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.
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