R&T on the 9-5 (and 10 others)

UPDATE: Talk about eggs (n Grits) on my face!!

When I first looked at the link for this article, I noted the date just above the headline, which was a current date. I failed to see the smaller typeface date just under the name of the author – July 2002.

My apologies for passing this off as a current test. With only one small profile picture of the car to go on, I didn’t notice the difference. I’m very embarrassed about the error, though it’s still good to see how well the 9-5 went in this test.

Thanks to Eggs for pointing out what should have been the obvious (and the grace with which he did it).

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Holy Crap!

A motoring journal has praised something other than a BMW as being the best in a comparative road test AND ranked the Dame-Edna-lookalike-too-old-FWD-so-it-has-to-be-bad Saab 9-5 as fourth in the field of eleven cars tested.

Road and Track have put together a group of 11 Sport Sedans and given them a good run in Arizona’s mountain and desert country. Their final rankings were as follows:

R&T rankings.gif

Some thoughts on the 9-5 as tested by Road and Track:

Saab calls its high-pressure 2.3-liter turbo the HOT engine, for High Output Turbo, and it’s a well-chosen acronym. The smooth, torquey performance of this amazing 250-bhp inline-4 won a lot of hearts and minds on our three-day blast through Arizona….

….There’s just a hint of turbo lag when you first put your foot into it at low rpm, but it spools up quickly and howls down the road. At cruising speed on the highway, there’s almost no delay when you move out to pass; you can leave it in 5th gear, wait a subliminal fraction of a second and then move out in a nice surge of strong, immediate passing power.

A great engine alone, of course, does not bring a car up to 4th place in this august company, and the Saab has much else to offer….

….The car turns into corners decisively, holds a line with good balance and feedback through the steering and produces little body sway. It’s an easy car to drive fast, and it feels good doing it….

“Not only was I surprised by the ferocity of the engine, but the chassis proved to be just as enthusiast-oriented. This car attacks corners and handles extremely well for a big front-driver.”

….Basically, the Saab is a car that does everything well, yet still has enough personality to impress itself on the memory. It’s fast, fun to drive and it has character.

I’ve gotta say, I’m pleased with the inclusion of the 9-5 in this test. Car and Driver did a similar comparison last year using the 9-3 Aero, which didn’t fare nearly as well.

Perhaps the identity of both these cars is one of the things that Saab need to sort out for the next generation. The 9-3 share similar body styles, similar size and only 10hp separates them in their top-of-the-range guise.

Regardless, it’s pleasing to see the 9-5 get some of the kudos it surely deserves. Hopefully a few other publications are going to pick up on it soon.

Thanks to Aeronaut for the tip.

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10 Comments

  1. The only reason it DIDNT win is because of the Dame Edna styling at the front end – Aussie stylists (rolls eyes) 😉 . Cant wait to see the article in the magazine!

  2. It’s nice to see SAAB get some love and up against some pretty hefty competition (isn’t the 9-5 the only 4-cylinder in the bunch?).

    I remember last year’s test they tore the 9-3 apart. Many people in the SAAB community complained the test was not fair because the SAAB relies on the turbocharger for a lot of its power gain on the bigger-engined competition and the turbocharger in the hot Arizona desert in summer would suffer from a phenomenon I’m not familiar with called “heat fade” or something like that.

    I’m glad to see the 9-5 apparently didn’t suffer the same problem.

  3. Yet again this confirms what a great car the 9-5 is overall especially in the handling and stability department. I’m sure you remember the Bartlett incident which stemmed form the 9-5’s handling capabilities. Swade also conceded only recently how a 9-5 made his Viggen move out of the way when the tough got going on the race track. For what you get and value for money it’s a brilliant car !!!

  4. Well spool my turbo ! The 9-5 Aero in the top half of a large comparo. Hip hip hooray ! Actually R&T has several Saab fans, including Simanaitis. There was another mid-luxo sedan comparo about 3-4 years ago and the 9-5 also fared well (3rd, I think) in a 6 or 7 group. I’ve always liked R&T for their more mature “engineering” approach to car evaluations and critiques, whereas C&D is decidedly more American and pubsescent at that (they don’t really get Saab despite their lip service).

    Don’t forget, R&T is the only mag that published its own complete compendium of Saab road tests, 1972-1992 ….. a great addition to any Saab book collection !

  5. I wonder if a better comparison would have used the A6, 5-series, S80 and Lexus GS instead ? That’s the segment the 9-5 is aimed more at, no ?

  6. That’s the $64,000 question, Ken, and the one I allude to at the end of my writings. You could feasibly swap a 9-3 Aero into this test quite easily.

    There’s a bit of an identity crisis between these two, which I think Saab needs to sort in the next generation.

    The 9-5 isn’t out of place in this company. Check the prices as-tested. Similar size, smaller engine but similar power.

    Where does the 9-3 fit?

    I’ve always thought that there’s room for a model above the 9-5 and this is making me think more and more that way.

  7. Thanks Swade.

    Actually I recall reading in a few places recently about a similar identity crisis between the Ovlov S60 and S80. With the new ’07 S80 having undergone a fair bit of refresh (incl. a V8 option) and the next S40 inevitably growing in size (and likely power), it leaves the S60 in a no-man’s land.

    I too have always believed Saab ought to have a flagship model, maybe like a 9-7 or 9-9 sedan/hatch/crossover range. Now that the 9-7 moniker is already used ……

  8. This is for you Swade!

    “Saab global sales increased 11 percent compared to year-ago levels, helping the brand set a new record for the first half of the year. The largest growth was in Europe where sales increased 24 percent compared to 2005. In Sweden, the Saab 9-5 was once again the number one ‘green vehicle’ sold. The brand also experienced solid sales performance in Australia, up 51 percent compared to last year, making the island continent the brand’s third-fastest-growing market.”

    I do think Swade has something to do with this growing thing.

    Cut’n’paste from: http://media.gm.com/servlet/GatewayServlet?target=http://image.emerald.gm.com/gmnews/viewmonthlyreleasedetail.do?domain=74&docid=27671

  9. Hmmm … Motor Trend tells me to avoid all 9-5s in their September 2006 new car buyer’s guide. I guess, unlike R&T, Motor Trend has not driven the 9-5. My experiences in the 9-5 on a closed course match R&T’s. The car is far, far from Motor Trend’s note of “marginal in its segement.”

  10. Given that this comparison is four years old, I wonder how the R&T guys would rate the 9-5 against the newer competition.

    I agree with Swade and Ken: If your really want the 9-5 to aim for the 5-series Bimmer, it needs to be a little more in a couple of key categories: engine and size. Not a lot more mind you, but some.

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