I’ve been asking Saab owners to write in and tell us all about their experiences with other cars and why they’ve come back to their Saab.
Today’s instalment is a little different in that it’s why someone driving another make chose to changeover to Saab. In this case, our host was driving a BMW convertible for 5 years and decided upon a new 9-5 when it was time to change.
He’s expressed a preference for anonymity, but I need you all to feel like he’s a real person, so I’ll tell you all he’s from Canada and for the purposes of this story his name is ‘Bruce’. I’ve got to make something up for the record!
My wife and I took delivery of a new 9-5 2.3T a month ago. We got the only Chili Red one available for sale in Canada–it had to be shipped back east from Edmonton.
We just completed a month-long 8000 km ride and the claims are correct that you can drive it for hours without back fatigue: Our longest run was 20 hours from Texas to South Carolina (one driver), and we had 3 other days of 10 hours behind the wheel.
I traded a 1998 BMW convertible for this car and, although the 328i was unmatchable in its responsiveness and feel for the road, the 9-5 is quick indeed, stable, a blast when passing on 2-lane roads, and perfect for long drives.
I have, however, discovered another SAAB quirk: Our first three days of driving were through snowstorms and with 3 twin windshield cleaning jets and high pressure pop-out streams that clean the headlights, we used up 16 litres (roughly 4 US gallon jugs) of solvent in that time. I never thought I’d have to add windshield antifreeze to the visible operating costs of a car!
I really enjoyed driving the Bimmer for 130,000 km over more than 5 years (and this was our second car). I have never driven any other brand of car (including larger BMWs) that had the same nimble connection to the road, instant responsiveness, reasonable cruising fuel economy, ability to soak up road imperfections (and we really collect those here), and zip smoothly and quickly about. The manual shifter is among the best.
The negatives for us were that our travels in North America include some long drives in all seasons. We could have gone for a new closed BMW with AWD, but AWD is a fuel-consumer. Even in our snowy climate, FWD is all you need to get through almost anything. Except for acceleration, AWD adds nothing to the quality of the driving experience, and FWD with traction control is cheaper and lighter on gas consumption.
SAAB offered sportiness with FWD. The seats (basic, not sport) are amazing: We did 20 hours without back fatigue a couple of weeks ago. There is a faint growl on acceleration. Consumer Reports complains about coarseness, but I want to hear the pulse of the engine at such times. As you get going the 9-5 cruises nearly silently, though I could live without the mild wind noise around the windshield, but it’s muted with a tail wind!
There’s only one other driving complaint: My size 14s are a close fit to the accelerator, and it’s toe-tip-only on the accelerator on the few occasions I need to wear a rubber boot over my shoes. I’ll probably trim back some of the rubber on the side of the brake pedal.
The 9-5 offers us lots of room front and back for tall adult passengers – even with the standard sunroof – and a trunk large enough to keep everything out of sight while we park en route and do some sightseeing. It is at least the match for the BMW in highway passing. With the 5-speed automatic in Sport mode it accelerates eagerly even from a start. Regular mode is for normal driving on flatter roads a but we have three small mountains in the middle of this city; I drove several 6-cylinder BMWs (3 and 5 series) with 6-speed automatics and the cars all felt as though they were dragging anchors while very briefly in first gear, after which they also sprinted.
I also like the 9-5 styling from 2006, contrary to the opinion of several contributors to TS. The front is fresh, and definitely picks up SAAB concept themes. The buttonless dash is also progress. My BMW also had a dash replete with little buttons–it just looked old-fashioned, even though they worked well. The interior is subdued but classy.
I briefly considered some other directly price-competitive options and here’s why I didn’t go for them.
The SAAB 9-3 is great if you don’t need the rear seat for tall adults but we have adult children and tall friends.
The VW Passat is everywhere (a hint at our not wanting to be in a car that everyone else is driving–a negative for BMW too) and requires premium fuel as does nearly every other choice–the 9-5 runs perfectly on 87-octane “regular”.
The Acura TL looks luxurious but the rear seat is extremely cramped. The Acura TSX is a very nice package but a friend has one and in addition to a tight rear seat they complain that they’re “saddle sore” after two hours on the road.
BMWs cost more and they and all other RWD cars (e.g., the Cadillac CTS or Chrysler 300) are ill-suited to northern climes that sometimes or often have snow-covered roads.
The 9-5 is a car we can see keeping and enjoying for a long time. It has cachet. It is sporty. And it “hauls” – an enthusiast’s car that doesn’t shout “look at me” but provides good value new (if you keep it several years) or used.
If you’ve got some experiences with another brand that made you appreciate your Saab more then please feel free to shoot me an email and let us all know about it.
Sometimes the journalists just don’t “get” Saab and it’s up to us Saab owners, who live with them day-in and day-out, to set the record straight and talk about why these cars are just So. Darn. Good.