Ouch! 9-5 Aero road test

Just a few days after my own (2003) 9-5 Aero road test, Auto Express have taken the new 9-5 Aero out for a spin and given it a shellacking in print.  Bear in mind, the consensus opinion of two (admittedly somewhat biased) drivers last weekend was that the 2003 Aero stuck to the road very nicely during a very spirited drive.  The 2006 model is supposed to represent an improvement in terms of handling etc on the outgoing model.

Writer Chris Thorp was most unamused….

Opt for the automatic transmission, and the 0-62mph sprint takes 8.2 seconds. So performance fans will have to choose the manual, which completes the dash in a more impressive 6.9 seconds.

In the real world, both figures are irrelevant, because the front-wheel-drive 9-5 struggles for grip on anything other than a straight, flat road. When there is traction, the Aero’s pace is impressive, but most of the time the power is uselessly spun away. Accelerate with any amount of steering lock applied, and there’s plenty of torque steer, while the turbo powerplant does little to help, as it takes time to deliver full boost.

Despite adjustments to the steering and the chassis, the poor dynamic ability is emphasised even further by the lack of feedback through the wheel. One thing is certain – this Saab is better suited to motorway cruising than tackling a tight and twisty B-road.

That’s pretty much the opposite of what I experienced last week.  We gave the car a very decent run around Grasstree Hill – 6km of winding roads – and found that the 2003 9-5 Aero stuck to the road like a fly on….on….stuff.  With the reported improvements to the car this should be even more so.

Chris Thorp must have been absolutely gunning it, flat out.  Either that or he’s not accustomed to driving at speed in a FWD car – which is a lousy thing to have to rely on if you’re a car maker as the writers call the shots.

The good thing about Auto Express is that they allow comments.  If you’ve got 5 minutes to spare I suggest you sign up and give Chris some well-considered feedback.

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7 Comments

  1. wow…maybe we should rename it…horsepower steer! BTW just got out of chicago auto show…GM is E85 mental…Dmax cutaway…6.6L Diesel 4valve powered by pushrods(the only GM diesel in NA)Saab was there with the LAME Biopower…c’mon I’m not an auto engineer but…best of show…those Dodge(MB) Sprinters…Discuss!

  2. Paul, my first thought when I saw that picture was: “hey, that is indeed a sharp, good looking vehicle” ;/)

    About the review:
    I guess this Auto Express 9-5 Aero Test is just another result from a journalist with a biased understanding of what SAAB stands for, and maybe he took the 9-5 out for a half an hour flat out spin a late Friday afternoon just to please his editors while his family impatiently waited in their fully weekend loaded, newly repaired and budget eating german family truckster ;/) ;/) ;/).
    Oh well, maybe he did a serious test after all, who knows, but I must say this Auto Express review is in the category -review light-.

  3. Well, we all know that written statements on an identical car or other products are always based on personal impressions. The points of views are different. We here see this general experience confirmed.
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  4. I now see more clearly than ever how this writer – like most auto test writers – doesn’t know how to drive the car. An ultra high performance front-wheel-drive (fwd) car is highly unique; in fact, there isn’t another, as the Audi S4, S6, and S8 are each all-wheel drive. SWade and Bill did surprisingly good 9-5 Aero assessments in only relatively short drives, but they are accustomed to fwd and SAABs. When I switched from my sports car-like 9000 to my 9-5, I did so reluctantly thinking I had given up back road enjoyment. It took me literally months to become accustomed to the softer suspension and realize my new car was as good or better on back roads, even on bumpy surfaces with sudden and closely grouped short hills. The Auto Express writer was clueless. (I’m trying to be very kind; that he would compare a SAAB to a performance Opel certifies him by world standards as an idiot savant.) I’ve not responded to the publication’s comments section because 1) these guys are rather invariably arrogant, believing themselves superior drivers; and 2) I haven’t yet driven the 2006 model so can’t make an “informed” response. But here is an example of what I’m saying: The BMW M6 was a very high performance machine, and in 1998 the owner of an aging one was interested in purchasing my 1995 SAAB 9000 Aero 5-speed. He drove my car a good 40 minutes or more, and was initially rather unhappy, complaining particularly of “plowing” in corners. We stopped to add air to the tires, and since he was a seriously experienced performance driver I patiently schooled him in the very different technique necessary to driving the SAAB. Even though I didn’t actually want to sell, I was challenged by his attitude and assured him the 9000 Aero was easily the M6’s equal once one learned the correct driving techniques. Near the end of his test drive he said, “I see what you mean.” He was getting the hang of it, really enjoying it, and offered to buy the car. I didn’t sell for reasons I won’t get into, but use my story as an example of “expert” drivers’ predisposition toward rear drive performance cars. Allow them their predispositions, while we blow their doors off in performance SAABs. I’m only going to say this once, SAAB friends, so listen well. In 2005 a former SAAB technical consultant who consulted on the 2.3 turbo now in both generation Aeros, provided suspension settings advice to improve handling of the heavier wagon version of the Aero, and drove a 9000 Aero 135 mph/217 kph through real world turns only professional racers would tackle at such speeds, told me of auto journalists and the 9-5 Aero: “They don’t know how to drive the car.” Period.

  5. Bill,

    I fully agree with your comments. They simply do not know how to drive the car. I have a 9000 Aero (tuned to about 340 hp and torque of probably 500 nm) and a 9-5 Aero (tuned to 280 hp)and both cars (especially the 9000) are rockets. When an experienced driver was driving the 9000 (and I was sitting next to him) upon acceleration I felt that all my guts were sinking to the level of my ankles. I never experienced such a feeling in any other car.

    The biggest problem in marketing and selling cars is that the industry is dominated by the BMW, Merc, Audi “mafia”.

    I will not be surprised if the journalist of Autoexpress did not at all drive the Saab 9-5.

    We all know Saab and that’s way we do not want to drive any other vehicle.

    Cheers to all of you and especially Swade for maintaining this perfect Saab related web site.

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