Swedish press drive Saab 9-5 SportCombi

This is a report that we’ve already linked to and covered here on SU. RedJ linked to it last week and covered one particular perspective of the story – the fact that Saab might get the new 9-5 down below 120g/km emissions.

That is indeed a significant story, especially if they can do it with the wagon. It’d be a heck of an achievement if they can maintain reasonable power and attain such low emissions, as they’ve done with the Saab 9-3 TTiD.

There was a bigger context to that story, however. RedJ touched on it by reproducing the last section of this story but I’m not sure how many people clicked through and did a translation. The bigger story – the Swedish press getting an exclusive preview drive of the new Saab 9-5 SportCombi.

Martin B has provided a translation of the original story for us, which is essential reading for all those interested in the new Saab 9-5 SportCombi. My thanks to Martin for sending it in.


The Saab 9-5 SportCombi is highly anticipated and necessary to lift Saab to profitability. The biggest threat is the market’s fear of poor residual values, but that feels misplaced.

The first hatchback versions of the new 9-5 left the assembly line just before Christmas. After some necessary tuning, “Tjänstebilsfakta“ (i.e Company Car facts), together with a selected number of residual value experts, took a place behind the wheel of the No. 2 and 3 cars, in a record early test drive of just over one month old cars.

The new 9-5 reached Saab’s sales expectations in the large Sedan segment in 2011. Now it is up to the new 9-5 SportCombi to show the model’s full potential.

The Wagon is the same car from the front to the back seat. The ceiling over the back seat was raised by 10-15 mm for better facilities and roofline pulled out and ended in an integrated spoiler, which turns into a steep sloping rear tailgate, which is shared by a lateral light ramp between the rear lights.

The C-pillar is sharply upwards-forwards from rear side windows- a classic Saab design known as the “hockey stick”. The hidden D-pillars make the rear window and rear side windows seem to run together.

Somebody says, it is better looking than the sedan. That is a matter of taste. But the wagon is really attractive and stylish, which is quite important in a world where cars are becoming more streamlined, and in principle are good, serviceable and safe working tools. It’s almost like a hatchback, as someone in the party put it.

Consequently, the new 9-5 SC also houses fewer litres than in the Volvo and BMW 5 Series Touring. But the 530 liters to 555 liters and 560 is quite enough to meet most family demands. They have survived for twelve long years with the old 9-5 – and it was much smaller.

The broad and sharply sloping C-pillar unfortunately obscures the visibility for rear passengers. Competitors’ larger glass areas provides a significant airier expression.
As in the sedan, there is a U-shaped rail in the floor where a smooth telescopic cargo divider (optional) can be used to keep the luggage in place. The floor can be opened in three stages. In the folded position it is held in position by a strut and then functions as a grocery bag holder. Tire repair kit is standard, emergency spare wheel is optional, but then you miss the extra deep cargo area and have to settle for a 6.5 centimeters deep space.

Saab has not gone on line with Volvo’s practical 40/20/40-folding of seat backs, but uses the traditional 60/40-principle. An emergency triangle is stored neatly in a compartment in the tailgate – useful for times of crisis.

The electrical remote trunk, which can be programmed for different opening heights, is optional. The old solid cargo cover from the old 9-5 is gone and replaced by an ordinary, thinner cover, which follows up the D-pillars, as in 9-3 from 2006 an onwards.

The test run would have been sited at Saab’s test track had to be moved to a public road because of an intense rain in the morning hours. With self-confidence Saab had also lined up the cars they regard as their toughest competitors: Audi A6 Avant and Volvo V70. BMW 5 Series Touring is Saab’s main target, but may still be included as a benchmark. As a car of reference we also had a regular 9-5 SC

On the seat behind the wheel may be seen a welcome upgrade of the interior material selections. The Sedan will benefit from this from model year 2012.

Saab has worked hard to maintain since version’s audio comfort and handling. The rear end has been trimmed to meet the combination of greater weight. Under the load floor and the wheel arches there is some extra insulation to minimize the usual hatchback buzz. We drive on soft studded Nordic winter tires, which are kind to the ear. But from the driver’s seat in these early cars, nothing indicates that Saab has failed.

Driving characteristics could not be tested at any greater strain on public roads, and the chassis has not been tuned fully with the car’s steering system. But the wagon is just as responsive, safe and eager to enter the curves and as much a drivers joy as the sedan.

When compared to its competitors, the BMW 5-series RWD and “meatier” steering feels sharper, but the 9-5 are not far behind. However, in the same discipline the 9-5 beats both the Audi A6 Avant and Volvo V70. The Audi’s steering feels too light, the chassis is too bumpy and the sound level is worse. Volvo V70 is indeed a safe acquaintance on the road, but is no drivers joy. The steering is unexact, which provides a light and uneasy feeling.

BMW’s interior conveys a higher quality feel and the eight shift automatic transmission in combination with two-liter diesel at 184 horsepower is hard to match for the brand.
But the driving environment, or the cockpit of the Saab prefer to call it, is just a bit more comfortable in the Swede. The tunnel and the center console of the BMW intrude a little on the right leg.

Both the Saab’s standard and sports seats are very comfortable with good settings (could have been even better if we had gotten rid of the Opel lever and received a variable knob adjustment of backrest inclination). Volvo V70-chairs are recognized as fine, but short of the seat cushion. To get the same comfort as the Saab 9-5, the Audi sports seats are needed.

In the case of the diffuse but still very real perceived sense of quality is BMW in a class by itself. However Saab matches the current Audi A6 and Volvo.

New 9-5 SportCombi may share components with the Opel Insignia and have diesel engines from Fiat, but everything is optimized and “Saabified” in Trollhättan. The wagon has the same gasoline, bioethanol and diesel turbo engines as the sedan and is also the same wheel-drive (Saab XWD). There are three petrol versions of 180, 220 and 300 horsepower, and two diesels of 160 and 190 horsepower.

New for model year 2012 will be a small diesel engine with 136 horsepower. Both that engine and the 160-hp version will be optimized to achieve less than 120 grams of CO2 per kilometer. Exactly when it would happen, Saab did not say today.

We drove the wagon with both the 160- to 190-horsepower diesels. The smallest are marching in a pleasant tempo at 1100 rpm road speed. The gearing means you have to gear down to third gear to revive for overtaking. Both diesels are efficient (around 5.5 l/100 km in the soft driving was no problem) and powerful enough for most people’s needs.

The most fuel efficient in our round was the Audi A6 with a 170-horsepower two-liter diesel landed in five liters per 100 km.

Official figures are not yet clear, but expect slightly higher CO2 emissions and rates compared with the sedan.

Although the technology side, some news for model year 2012. In addition to the already available HUD, Lane change warning, radar braking, combined with adaptive cruise control and automatic start / stop function.

The world premiere is located at the Geneva Motor Show. Then the order books are open and after the summer the first customers will have their cars.

After some tortuous miles outside Trollhättan, one can conclude that the new 9-5 SportCombi has every chance to take back market share in the segment.
It is on par with or better than several of the class’ top sellers on several points. It is a distinctive car with a host of premium features. Dealers guarantee the residual value at lease customers. It will be hot game among families with children in the second hand market, if not already the new vehicle.

Large estate market has just gotten a lot more fun and interesting. Sweden is obviously much more dull without Saab.

33 thoughts on “Swedish press drive Saab 9-5 SportCombi”

  1. That review is extremely positive! Hopefully the other reviews that should be coming soon will be as positive as this. 😀

  2. “The broad and sharply sloping C-Pillar unfortunately obscures the visibility for rear passengers”. I thought they would have learned from the “Insignia-mistake”. What a pity ! 🙁

  3. I think this where the ‘blind spot avoidance’ electronics will figure. With a proper back up camera and visual rendering of where I am vis a vis an obstacle (not just the ‘beep…beep’ of the existing parking assistance– I’ve been caught!).

    Not a moment soon (even in the 9-3)!

    [Or am I mis-understanding the feature….is it about wandering from a lane…or is it about identifying a car in your blind spot? Ideally — a la Merc etc. –both].

    • NTP,
      the lane departure warning is only about wandering from the lane, otoh I’ve read somewhere that US Saabs(don’t know if only the 9-4x or the full range) will have a blind spot warning system, a la Volvo (maybe MY 12), although I don’t have no blind spot in my OG9-5. 😉

  4. “When compared to its competitors, the BMW 5-series RWD and “meatier” steering feels sharper, but the 9-5 are not far behind. However, in the same discipline the 9-5 beats both the Audi A6 Avant and Volvo V70. The Audi’s steering feels too light, the chassis is too bumpy and the sound level is worse. Volvo V70 is indeed a safe acquaintance on the road, but is no drivers joy. The steering is unexact, which provides a light and uneasy feeling.”

    Booyah !!

  5. I just dont understand saabs reasoning behind letting this somewhat obscure test site being the first one publishing a test of the sc. Any clues?

    • Maybe it’s all BS? Maybe a marketing ploy. It doesn’t make much sense. You get an exclusive drive of a brand new vehicle and you don’t take any pictures?

    • Probably because they want to have an embargo on the images. I remember another Swedish site saying they have photos of the SC but are not allowed to publish the photos due to embargo from Saab (they said this in connection with the 9-5 SC that were seen out on the streets of Trollhättan). So I have no problems with no photos. Saab want to have full control of the publication – I think that’s why.

      And this site focus on lease-customers, which are very very very important in Sweden.

    • 8 out of 10 sold Saabs in Sweden are leased one, this is a lease company site. The most important costumer for Saab. This is great and absolutely the right way to tell companys that Saab is the right car for your company. Excuse my bad english but you get the picture.

      PS SC is the only model selling in big numbers in our country, now the real fight begin with V70. A <120 g/Co is as important cos otherwise companys exclude them.

  6. Am I the only one that thinks it might make sense to change things from SportCombi back to Sport Wagon for the US market? My recollection is that the 9-3 SC was called the ‘Sport Hatch’ throughout its development (perhaps in an attempt to appease hatch buyers that felt abandoned after 2002) probably due to its more steeply raked rear profile. I know it was pitched to delaers that way. At the last moment, the change to SportCombi was made. Many US buyers don’t have any idea what a Combi is or that we previously offered a Combi Coupe and so on. Then to confuse the issue even more, Saab changed the 9-5 wagon to SC as well further cementing the idea that the 9-3 SC is in fact a wagon (which it is). While I know most customers don’t consider the 9-3 SC a hatch, I am not sure it make any more sense using SC than using terms like shooting brake, saloon, or limousine for the US market.

    I certainly never considered the 9-3 SC a hatch and I am sure most people reading this do not either. Over the years I have had customers call it the ‘Combo’ (they know not what they do), others the SportCombi, but most simply call it a wagon. I can understand the desire to not be associated with the Griswold Family Truckster, but I think we are pretty far removed from that being a problem. My concern is that SportCombi might just be a bit to inside baseball for the buying public at large. Perhaps that is a good thing? Just wondering what others thing about this assuming you think about it all!

    • +1 Agreed just call it a wagon. Combi rhymes with Barbie, feminizes it for me too much. I know it’s nitpicking but ya, to this American’s ear it just never sounded right.

      I still love the car, just not the name.

      This review was very fair and a refreshing read. Again, excited to see the new interior. Though I wonder why they think the Saab and Audi’s interiors still aren’t on par with the BMW’s? Subjective, but at least they note that the 2012 sedans get an upgrade.

      • The UK press release talks about the 9-5 SportWagon, and I think the American press release did also talk about the SportWagon and not the SportCombi.

        The problem is, Saab-media-USA has changed to the global site, and since then the original press release (the one talking about 1 engine) is not available any more. 🙁

        • One car different names:
          UK: Sportwagon
          Scandinavia: SportCombi
          German speaking countries: SportCombi
          BeNeLux + France: Estate
          Spain + Italy : Wagon

          Those are the names of the local press releases of the presentation of the 9-5 SC.

    • Nice to see that Audi USA is in a “me too” mode. There will be no 5-series Wagon in the states because BMW think that those that bought a wagon in the past would buy a 5-series GT.

      Audi, in its effort to be the better BMW, seem to follow the decision by BMW.

      Nice move by Audi.

      BTW, nice collection of brands 🙂 at bluegrassauto.

      • And Volvo V70 will be discontinued in the States as well. Does Merc continue with their E-Class combi? Or will Saab 9-5 SC be the only European “premium” (hate that word) combi in its’ size class?

  7. This 9-5 wagon should be a sweet car and a great seller all by itself here in the US. That said, if BMW and Audi are abandoning the market with their respective competitors than that is nothing but great news for Saab. That is the same kind of reasoning behind why Saab killed the hatch in 2002, and we now how that story has worked out! Not sure about a new Passat wagon. The Mercedes E Class wagon is very nice, but also very expensive which should give us a nice spot in the market.

  8. Volvo pulled the V70 but they have a new FWD XC70 for $32,000. Even the 300-hp T6 model starts at $38,000. Saab’s going to need to be aggressive in order to do battle with aggressive pricing from Volvo. That said, the wagon market is likely shrinking in the States, but if people interested in a 9-4x come in and end up with a 9-5SC, that’s no bad thing.

  9. As long as a 6-speed manual is available with the 220bhp 2.0T and/or the Aero V6…count me in.

    But the car MUST have a manual for me to consider it. Hopefully it will. Then onto the Hirsch catalog! 😀

    • Are you in the US? I think we only get the 2.0T SC… I don’t think we know about transmissions yet.

      I would love to see an ad comparing the 9-5 SC to its competition in the US, only to find empty BMW, Audi, and Volvo parking spaces… That would make a point fairly clearly.

  10. Agreed – Need the 6 speed manual with XWD or I keep waiting and see what the new 93 brings in 2012. As much as I want the extra space of the 95 for the family I wouldn’t grab one if a manual wasn’t an option, I would hedge and wait and hope for a redesigned 93 wagon manual with XWD (the existing 93 wagon’s just don’t do it for me). Of course it’s getting tougher and tougher to a get manual in the USA at this point in time – hopefully Saab can capitalize on that as a differentiator and provide more manual options in the USA for their new vehicles (I know it costs more for them to certify a manual for import even if it’s exactly the same as an auto, etc.) …

  11. Wonder if I can talk the wife into foregoing the 9-4x this summer, and getting the 9-5 Sportwagon in early Fall?

  12. Saab should just drop the “sport” from the car names….becuase they’re not…..the word sport is so overused that it’s as absolete as the word “hightech”

    Just call a sedan a sedan and a wagon a wagon….or combi in those markets that accept that word…..but sportsedan or sportcombi….it’s just rediculous….

    • Agree !

      It’s so ridiculuos to call them sport, -has always been-, as there is absolutely nothing sporty about them, in standard mode.
      Get rid of that mark asap.

      And please change the Aero series back to be one top of the range only , and not just another trim level within different engine options and thereby “out watering” it.

      Aero’s must be something special. The more exclusive and “sportier” alternative.

      • Indeed.
        I couldn’t believe my eyes when I first saw a 2007 1.9tid Aero9-3 with a cloth interior.

        suddnely the badge which I aspired to and was proud of on my saab og9-3 Aero (black,HOT, leather, full bodykit etc) became meaninless.
        A real shame…but easily sorted.

        • Agreed!
          More that that, differentiate Aero further and make a difference more obvious. Aero should be really top-notch.

    • The new 9-5 is only known as the Saab 9-5 Sedan, so they dropped the Sport there. And I agree with you that they should do the same with Wagon.

  13. Text written in a calm and straight-to-the-point tone. The review seems positive as it indicated the wagon to be competitive.

    Wonder if getting the car under 12g/Km could have anything to do with start-stop. SAAB might use that on all engines 😉

  14. Forgive the off-topic comment, but I briefly visited Brownell Saab (http://www.brownellsaab.com/) on Saturday to see what they had in stock, and I was delighted to find the first manual transmission ’11 2.0T BioPower that I’ve seen here in the U.S. They ordered this car completely without options -it’s black over parchment, and aside from shipping, the window sticker indicates no additional charges- with the idea that it would be a good draw for people, both on price and on the transmission. They also have two Aero XWDs and, in the showroom, a Premium 2.0T in (Swade-pleasing) Java Metallic. So if anyone wants to see/test drive a six-speed 9-5 and they’re within driving distance of Fishkill, New York, it’s worth the trip. Call ahead to schedule a drive, as the car still sported those plastic brake disc covers behind the wheels. And let me know how it feels!

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