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.