to my 2010 9-3 to make it look more like the 2001 9-5 in the interior.

  20. Am I missing something here?
    During the day the numbers are white on black on the OG 9-5 and green on black at night due to the backlighting. That is a daytime photo of the NG9-5 dash, white numbers on black face. What’s the problem?
    The early E30 BMW 3 series dashpod, considered one of THE best ever dash designs did the same, white numbers during the day and colored (orange wash) at night.

  21. I agree too, Red you speak me from the heart! That is the good old fashioned way Saab should take course again!
    And yes, I also want my buttons back on my dashboard!

  22. Nice to hear that I’m not the only one 🙂

    I’ve tagged the post as 2012 9-3, because I think the interior colour theme for that car is still not fixed, and maybe somebody out there gives it a thought.

  23. I agree with the previous comments about the colour scheme, but…we all have to bear in mind that Saab must appeal to a larger category than that represented by daily readers of SU.

    Now, ask yourself, would a neutral customer buy a car whose dashboard looks like in the 90’s?! To some extent, Saab has to be in line with other automakers, in order to survive. They cannot survive on die-hard fans alone, they have to appeal to new customers.

    Just try to look at the bright side, the 9-5 is better looking, both in and out, than most cars nowadays.

    • HI,

      I Agree that the NG 9-5 is VERY nice compared to alot of cars out there, BUT I also think that in order to compete with Audi, Volvo, BMW the materials and finishes must be up to par with those brands.

      BUT I disagree that Saab has to have dashboards “in line with other automakers”.
      If you say that you are different, If you want to attract a market that want´s to feel different driving a Saab, You have to di more that SAY that you´re different.
      Say what you are.
      Execute what you say.


  24. Agree we need the orange needles back even if they do look old-fashioned. They just work better and that is what Saab is supposed to be about. I’m sure those Swedes can figure out a way to make the overall look more contemporary while keeping the more functional color scheme.

  25. Probably was a hard time for Saab; no successor to the 9-5 and how to sell an ageing car. The Dame Edna revision certainly involved a lot of cost cutting, and that’s what we can see on the dash. Otoh, the late 9-5 was a bargain (as seen by the shock moments a lot of people had when the NG 9-5 was introduced, myself included), and imho exterior design was an improvement.

    I however agree that Saab should return to their previous, more scientific approach to user interfaces. This also includes the menus. Since research has shown that more, but dedicated buttons are better than context menus, they should provide a solution to that, be that an external keyboard with shortcuts to the most used settings wirelessly connected to the car, or such a keyboard normally hidden behind a flap, on the dashboard.

  26. Red J, it is great that you brought this up! I was planning to write to Swade to suggest just this topic. I went for a test drive of a 9-3 SC TTid last week, and one of the things that bothered me was the dashboard with the chrome-plastic rings around the dials and the rim around the instrument panel. Otherwise the current 9-3 cockpit is nicely laid out, the speedo dial is correct and the controls for the climate control and heating are great. I like the fact that they are placed high up on the dashboard, this is important for safety.

    But I agree with you that overall, the OG 9-3 dashboard was nearly perfect, with clear dials and big buttons. A nice detail with the OG 9-3 and GM 900 was the fact that the vent was on the side, allowing the SID/radio display to be at the top of the dashboard. This is something I miss in my current car and I really hope Saab puts back a dash like the OG 9-3 in the 2012 9-3. It would make sense to retain the lower part of the dashboard from the current 9-3, notably the nice round climate control buttons at their current location. (The OG 9-5 pre 2005 also had a nice functional Hareide-design dashboard, but I am not so familiar with it.)

    Something else that was unbeatable in the OG 9-3 and 9-5 is the seats. Even in base models, the seats were extremely comfortable. Currently the “Linear” seats are on the hard side for me. They are good, but not like in the past. The sports seats in the 9-3 Vector/Aero and 9-3X seems to be better. A real Saab should have Saab seats from the base model!

  27. Like Jörgen Trued already mentioned in this post
    “Usage of green light, orange hands is best
    No “chrome rings”, white hands, partial hands”


  28. If not OLED, at least a white, an orange and maybe a green LED in the needles of the JC 9-3 to choose from?

    The orange cruise text in between the green numbers in the OG 9-3 is surprisingly annoying (says someone who put a sticker on the blue high beam light in the 900). Orange needles are better looking during daytime (in the summer) but ones the pitch black winter comes nothing beats the simplicity in the NG 9-3 (03-04).

    It’s interesting what you can find in the SU archives. I think this is the perfect color combo in a Saab, minus the chrome on the steering wheel.

  29. The first thought I had when I read about the orange needles was: “That is something I am missing too!”

  30. The biggest problem on the 9-5NG instrument panel is the colour of the cockpit numbers.. WHITE!!!! A lot more violent than the white indicators on the 9-3NG (which has still green numbers). Definitely not important if the indicators are green or not.. numbers are white and that’s terribly uncomfortable when driving by night.

    I’m completey agree.. the better cockpit with better colours is the 9-3OG one, green numbers, orange indicators, different scale for the speedo.. no white colour. There’s no competition. Saab has made a big mistake following a more fashionated cockpit… that’s not what a Saab customer looks for.

  31. The Orange and Green instumentation colour scheme is much kinder to your eyes than the white only on long drives in the dark.

    Driving both Dame Edna 9-5’s annd GM900’s/OG 9-3’s I much prefer the Orange/Green lighting in these dark winter months.

    The white instruments have to be turned up during the day and turned down during the night. I don’t thank that the Dame Edna’s have the automatic instrument lighting sensor control that the GM900’s / OG900’s have. I they do it, doesn’t work.

    Sometimes the old ways are better than the new. However we live in an age of fashion over function.

  32. I am surprised that no one has mentioned how much better the old steering wheel looked (and worked). It was a great example of functional Scandinavian design.

    I don’t think that Saab should worry too much about they instruments looking “old.” It’s all about function and classic simple design. Besides, as a friend with an early 944 explained to me: “my instruments looked modern when I bought the car, then they looked old when the 944 was refreshed in the mid-80s, then it looked modern again a few years after that, then old again and now it’s ultra-modern.”

    The “new” design will age much more rapidly than the old one above, simply because it’s too busy and fussy. I noticed that when sitting in the 2011 9-5 as well; there’s too much going on, most of it useless information. One prime example: the button for heated seats is so small that you need to remove your glove to hit it! This possibly makes sense on a rainy day in Rüsselsheim, but it’s a cruel joke when it’s -30 in Trollhättan.

    • Good point. My initial reaction to the NG 9-3 was that they’d made a mistake with the ‘three spoke’ steering wheel (you can’t hold on to it at 6 o’clock’).
      I’m so used to it by now that it doesn’t bother me much anymore, but thanks for reminding 😉

    • I agree, the old steering wheel looks and feels much, much better. The buttons should be big enough to use in gloves, of course, and all unnecessary information must be taken away.

      • Can’t help but mention Apple products again 🙂 Remove unnecessary and make everything else best and with style. For me, that’s what the new Saab should be to become successful and different – perfection in necessary functions, cutting-edge (but reasonable! Prius is not the case!) technology, and scandinavian design – light and elegant.

  33. Compressed speedo, scrunched up speedo, whatever you call it, this feature of the first 9-3 and 9-5 is the most intelligent and “different” dashboard idea ever, especially in the United States where it is almost never legal to go over 75mph. If I am already illegal, I am not so concerned whether I am 35mph over or 40mph over. I would love to see this come back. And yes orange and green. The night panel effect of illuminating only the lower half is also extremely entertaining.

  34. Love the old dash, orange for Saab is a little bit Dutch now, Green for Saab is green since ages…Feels much more comfortable, warmer, than the new dashes.

  35. I guess GM Saab felt the orange and green instruments were dated or old fashioned. Younger buyers may expect the dash to look like their cellphone (joke). I know in the Ford Fusion (#1 selling car in the USA of late or close to it) the dash is a blue..much like a one’s bluetooth
    device. .. While it looks modern the color seems horrendous for nighttime driving. I much prefer Saab go back to the orange and green…it looks Saab to me and not dated. The dash should
    be a safe, functional device…not some desktop that one customizes with the colors that are in
    fashion this week.

  36. I love the look of the OG9-5 instrument panel. Simple and easy to read with 270 degrees of motion on the speedo, 180 degrees of which is dedicated to most commonly used range of speeds and the rest of the range compressed into 90 degrees.

    I guess you couldn’t plug&play the OG panel into a Dame Edna as there is no allocation for SID info in the old panel.

  37. I do also think that the 9-5 dashboard is a downgrade compared with the OG 9-5. A part of the SAAB design DNA is just gone.

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