As I read through the latest round of 9-5 reviews published this week in the US media, I’ve been struck by the lack of depth that they bring to their reviews. Sure, they cover what details are on the surface, and they do a pretty decent job of bringing their own opinions to bear. But the surface is where it stops, and for anyone who knows anything about the car, it’s frustrating.
The editors of Auto Week had their own individual opinions on the 9-5 Aero published this week, and while they all are relatively positive about the car, they’re universally underwhelmed by the $50,000 pricetag. The problem as I’ve said about 10 times on this site before is that the model they tested is actually a $40-45,000 car as sold with a $50,000 MSRP. I wonder how their opinions would have changed if they knew the real price was 10-20% less out the door?
In another editor’s quick take, he mentioned how he felt the car was underpowered, yet doesn’t provide any info about the Hirsch package to boost the car up to 330HP for about $1,000 at your dealer which is coming in the next few weeks. Sure, that bit of information means possibly doing some homework and maybe visiting SaabsUnited or something and reading through some articles, but it’s an important bit of information for those convinced the car is underpowered relative to its German rivals. With Hirsch, it’s at par or better in terms of off-the-line performance relative to the V6 competition (and still costs considerably less). Think of Hirsch as Saab’s “sport” package.
Chalk up one of the most generous descriptions of the matte plastic center stack in the 9-5 to AutoWeek Motorsports Editor Mac Morrison.
I smiled at some of the carryover quirks, such as the dashboard air vents and matte-finished center stack. If this was not a Saab, I’d have probably felt like the center stack was direct from an unfinished preproduction prototype, but it just looks and feels natural in this car.
Of course he wasn’t told that the matte plastic dashboard was actually a mistake and holdover from the liquidation process that GM subjected Saab to last year. Sadly the supplier for the sexy dashboard Saab had planned never made it to production. He also doesn’t mention that in a few short months, the black pearl finish dashboard will be available on the ’12 models rolling out of Trollhättan.
The review I’d almost rather not present here because it may result in some less than pleasant emails for the reviewer, comes from Consumer Reports. To be fair, I stopped paying attention to these guys a long, long time ago when I needed to replace a washing machine I bought using their recommendation. If Consumer Reports had their way, everyone would be driving a Prius or Camry and the world auto market would be dominated by a few mega brands. I’ll just give my one argument, even though I found something wrong with almost everything negative he had to say. The reviewer found a problem with the Night Panel button– that it was in the spot normally associated with rivals like Lexus or VAG’s power button. Needless to say, other brands are relocating their power buttons to the center stack, Mercedes has had theirs down there on the gear lever for years. To complain that the Night Panel button could “confuse drivers” is the silliest argument I’ve heard in a while. If you own the car, it will take you maybe 3-4 weeks tops to get used to the new layout. Perhaps it will confuse the valet but that’s about it (and that I’d actually enjoy).
So, I’ve warned you, don’t break your computer screen and don’t fire off an angry rant at Jon Linkov, he’s just trying to give his best opinion based on the car he was given. He’s also victim to the MSRP discrepancy, as he’s really reviewing a $32-35K car, not a $40K one.
What it all comes down to in the end is a lack of a clear buyers guide for the 9-5. There’s a balance to be struck towards getting customers into dealers to sell a high volume of cars and trying to preserve margins for Saab’s sales outlets. I’m sensitive to the need to keep those margins high, but I also think that in light of huge inventories, it’s important to move as many units as possible to beef up Saab’s image and presence in the US for the mutual benefit of the brand, dealers, and consumers alike. I’m toying with the idea of creating a sort of buyers guide, highlighting dealers in each region with the best prices and good customer feedback, not to weed out bad ones but to promote those dealers who are doing something right. I want to potential Saab buyers that might otherwise be lost to BMW to have tools to bring with to their dealer to have the information we all seem to have that makes us so sure that Saab is the best value around. That information just doesn’t seem to be out there in a clear, easy to find place. Who knows, maybe it would even help auto journalists who are doing quick drive by pieces to get a more complete picture about Saab’s refreshed lineup?
What other features would you want on a SU Buyer’s Guide? Maybe individual owner reviews pointing out features they love vs. those they don’t really use and why? Sound off in comments.
Shoutouts to Quijote, John R., and Chris L. for the tips. 😉