9-5 SportCombi review

Now here’s something you don’t see very often nowadays…

A Saab 9-5 road test…..

A Saab 9-5 SportCombi road test….

….from America……..and the author really, really likes the 9-5.

I really like the 9-5 as a driver’s car myself, it’s just quite unusual to hear a motoring journalist from the United States being so enthused about the car. The 9-5 hasn’t been particularly well received in the US. It hasn’t been badly received either, which is disconcerting in itself. It’s almost like the car is ‘parsley’ over there in the minds of the journos at least, which isn’t a good thing. The slipping sales of the 9-5 show that it’s well and truly underappreciated.

Saab USA, seeing the writing on the wall with the car’s age and the public’s perception (which is at least 7/10ths of reality) spend a paltry amount on marketing the 9-5, which is now the 3rd best seller in the US after the 9-3 and the 9-7x.

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Fear not, though! We have a new voice in the wilderness. Our writer is Chris Jackson and the review is featured in the Lowell Sun, in Massachusetts.

At the very least he’s going to be controversial. This is the caption underneath the photo to the story:

If the just-introduced 9-5 SportCombi doesn’t appeal to fans of the old Saab 900, we don’t know what will. It’s a full station wagon, that’s reminiscent of the Saabs of two decades ago. Best of all, at the rear there’s a big hatchback and a cavernous cargo area, one of the defining features of the early 900 and 9000 models.

and the opening paragraph is even more so….

We always find ourselves growing a bit nostalgic when we drive Saabs. Saab has done a good job rebuilding the quirky Swedish charm that made it a success in the 1970s and 1980s. They may not look like it from the outside, but your average Saab could be considered a part of the “retro” trend in auto styling.

I’m not sure if I’d go even one-fifth as far as what Chris has gone with the ‘retro’ comment, but the practicality of the 9-5 is not to be sneezed at.

Like I said, Chris is really enthused about the 9-5 Combi. And having been in a few earlier model wagons I can see why. They are absolutely sensational driver’s cars. Whilst I like the styling on the newer models, it pales IMHO next to the 2003-05 models.

The engine on the newer models is tweaked a little further, to 260hp, making it the most powerful production Saab ever, though this tends to show up the older platform, even for our glowing writer:

The best Saabs have always been turbos, and the 9-5’s 2.3 liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine continues that tradition. It’s got more power than past Saab turbos, with 260 horses on tap. The SportCombi’s 3,600-pound weight tends to work against it as well. You’ll have to learn to drive this car fast, because the 9-5 delivers a rush of acceleration and positive shifts from the somewhat rubbery five-speed manual transmission.

Take nothing away from the 2006 9-5 though. In Chris’ mind it’s a great piece of buying and in terms of the US market I think there’s a whole bunch of people that would agree, if only they knew about it.

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