Anna and I spent the first week of August in Tromsø, Norway. It is a fantastic island to visit, especially in June/July when the sun never shuts down for the night. Yes, the rumors are true, they have their very own sun up there.
Aside from the usual family gatherings (my mum hails from this island) I had an ulterior motive this year. Tromsø also happens to be the home of one of the very few 2012 9-5 SportCombis ever made. #10 to be precise. Of course we had to pay our respects.
I met with two very enthusiastic brothers, the Østbø brothers, who ended up buying a 9-5 combi as well as a 9-4x during last winter’s auctions. They are second generation Saab aficionados and the older sibling has not one, nor two, but three Saabs. A 900, a Sonett and finally the 9-5SC.
A Swedish colleague tipped them off early on and preparations to buy the 9-5 started immediately. Harald was not a 100% certain he would be able to get the car road legal, but after making some inquiries a possible solution emerged: Norwegian authorities are willing to bend the rules in case a vehicle has been deemed to be of historic significance.
It was not a done deal however. When picking up the car in Sweden, all he had was a red sticker that works as a temporary license plate allowing people to import cars prior to registration. One of the sales guys looked at the sticker, his eyes filled with amazement, “Is that really legal..? Will they let you drive it across the border?”. Months would pass until the Norwegian DOV finally cleared #10 and issued proper plates. Harald inquired every four weeks or so, making sure they hadn’t forgotten him while taking care not to annoy anyone important to this delicate application process. In May, the proper plates finally arrived. Being a vehicle of historical value, the registration is granted on the sole condition that no modifications are carried out.
Even the drive home was a small adventure in itself. More than 1800 km was covered during which it soon became apparent that the windshield washer pump was wonky. They stopped at two dealerships before they managed to get it fixed. Each time the same story repeated itself. “I have a 2012 9-5 SportCombi and…” Harald began and immediately got cut off with a “yes, sure you have” followed with a slight roll of the eyes. It was not without a certain amount of surprise they were received by the staff. The surprise soon turned into wonderment and much deserved admiration. The service manager at my local dealer still has pictures of Harald’s SC on his phone. (yes, they stopped right here in Mariestad, it is a small world after all)
Harald says the 2012 9-5 has a more pronounced DriveSense implementation. The Sport mode is peppier and Comfort mode is a must in the winter time as the road gets severly worn down by ice and heavy trucks. Certain elements of this MY12 appear unfinished though. The cargo cover will retract as soon as the car hits a little bump. The plastic notch that is supposed to hold it in place seems too shallow (or possibly slanted the wrong way) to function properly.
A minor nibble is that the rear of the combi lacks ‘oomph’ if not viewed from an angle. Where the sedan gives off a lot of presence, the combi almost looks a bit timid. Also, every part is identical to the sedan, except for the short section behind the rear doors. Finally, one expects there to be ample space to get into the rear seats, but since the designers kept the down-swooping doors of the sedan, the combi continues to disappoint persons of a certain build (or so I am told — my two meter tall cousin seems to have such problems in most cars).
Being a true Saab, this one also has its own set of quirks. The cruise control no longer shuts off when changing gears. Harald appreciates the convenience, but I cannot help but think that somewhere along the way, someone swapped the cruise control ECU with one designed for an automatic transmission.
“How about the 9-4x?”. The brothers both agree that the rare 9-4x, one of maximum a handful in Norway (if not the only one) is fantastic to drive. The 2.8T engine pulls everything they throw at it, but the seats are not quite up to Saab’s usual standards and the ride becomes a tad uncomfortable after a few hours. They had not brought the 9-4x along for our improvised rendezvous so unfortunately no pictures this time.
Another part of this saga is that Harald, a few months ago, posted a nasty picture on facebook. A man in an Opel plunged straight into the 9-5 Harald was driving. Harald had stopped in front of a pedestrian crossing and the Opel guy was looking elsewhere. Fortunately it was his dad’s 9-5 and not the start of a frantic hunt for a part that simply does not exists. “I would have killed the guy, had he hit my SportCombi”. As the Opel guy lost his driver’s license, there is now one less kamikaze-driver for Harald to worry about.
The community of 2012 SC owners is tightly knit and well connected with each other. Harald told me that, unlike their Norwegian counterpart, the Swedish DMV refuses to touch anything concerning the MY12 9-5s. Some had hoped that getting the car registered in Germany would make it possible to re-register it in Sweden, but no luck so far. Usually EU regulations tend to override national interests, but the Swedish DMV believe they alone are the authority over what gets to roll on Swedish roads. That the 2012 9-5 is loads safer than the average car from the last five years matters not. This bolsters my belief that logic and reasoning are not qualities to be associated with bureaucrats.