Comfy and well priced, but short on dynamics and luxury cabin ambience.

Our Verdict

Saab 9-5 Sportwagon

Pre-production drive of early Saab 9-5 estate shows it's a car with real promise

  • First Drive

    Saab 9-5 1.6T

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

    Saab 9-5 2.0 TTiD Aero

    Range-topping diesel 9-5 looks expensive, but puts in a better performance than its rangemates.
Matt Prior
21 October 2005

Saab is in resurgence at the minute. It’ll sell more cars than ever before in Britain this year while, globally, September was its best ever sales month. Most sales attention is on the 9-3 SportWagon, but don’t forget the 9-5.Not that you’re likely to, once you’ve seen the front of this revised model. Those chrome headlight surrounds are inspired by the 9-X concept car and, regardless of what you think, get used to them – they preview the future of Saab’s design.They’re the most noticeable part of a reasonably substantial facelift. Every panel forward of the A-pillars is new, the rear has been tweaked and almost all the suspension components save for a few bushes have been changed. Inside, cabin tweaks are less striking: new steering wheel, chrome-rimmed dials, new infotainment and ventilation controls and some detail trim alterations. Overall though, it still looks and feels like a Saab, which means it’s well assembled but uses less touchy-feely materials than its German rivals.The changes leave the 9-5’s chief driving characteristic unchanged too: this is still a very comfortable car. It has good cabin ergonomics, superb seats and excellent wind and road noise suppression. The ride is comfortable and isolated, and the car extremely stable at speed.Comfort comes first, then, but dynamics are a distant second. On a demanding road, the 9-5’s body control is wanting. It has poor agility and, although the steering is smooth, linear and responsive, it can be corrupted by the 2.3-litre Aero’s power. Mostly that’s on corner exit, but sometimes it tugs the wheel a little when accelerating in a straight line over uneven cambers or bumps.Otherwise, accelerating is something the Aero is rather good at. With a 10bhp increase over the previous model, the 2.3-litre four-cylinder car will scrabble to 62mph in under seven seconds, and its in-gear flexibility and low-end response are excellent. At 32mpg it’s economical, too, but it’s a shame it doesn’t sound more sophisticated, because it’s priced against six-cylinder rivals.The new, Fiat-sourced turbodiesel is closer to its competitors, but gets a five-speed rather than six-speed manual gearbox and is still a little noisier than the best in this class, which is why the 9-5 is cheaper than them: ‘We’re not going to go head to head [on prices with Audi/BMW],’ says Jonathan Nash, Saab’s UK managing director, ‘because frankly, the 9-5 isn’t quite there yet.’ Which is refreshingly honest. And accurate.

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