Autoblog posted their conclusion to the week-long 9-5 test today. Previously they’ve explored the inside and outside of the vehicle – todays entry is all about the drive.
I can tell you from my own experience in a 2003 9-5 Aero that the 9-5 is a fantastic car to drive. 9-5 owners, I’ve discovered, are very protective indeed about comments made regarding the performance of the 9-5. Neither I nor these hardcore 9-5 owners will be too pleased with Autoblog’s findings.
The core problem is not unfamiliar to readers of Saab reviews:
But here’s the thing: Saab has loosed those steeds from the corral via the wrong gate– the one out front. Overly analytical-types are invited to carp about foul-weather practicality all they want, but in a proper sport sedan, the front roundies are best left to deal with turning and braking duties
They qualify their criticism thusly:
Admittedly, when driven in isolation (particularly at 7/10ths or less), the Saab largely manages to escape most criticism. Despite being down two-to-four cylinders on its competition, forced induction goes a long way toward balancing the scales. This is particularly true out on the highway, where the 9-5 makes for a credible long distance cruiser, with 5th gear at 75 mph keeping the turbo on the lip of its tipping point for excellent passing reserves. But even if Saab has managed to extract class-competitive numbers out of its inline quadbanger, refinement remains an issue, as revs arrive and depart neither quickly or sweetly.
This has been a long-term issue with the 9-5 now. Whilst competitors have lifted performance ratings and handling, Saab have let the 9-5 stay static, thereby falling behind. We all know the fiscal reasons why, but the basic fact is that despite how well this car performs in everyday situations (which is where 99% of us live 95% of the time), the 9-5 needs AWD and at least the option of a six cylinder engine to remain competitive in its class.
I loved driving the 2003 model that I recently tested for 3 consecutive days. This 2006 model is reputed to be even better and tighter to drive so I’m sure I’d be over the moon with that one too. The problem is that I drive Saabs all the time and it’s hard for me to be objective about it. The 9-5 will remain at the top of the Saab tree as a competent and exciting car to drive, but it seems like it’s a tad short of being the inspiring car of choice for some people accustomed to that class of vehicle and familiar with the competition.
I’m afraid that there’s a distinct possibility that we’re all on hold until 2008, when hopefully the 9-5 can return to a heroic place in Saab’s lineup.