9-5 tests beginning

The US launch for the 2006 9-5 was a few weeks ago in Atlanta and the first journo reports from that event are starting to filter through, albeit slowly.  I featured the first of these over a week ago.  Another has now been brought to my attention.

It’s a recurring sore point for me that the 9-5 doesn’t sell more numbers in the US.  It’s a freaking good automobile to drive.  The new styling does leave some people cold, but I also know that others have warmed to it.  Despite its shortcomings (and there are some – i’ll drive the new Alfa 159 in a few months to feel them out), this is a driver’s car disguised as a gentleman’s ride and at the 2006 prices represents hell-yeah value for money IMHO.

This article is from Dan Wiese of STLtoday.com (St Louis Post Dispatch).  It’s more of an introductory article than a test drive.  And perhaps that’s Saab’s greatest challenge in selling this car – awareness.  Here’s hoping the new ad campaign and some more writeups like this can  get a few more peole with the butts in the 9-5’s incredibly comfortable seats.


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  1. Don’t know what GM, SAAB, whomever means about “launch,” since the 9-5 has been in U.S. dealer lots since at least December. Whatever, I happened upon the following reviews of the old 9000 Aero in preparing a response to Teddy in another post. While I’d prefer not to use the space, these are all so glowing that it begs the question, why isn’t the 9-5 receiving this kind of acclaim? I mean, wow! Read these, and you’ll all want to go out and buy a 9000! I loved my 9000 to the core, for 9 years, 200,000 miles, and could have reached 300,000 easily had I not decided to invest instead in my 2002 9-5 Aero. With the exception of the praise of the 9000 Aero’s versatile hatch, all of the below acclaim could transfer to the 9-5, which is EVEN MORE dynamic than the old car in terms of overall ability. What gives? Is it the disguised “gentleman’s” drive Swade aptly described? I don’t have the answer, but thought the following might raise some eyebrows over the 9-5’s woeful lack of similar praise. Go figure.

    Automobile Magazine (10/93) – David E. Davis
    “The 9000 Aero must be driven to be fully appreciated. That sounds a little obvious, but you must drive this car! I look at the dry specifications I’ve written here and see that nowhere do they make your eyes pop the way the car does when you shift down to third and stand on it to pass somebody who thought he was driving pretty briskly. The 9000 Aero is an enthusiast’s car, period. It has more capability than you need, but it’s just what you’ve always wanted.”
    “Sweden’s Answer to Manned Space Travel” – Arv Voss
    “The Saab 9000 Aero seems to contradict itself in both concept and purpose. It is extremely fuel efficient, but it takes off like a bat out of Hades when the accelerator is stomped. It doesn’t look big on the outside, but the five-door’s cargo area can accommodate up to 56.4 cubic feet of luggage, or whatever, with the rear seat folded down. It seats five comfortably with the rear seat up and gives the impression of being a four-door sedan, but the sleekly sculpted design allows the Saab 9000 Aero to boast of a drag coefficient that is just 0.32.”
    European Car (3/97) ”Limo with a Hatch” (sidebar) -Jack Ashcraft
    “The 9000 Aero is flatly the finest road vehicle I have ever driven, particularly when driving at speeds most drivers only dream about. This car has high-speed road capability well beyond 95% or all other cars on any back road, no matter what wheels you are up against. The 9000 Aero is one very fast, safe automobile.”
    European Car (3/97) “Limo with a Hatch”- Greg Brown
    “Saab’s brilliant Trionic engine-management system and inter-cooled turbo charging help you forget that there’s just a four-cylinder engine under the hood. This example is very smooth and responsive – even at the rev counter’s upper reaches – and its elasticity is well matched to the long-geared five-speed transmission. In third gear at 55mph, the engine is a couple ticks under 3000 rpm, yet boost and torque are a short pedal angle away.”
    Edmund’s New Car Reviews (1997)”Power on Demand” – B. Grant Whitmore
    “Whenever someone is crazy about a car, we are a bit skeptical. So it was with the Saab 9000 Aero. We had been hearing such wonderful things about the car for so long, that we had begun suspecting that Saab Cars North America was actually paying off automotive writers and consumer groups to say nice things about this Nordic touring sedan. No car, short of icons like the Porsche 911 or Chevrolet Corvette, can remain unchanged for so long while reaping such favorable press.”
    “On the undulating section of Highway 36 between Westminster and Boulder, the Saab was able to stretch its remarkably long legs and overtake distant cars in what seemed like a blink of an eye. A downshift to 4th or even 3rd gear rewards drivers with an instant jump in revs as the car whooshes forward in a giant turbocharger-induced thrust. By the time we reached our destination, I was feeling positively magnanimous about this 5-passenger rocket sled.”
    “Time and time again, I searched out twisty roads with hairpin turns, trying to find a reason to dislike this car. After five days of abuse I gave up; the Saab had survived the gauntlet through which I had run it. Ultimately won over, I bid adieu to my contrary nature, and resisted my urge to dislike this car merely because so many others love it.”
    1996 Saab 9000 Aero -Larkin Hill
    “Overall, I was in love …once again the sensation of a luxurious car left me fulfilled and in awe. In fact, everyone that drove and rode in the Saab was amazed and breathless. The special parts of the Saab were it’s incredible interior comfort and excellent handling on the road.”
    “It’s wonderful to look at, heavenly to drive, and a dream to ride in. The Saab 9000 Aero is a perfect family luxury sports car.”
    -John Renton (Member of the Guild of Motoring Writers)
    “Even over the worst Essex roads its lowered suspension kept everything under control. At speed the Aero is phenomenally quick – 0-62 mph in a heart stopped 6.7 seconds and a top speed of 149mph confirms Saab’s claim that it is a car for the enthusiast. Underlining this is the claim that at 50-70mph the Aero is quicker than a Lamborghini Diablo. It may not offer the slippery body shell of its competitors but the chunky 9000 Aero is a mean machine.”

  2. Swade, I’m right there with you on this one.

    I believe that the core of this little ‘problem’ is that most Americans buy premium vehicles to be seen in premium vehicles — that is, they want the bling. I’ve written about this in other comments on this site before, but this time I’ll add one more factor: Saabs are viewed as if they are in a different category than BMW, Lexus, Infiniti, Acura and Volvo. Saabs are in the ‘quirky and different’ category, which includes Subaru, Volkswagen and Jaguar. Most Americans, regretfully, are conformist. Therefore, many do not even consider these marques when car shopping.

    We also must not lose sight of the fact that BMW, Lexus, Infiniti, etc. make some darn great automobiles. I’m currently in the market for a car for my wife, and I think that we’re going to buy the Toyota Avalon (based on the Lexus ES300 series) simply because it is a remarkable mix of people-hauling space, performance and reliability. If it were my daily driver, I’d buy the 9-5 for sure. However in this case, there isn’t enough leg room in the 9-5 for my kids when I’m driving, pure and simple. That’s a fatal flaw for the family car in our case. Plus, that Toyota Avalon/Lexus ES330 platform is a great drive. Really.

    The 9-5 got a ‘recommended’ endorsement from Consumer Reports (just out this week), but the review was damning with faint praise. Things like ‘buzzy’, ‘unrefined’ and ‘better in other cars’ peppered the narrative. I don’t know how one overcomes those types of comments for any vehicle, much less for one that already suffers an identity crisis.

    So, I guess that my opinion is like yours: I’m frustrated that the Saab doesn’t get its due credit for the good things about it. I’m disappointed that Saab marketing hasn’t found the way to present this great car in a way that appeals to buyers in the largest auto market in the world. And, finally, I can’t believe that under GM’s ownership that Saab hasn’t gained enough USA-savvy design practices to better navigate this competitive landscape.

    It’s such a shame when superior technology and design is crushed by poor marketing. And I include product focus and design direction as marketing functions.

    PS: I like the 9-5 styling. For some reason that I can’t quite put my finger on, I believe that this facelift is somehow truer to the old C900 4-door design. I’ll try to put together some comparison in the future to satisfy my own curiousity.

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