Peter Gilbert, known to many as the million-mile Saab guy, went down to Chicago the check out the Auto Show there with Jon, his very tall son (6ft 9in). As you might imagine, Jon can have issues finding a car that fits so the opportunity to check out a whole bunch at one is a welcome one.
My thanks to Peter for sending his thoughts through, and some pics, too:
On Friday I drove 90 miles down to Chicago, IL for the first public day of what is deemed the largest US auto show of the year. The 1,000 vehicle display was so large this year that it was split up into two gigantic halls.
Naturally I wanted to go to the Saab stand first, but how could I resist a white Porsche Panamera which was adjacent to the Saab stand? One great plus for SAAB was the way their logo, in big white letters was twice displayed up high in white, close to the black, open architecture ceiling. More prominent than any other marque, one could not miss it.
Then, all of a sudden, the stand hit me with that white, Scandinavian simplicity. There were 8 cars displayed, including a silver Hirsch 9-5, with their big, black logo filling the door area. There was also a 9-3 in the same livery. I loved the transparent Plexiglas cabinet in the center, which had green leaves blowing around inside, as well as the display blocks embedded in the white floor. Kudos to Saab for such a beautiful display. The soft padded, white chairs were the icing on the cake.
I was so engaged showing my son the 9-5 for the first time, that I did not notice the 94-x until he had tried the 9-5 on for size. Being above average size, we were at the show to criticize all relevant vehicles for his wife and new baby. So the four of us were test-sitting in a lot of SUVs and crossovers. Unfortunately the 9-4x was locked because it is the only one in the country, but Jon realized that we could check out the same dimensions when we later sat in the Cadillac SRX.
The Hirsch 9-3 was different from the other 9-3s because of its special grill, and very practical carbon fiber clad, rear-sill which looked outstanding. I was really impressed with the look of the 9-3 Combi and convertible, in white which I have never seen before. Apart from the silver 9-5 there was one in Fjord Blue which was more unique than the average color that one would see from other manufacturers.
Review continues below….
In particular I liked the flat bottom steering wheel which was not only on the Hirsch but also the Aero models. A couple of weeks ago I suggested that Saab have a heated steering wheel, like the Panamera. I since learned that a dealer lost a Saab sale to Mercedes just because of that. Later when we checked the Buick stand the new Verano, which is coming out soon, also offers one. It would seem that some bits could be used from the GM parts bin to make this easy for our cold hands.
As we sat in the competition one point became apparent: The biggest in the range is not necessarily the biggest in driving position; the Audi Q5 is better than the Q7; the Chevy Equinox is more friendly than the Escalade; the Subaru Tribeca is outdone by the Outback. As a point of interest the 9-5 has now surpassed the Volvo S80 as the roomiest sedan from those Jon had tried in the past.
Most interesting was the fact that nearly every car had similar head clearance with a sunroof but the 9-5 had awesome leg-room. When we checked the SRX as a surrogate for the 94-X we were very satisfied with the accommodations. I could not help but notice my bias towards the 9-4x in the execution of its design. It just looks better and has a more refined dash, so much so that having seen the Audi I was thinking about what Victor Muller said about interior design at the Ohio SOC. I think we are almost there. Also the rear of the 9-4x is less oblique and would possibly have more interior cargo space.
I mentioned some of the engineering oddities. I saw the Ford Transit Van, which looked so functional, if not a beauty queen. It was displayed as a van, a taxi and a kind of min-van, with one caveat. It had enough head room for Yao Ming with ease, but the leg-room was so dismal that it looked like it was built for Toulouse-Lautrec in a 10-gallon Stetson. For marketing mistakes, I was shocked that most of Audi’s cars were locked-up, except for the Q5, Q7 and A4.
Subaru, which are generally well engineered, surprised me with their Forrester. They went to all the trouble of building-in electric heaters at the base of the windshield to heat up conventional wiper-blades with the metal clips that ice-up, when all they had to do was install Bosch Icon style blades (which I use all the year round anyway).
Returning to Saab, the driving position of the 9-5 and the SRX was very similar. Sitting in the car at the show is not the same as bouncing around on the real highway but when the 9-5 Combi hits the scene in August that could be the choice for my new Granddaughter to ride around in.