This is the best example of Saab’s new 9-5 saloon but it continues to be frustratingly short of the mark

What is it?

The good news is that this is best example of Saab’s new 9-5 saloon that we’ve experienced so far. The exterior fit and finish stands out from the crowd and delivers on the promise of a premium-level car. The paint is glossy and the panel fit noticeably tight. And even the doors now close with a more premium ‘woomph’.

The interior is also perceptibly more neatly and tightly built. The surface quality of the plastics will not remotely worry the E-Class and 5-series, but this test car had the most coherent cabin we’ve yet seen seen on a 9-5 test car. After six-months of 9-5 production, the Trollhattan factory is really getting its act together.

See pics of the Saab 9-5 1.6T in action

What’s is like?

The next piece of good news is that this 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine is vastly superior to the 9-5’s unrefined diesel engine. Although the test car had just 1000 miles under its wheels, the engine was brisk enough and had no trouble hauling this big car at speed around. Indeed, it had just enough puff for nippy B-road overtaking.

Other pluses include the driving position, seat comfort (and the volcanic optional seat heaters), the night-time cabin ambience and impressive, easily modulated, brakes. The 9-5 also has a usefully loping motorway gait, and decent straight-line stability at speed, a trait beloved of old-school Saabs. At which point, the pluses start to turn to minuses. Although it’s pretty good (and may get better with miles) the engine could be a little more refined. Under hard acceleration there’s a little too much hum through the controls and the engine note turns into blare at certain combinations of revs and throttle openings.

And this particular 9-5 is fitted with McPherson front struts, rather than the more sophisticated HiPer suspension, so it doesn’t attempt at sporting pretensions. However, it does resist understeer pretty well, should you ever try to press on. But not, perhaps, in the dark. Surprisingly, for a Saab, the performance of the dipped headlights is below par.

However, this car’s biggest problem is the ride. On anything but freshly laid tarmac (when the 9-5 is hushed and settled) this car hopped, skipped and crashed across the Surrey roadscape, clearly reporting every undulation and transmitting too much noise into the cabin through the (standard-issue) 245/45 tyres and 18in wheels.

Should I buy one?

The downsized petrol engine works well in this car and you might argue that this is most Saabish Saab on sale. But while it looks good and is better-made than ever, the 9-5 continues to be frustratingly short of the mark.

Saab 9-5 Vector SE 1.6 Turbo

Price: £27,260; Top speed: 134mph; 0-62mph: 8.7sec; Economy: 36.2mpg; Co2: 179g/km; Kerb weight: 1725kg; Engine: 4cyl, 1598cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power: 177bhp at 5500rpm; Torque: 170lb ft at 2200rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual

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507 31 January 2011

Re: Saab 9-5 1.6T

It would be a shame if the rather bland Subaru took over the production capacity at Trollhättan instead of Mini/BMW as it now appears. Saab itself was left in a very sorry state by the infamous GM which of course has closed most of its other american makes down by now, missed by no one! Please BMW - save this deserving workforce!

dipdaddy 29 January 2011

Re: Saab 9-5 1.6T

I really do like the sound of SAAB but i just wish the look of the cars interior and exterior lives up to the name. I find the interior of a SAAB very unforgiving and not very thought out. They should invest in a good interior designer who knows a thing or two, maybe their new dutch owners can help

jelly7961 29 January 2011

Re: Saab 9-5 1.6T

marj wrote:
I desperately want one of these (in the same way I would like a C6), but unlike the Citroen, i might have the option of having one of these on the company car list. I wouldn't touch the BMW with a barge pole, as I think it is ugly with ungainly proportions, and a bit dated. Comparing this to the E-Class, it doesn't stack up but against a specced up C -Class, perhaps it does. I test drove one the other week, and I really wanted to fall in love with it. The comfort, space, styling all major plusses. The ride wasn't great but much better than Audi's S-Line cars. However, comparing it even to a C-Class, it wasn't quite up to the mark. It felt like a 90% car, which is so frustrating. I've just had some info sent through on the wagon version and really getting tempted, I've still got a few months to go before I make my decision, so lets see where they are then

I know exactly what you mean. I am a Saab fan from way back - unfortunately from the time that they made desirable cars like the Aero circa 1988. My first Saab drive was a 99L and I still remember the incredible comfot and feeling of 'rightness' about the car.Like you too I would love something that is a bit different but as you say this is at best a 90% car.