AMS test the 9-5 vs. The Teutonic Three

In the last issue of the Swedish auto,motor&sport the 9-5 had to show if it was able to withstand a face-to-face comparison with the new Audi A6, the BMW 5-series and the Mercedes E-class.

The test is a little bit unfair for Saab, but the guys at AMS knew it from the beginning, as the big V6 diesels of the Germans are compared to the TTiD4.

We knew that a four-cylinder diesel would fall short against the other six-cylinder diesels. But we wanted to see if Saab 9-5 chassis is still champ in the class.

The candidates are:

  • Audi A6 TDI 3.0 quattro; 245hp; 500Nm; 7-speed automatic; AWD; 1887kg
  • BMW 535d530d; 245hp; 540Nm; 8-speed automatic; RWD; 1902 kg
  • Mercedes E350 CDI; 265 hp; 620Nm; 7-speed automatic; RWD; 1941 kg
  • Saab 9-5 TTiD4 XWD; 190 hp; 400Nm; 6-speed manual; 4WD; 2010 kg

Saab reached only the 4th position with 4 stars where the other 3 reached 4.5 stars. But the guys at AMS keep asking, how would have been if we had tested a TTiD6 instead of the the TTiD4?

And why do they ask this question? Well if we believe the test, the Saab has the best chassis and the best steering, and despite the fact their car only had the McPherson front suspension.

AMS titles the 9-5 as the driving fun choice.

We note that the A6 never been so alert on the road, they have really done their homework in Ingolstadt.
BMW has a more difficult job than ever to compete.
Though it is still Trollhättan which builds the finest ride in this group.

No one is completely perfect. Audi is too hard and the rear seat is not impressive; BMW is a bit too tight, Saab has no fifth or sixth cylinder under the hood and Mercedes Avantgarde Package has no comfort benefits.

Audi is for those who want efficient V6 diesel, with good facilities.

BMW is the crystal clear choice for customer comfort.

Mercedes E 350 CDI has most of the torque, 620 Nm gives a totally different feeling against the other cars.

If you really prioritize the pure driving pleasure, then you choose the Saab 9-5.

So in the end the Saab is a car for the driver, but we already knew about that– although the 5-series and the E-class are RWD, they don’t have the stiffness of a 4WD car, and even despite the Audi’s new torque vectoring sports differential.

The seating comfort in the front is second to none, and in the back, well Mercedes is slightly better, but only Mercedes.

The car is also the least thirsty, although it has the highest official figures, and is the heaviest of them all.

  • Audi; norm 6,0 l/km; test 7,7 l/km
  • BMW; norm 6,2 l/km; test 8,6 l/km
  • Merc.; norm 6,4 l/km; test 8,4 l/km
  • Saab; norm 6,7 l/km; test 7,5 l/km

And for the ones looking at their pockets, the Saab is 100.000 SEK less expensive than the others. And the costs per km are also lower.

All in all the 9-5 is a good car, and after the MY 12 interior upgrade will also have the appeal of the class it is aiming for.

We know that for MY 12 a 136hp Diesel engine will be added to the offering in Europe, but this comparison also denotes that a big V6 Diesel is also very important in Europe if Saab wants to compete on the same level as The Teutonic Three.


50 thoughts on “AMS test the 9-5 vs. <em>The Teutonic Three</em>”

  1. great info! I think it will be great to see a re-match with a more powerful 9-5. Interesting that BMW (I’ve owned a few) have recently been losing their touch with driving fun – just got my recent issue in the mail today of Car and Driver and the BMW series came in last in a comparison- they bashed it about the artificial steering feel. Kinda neat for Saab to get kudos as being the “driver’s choice”!

  2. Very encouraging – to be fair prob as biased towards the ‘home’ car as the Germand UK press who would favour the BMW or Jaguar XF (not tested here but also a 2.2 ltr diesel which will be key to sales).

    Saab really need alarger displacement diesel to ‘cut it’ against the Germans – mostly for appearance and bragging rights, but these are important factors in selecting a car afer all.

    • I don’t have the feeling that AMS is biased towards the Saab because it is Swedish. It has always seemed that most of the Swedish motoring press dislike Saabs before..

  3. GM really engineered a gem with this chassis. Both the 9-5 and its siblings, the Buick Lacrosse and Opel Insignia, handle superbly.

    Platform sharing can actually work with a good platform.

  4. Well folks there you go again and the need for a big engine (aka V6) raises its head once again. This is a matter that despite all the roots, origins, values……etc etc and many more sentimentalism, Saab must have the grunty “bigger” engine blocks even when these are to fill in the blanks as not having these will be a huge let down to the public/market. This has to be of the highest priority as A4s are now optioned with V6 Turbos again. I will hate to recognize this car as a serious option if no V6 Turbo is available on anything other than a 9-5 in future. This will be a huge let down

  5. Wow, real shocker that Saab came in 4th place out of 4 in the AMS test. Seriously, I am happy I own a fuel sucking, thirsty V6 9-3 Aero SC with XWD. I am a sentimental Saab owner of over 30 years and have owned mostly 4 bangers, turbo and normally aspirated, and one 3 cylinder stroker, but that V6, whatever it’s origins are – GM-Holden – it’s pretty spectacular in the 9-3. I think the 9-5 is a bit heavy for it and feels slower than my 9-3. I agree that if Saab is going to compete for a premium position in branding, it needs a V6 across the line up.

  6. not to forget the V6 diesel would also make its way into the 9-4X bonnet, boosting its sales in Europe.

  7. Prices of the tested competitor cars actually has a bigger difference to the Saab than 100 000Sek. The others are priced at +30% more, something which also have an impact on the testers in terms of more luxury equipment.. Here are prices for the tested vehicles:
    408 100 SEK Saab 9-5 TTiD4 XWD
    548 400 SEK BMW 530d RWD
    560 700 SEK Audi A6 3.0 TDI quattro
    575 700 SEK Mercedes 350 CDI RWD

    I think the verdict of this test has to be regarded with this in mind. Still a very good outcome for the 9-5.

    • OddJob, thanks for the comparison, could you add the tested BMW 535d; 245hp; 540Nm; 8-speed automatic; RWD to the list please, just for completion…? 😉

      I wonder which saab it was vector or aero? according to the mcpherson suspension it might be vector?

      • I was convinced that all TTiD4 cars got the Hi-Per strut to eliminate high torqsteer.
        I’m not sure if it always has the H-arm though.

        • Polle,
          if the international Saab site is right, only the petrol V6 uses the Hi-Per strut.

          On the other side the TtiD4 has always the H-arm in the back.

          • Red J,
            I just checked some MY11 vins and found the following:
            TTiD FWD: RPO GNB (HiPer strut)
            TTiD XWD: RPO GNA (McPherson)

            This means the the torqsteer story is still valid, but only necessary on the FWD as the XWD system will reduce that symptom automaticly.

      • @Saabonaut,
        as you can see in the picture it is a vector. (no exhaust pipes)
        And sorry for the mistake the tested BMW is a 530d. 🙁

        I’ve only compared the base prices which are at least 100 kSEk less for the Saab. The price difference with the AMS std. equipment was(as you say) even higher.

  8. Joe Lobo X Infinity!!!!

    We Fret about what’s said by the Big Bad Swedish Press (Circus Miller etc. ) and dig in our heels ever so…but maybe we should vet these kinds of review/writings better because frankly they kill sales (BTW: The German mag did us a favour by outfitting the car with a manual transmission….can you imagine the positioning with the Automatic! And what would they have then said about the ‘fun to drive’ quotient…But sorry Kids, autos are 70% of the sales…like it or not).

    Maybe we better take our Head’s out of The Sand and realize that as well as problems surrounding Dealerships, Distribution (aka The North American Disaster) we have a product problem too…

    I, like Joe Lobo (amongst others) purchased the Turbo X and would have expected something to fill it’s void (better) 3 years on ….at least 2 other Turbo X owners (whose leases are up) have jumped ship over at SaabCentral in the last month (one to Audi S4; other to Merc C63). Our own Kroum is next….Jorgen Trued (as deference to his Home Town and Good Guy that he is…and though I’ve tried to talk him out of it)…is the single exception in trading the Turbo X in for a small diesel Saab 9-5 (and ask him what he thought about sitting in the A7 and BMW 5).

    Saab (as I understand ‘The Business Plan’) is not trying to be a mass-market product… but we are not hitting the targets of intended niches either (Performance Driver etc.).

    I trust that current Management (as I bow to them and cross myself ) will sort out this Mess. Or have I overstepped The Boundary (sorry, I’m just an owner of 2 ‘less than 3 year old’ Saabs).

    • Best driving, not competitive engines (in its class). This sums up Saabs position perfectly. If people just look at numbers (cars are sold on paper) they won’t hold it as (Teutonic) premium, unless their car enthusiasts or know about the driving characteristics heritage of Saab.

      This is where additional R&D capital should go ASAP, and behold sales would pick up in a heartbeat.

    • Considering Saab doesn’t have its own engine production capabilities, do you have any specific engine choices in mind that won’t require massive changes to get them to fit into the current (or future) lineup? From GM maybe?

    • “ better because frankly they kill sales..”

      Not so much! This was a great review actually and it will generate lots of sales. And the product problem is much smaller now than it has ever been before – gaps are being closed as you complain loudly about the present offering. It would have been great with a diesel V6, but since it isn´t there yet, it cannot be sold. It is a great thing that quite a few people accept four cylinder diesels. And that SAAB does not need to take over the entire diesel market right now to survive. This way they can survive by using the step by step approach the have to apply.

    • manual vs auto … ? Is the auto really that bad? It’s my third saab automatic – diesel, and I was always very happy with the auto, actually a reason to buy. It seems very smooth and greatly synced with the motor, what are you experiences with other configurations?

  9. off-topic here, sorry.

    Just curious if SU has any new inside info on SAAB entering the, practically for them, virgin Brazilian market? I read on a Brazilian blog that SAAB wants to import late THIS year but no importer has been named, just yet. They think the most likely would be exotic Platinuss (koenigsegg, spyker etc.) but I find that unprobable due to the complete different market segments.

    I live in Brazil and love the whole SAAB philosophy and innovation, would love to buy one! The main car that will sell here, ironically, probably be the most un-saab of the range is the 94x. Reading many brazilian car blogs the SUV is really liked design-wise and the less import tax rule from Mexico could make it super interesting. The 9-3 biopowers models would sell well depending if they can price it well enough.

    It seems many Brazilians are hoping (also Palandi here on SU 😉 for Senna Import (ayrton senna family) to be the importer since they were the guys that introduced Audi into Brazil back in 1993. Senna Import later became Audi Senna and later Audi bought the whole thing in 2005. Since then, the Senna guys have been independent.

    Interesting trivia is that at the time Audi AG constructed their first production plant in Curitiba in 1999, quess who was the director of this plant? Mattias Seidl. Yup, our dude at Saab. Good Karma? I certainly hope so. Senna has prestige and Saab wants to be seen that way for better prices and more fun to drive.

    Sorry, if this bored any of you guys 🙂

  10. Alternative to V6 Diesel: Replace XWD with eXWD 34HP Hybrid system. this would provide the performance boost to get fairly close the the competitions level of performance while significantly reducing consumption. A more SAAB way of achieving this?

    I do also think a V6 Diesel is required to truely compete head-head, but then you need a new autogearbox too and both need to be sourced and tested. I think the Hybrid drivetrain already under development for the NG 9-3 is a more obvious choice and SAAB SAABs do dare to be different.

    • I’m with you. Beef up electric propulsion and figure out ways for the instant torque of electric generator motors to compensate for combustion motor generators. Way more potential there. If you still don’t believe me, read the review of the Fisker Karma in winding road. It bested the Panamera Turbo and Quattroporte Sport GTS, for tens of thousands of dollars less. Oh, and it costs 1/4-1/6 as much to fuel. Considering they’re making a profit on alpha technology charging $90K and they have plans for a $30K sedan next, Saab can certainly play in that space. What people have to face is that Saab’s lineup is pretty much what it is for the next few years, they can’t just drop in a massive diesel suddenly without moving major resources from other projects. I’d much rather see them focus their energy on next generation solutions for their next crop of cars set for 2014-16.

      • I am pretty sure Saab are already thinking hard about this alternative (complementing the 4-banger fwd diesels with the new electric rear-wheel propulsion) right now. It would instantly boost the marketability of these models as it would propel them upwards a market category or maybe even two in terms of image and technical originality. It could be a great marketing argument: you can drive green ánd have fun. You get the performance and still are in the low emission-low-tax green sweetspot.

        Saab are bound to be researching every possibility to even out the sales-hampering power deficiency with the top-class 6-cylinder models of competing brands as long as 6-cylinder diesel 9-5 versions are apparently too expensive to develop in a reasonably short time.


    • As much as I agree with you both that Saab should be/think differently I would like to remind of few things we tend to forget.
      Saab must start selling this year. It doesn’t matter how good the intentions or plans are for the future as there won’t be one without better success in 2011 and huge success next year. JC 9-3 hasn’t even hit the showrooms by then.
      I can not believe it would take longer than 6-9 months to have a traditional TTiD6 available if they really push it. I’m hoping there has been one running secretly in the test bench for a long time in THN. They know how to make the 4 banger frugal, additional 2 cylinders can’t be that different?

      If we talk real-life reliability -one of Saabs USP’s- there is a reason why engine size matters. I’m not totally convinced Saab should choose to make only relatively small engines that require high tuning. The 9-5 TTiD4 has to give out 95 hp/litre!
      Our old ultra reliable 2.2 TID SS got 57. A Hi-Po (700 hp) Scania truck got 43. All this matters if you plan on investing big money in a car you intend to drive for the next 10-15 years and close to a million km.
      A 3.0 with 250 hp would have 83 hp/litre and hell of a lot more torque.

      It’s interesting that BWM just launched a small V8 turbo petrol engine with 407 hp and AWD. Wouldn’t that be like the perfect engine for a flagship 9-5 (the NA market).

  11. A very good friend had an Audi A6 TDI 3.0 Avant, but after a good honey moon, the next 2 years the car spent so much time in the workshop, it was not funny. The car was completely unreliable with numerous problems, specially with the electrics/electronics, some related, some independent. It has recently been replaced with a Beamer, so far so good.
    As a side note, not once did he (nor his wife) concider a Saab, even though they were very happy owners of a 1996 9000 Aero for years… Swedish couple, living in Sweden, liking ze germanz…

    • Totally agree, read a long article yesterday (Swedish newspaper Fokus) which pointed out that in today’s world where the middle class can travel around the world and buy luxury branded clothing, luxury is about being individual, different and to think for yourself. The 9-5 is the only one that has that selling point amongst these four, the other three pretty much look the same.

  12. The fuel figures make me wonder how Saab can be best IRL but worst off in the official figures…

    I mean, IRL is an exercise very well performed by Saab, but for marketing the official figures must be used and there we suck. Ugh.
    Well, I guess I could see it this way too: this just confirms that Saab is for the smart guys ,those looking beyond marketing blabla and who appreciate real life values.
    But it still hurts.

    I had hoped it was the German AMS, but no. When do we see Saab there again?

  13. You forgot to mention that the Saab got the lowest score of these cars and
    finished last with a margin to the others. This was NOT because of the engine.
    It was because of the build quality and materials.

    • I thought that saying that Saab was only 4th was the same as saying it was last, and I’ve also added that the interior updates for MY 12 are needed to get a more classy appeal.

      But what I really didn’t mention is that Saab should put the 9-5 in a diet, like it did with the 9-3, and make it loose 100kg.

    • OTOH, whatever that AMS-index means, 9-5 came second with a considerable margin to both BMW and MB. With MY ’12 updates the Saab should be even better – ain´t the really important bit however that it had the best chassis. Something like that is way harder to improve than interior plastics 🙂

  14. The problem could be that the Melbourne sourced V6 may not be accessible for too much longer, from what I have read locally regading production at GMH in Australia. SAAB’s turbo head on the 2.8 block does not have a future in some motoring press and the block itself is under much discussion.

    • AndrewR,
      With all the respect, but could it be that Saab and GM had some contracts that say how many engines or till when can Saab source that engine?

      Nonetheless, we are talking about diesel engines here.

    • Do you know offhand if GM’s 3.6L V6 is an option to swap? Could it be turbocharged?

      My logic is- if the 2.8L V6 fits under the 9-4x and SRX hoods, and the 3.6L is on its way to the SRX and possibly even the 9.4x, couldn’t it fit in the 9-5? And if you want to wait, couldn’t we also have access to GM’s new 3.0L twin turbo?

  15. Good stuff! I wonder, though, if a heavier V6 wouldn’t spoil part of the driving fun that seems to be so much a part of the 9-5 driving impressions.

    • Pedro,
      If the guys at Saab mange to save about the same amount of weight as they have done on the 9-3, the extra weight of the V6 wouldn’t spoil anything 😉

  16. Some more off topicness: Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte has auctioned a ride with him in his Saab. The two radio show presenters that asked him this ended up buying the ride for 7500 euros. They money will go to warchild.

  17. I dont know if someone mentioned it but the article also states that just being one of the cars in this kind of test tells you a lot about how competent it is.

  18. I think it was an interesting read but nevertheless I just never really understand how they end up rating the cars. It is hard to understand why the Saab ends up in fourth place – yes the interior may be nicer in the other cars but the Saab is substantially cheaper.

    However it is very nice to see that they understand where the Saab 9-5 is placed. A6, MB E-class, BMW 5 series are the real competition. this is something ze germans will not get and why they keep testing the 9-5 towards Mondeo and Skoda etc.

  19. Interesting article! A few thing hit my head: how come Saab is the weightiest of all, with just 60% engine size to the others, and manual transmission. This is a bit tricky for me.

    However, did it get your attention, that Saab had been publishing the highest of the consumption norms while the actual test measurement was the lowest of all?? This implies Saab is not only very cost-effective but their factory numbers are the most genuine, and credibility is not a negligible factor for a car manufacturer!

    Saab 9-5 is an excellent, top notch car, with the lowest price tag, no doubt and this is a fantastic feat of arms for us.

    • Yes they did.
      Audi has the best braking distance (lowest weight) but the highest noise levels.
      Merc, Beemer and Saab have almost identical braking distance and noise levels.

      • That’s new Audi, right? I recently read review of it (not a test vs,) in RU magazine and they claimed that car being extremely quite… And they did not have 5 layer windows option.

        Another guy on RU forums claimed 9-5 NG TTiD much louder comparing to his friend’s 535…

        • Doctor,
          sound level and perceived loudness are two pair of shoes. The one can be measured, the other depends on things like mood, or your personal view of a product. Further, two cars can have the same sound pressure level, but in different frequency ranges. Then higher frequencies are always more annoying than lower frequencies.

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