Saab Interiors 1

It’s an article to do with Cadillac, but it’s nice to read something from GM that echoes something I’ve thought for a long time now……

“This time we got into the really fine details,” says Taylor, the Caddy general manager, a Canadian engineer who oversaw the development of the original car and the rear-wheel-drive Sigma platform on which it rides.

Taylor points to the “cut-and-sew” process in which coverings on the instrument panel, centre console, and door trim are cut, sewn, and wrapped by hand. This allowed for flourishes such as French stitching. Not in three lifetimes has Cadillac ever given this attention to interior quality. Taylor says this attention to detail adds cost and its is worth it.

“All the manufacturers know the new game in town is interiors,” he says. “The exterior is still the hook, but how you live with the product, well, that’s all on the inside.”

The emphasis is mine.

I’ve always felt that the interior of a car has got to be a great place to hang out, and it’s fair to say that too many manufacturers have concentrated more on the exterior design and left the interior languishing.

It looks like Saab are going to get a mechanical setup that represents some real progress when the MY2008 9-3 arrives later this year. I don’t think we’re going to see any interior developments to go with it, but the 9-5 that will follow in the next few years should come with a significant development in Saab interiors that will trickle down to other models.

The one thing I’d really like to see when the new 9-5 comes is some differentiation. The last few years have seen Saab interiors get closer and closer to some of GM’s other marques. I know I’m probably spitting into the wind here, but it’d be great to see Saabs with a ‘unique’ look and feel.

The essentials:

The best seats in the business.

My personal experience only goes back to 99’s but it includes 900s, 9000s and 9-3s under my personal ownership and numerous other Saabs from test drives and visit with other people.

Saab have always, always had consistently excellent seating. The comfort and the seating position are second to none.


Memo to GM – never, ever change the illumination from green.


Form following function

Design it smart, then make it look good. It’s been a Saab hallmark for years and part of Saab’s DNA.

Again, don’t mess with it.

Something funky

Ok, this is my wish, but I’m really hoping that there’s something….really different about the next 9-5 interior. I don’t even know what exactly, but when you have a look at your average Saab 99 interior, it’d be great if it could be that funky, but in a modern sort of way.

And no, I haven’t lost my marbles.

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  1. Swade – it is similar to my opinion on the sauna type dash of the MY99 9-5. A number of people have said that the new layout (MY06 – 7) is better, simpler and etc. I never had a hiccup with the plethora of buttons either on the steering boss or the middle console. It work everytime I pressed one of ’em.

    It is similar to a lot of people including motoring journalists who have been crying wolf about BMW iDrive – it is too complicated, not easy to operate, who on earth would want to … and the list goes on. And yet, how many of these very same people ever took the time to operate BMW iDrive for extended periods of time and got to understand it? Don’t we all buy new handhelds (cell phones), get slapped in the face with the unfamiliar territory of buttons and after a few months we are quite nifty with the little buttons which stiffens up your thumb and index finger?

    Over the years I have used every single feature of the on-board computer of my MY01 9-5 Aero from DTE to the speed warning to speed dependent volume settings and the lot. And every time it has worked, now for 6 solid years! Never missed a beat apart from the pixels fading.

  2. ctm – you hit the nail on the head. You see, they have to pick up something to say about a Saab interior design or the design language itself. How many of them really have spent 6 years driving to identical MY01 9-5 Aero and lived with their foibles and quirks to really understand Saab? I think not many, let alone motor journalists. I believe – us – the consumer – apart from brand loyalty – have a far greater saying and knowledge and understanding of the product apart from those who designed and manufactured it, but I guess our opinion is not much valued, is it?

  3. I think there are a lot of different factors at play here.

    We all know that the new SAAB interiors are that way because it’s much cheaper to share GM components and take advantage of economies of scale. If SAAB can save money on the manufacture of every car they sell they either make more profit on each one (or in this case lose less money) or they can sell the car for less and make it more competitive against the competition.

    I think the newer SAAB interiors also have the advantage of returning to SAAB’s roots. I understand there are those who came to like the complicated layout and say it reminded them more of a fighter plane. They point out competitors (like Lexus) have lots of buttons.

    The thing is: SAAB is not Lexus. SAAB is supposed to be different. Traditionally SAAB wanted to simplify the controls so the driver spends less time looking for buttons and more time with their eyes on the road (safety).

    A problem today is more and more gadgets making their way into modern premium cars. It used to be buyers expected air conditioning. Now they demand dual-zone air conditioning, cruise control, audio controls on the steering wheel, navigation system, heated seats, ventilated seats, satellite radio, Bluetooth… All these things require some sort of control whether it be buttons, knobs, or touchscreens.

    Ideally personally I’d like to see something between iDrive (too many functions in one little stick/knob and it’s overwhelming for new owners) and the button filled interiors of yore.

    My mom just bought an Acura TL with navigation system. EVERY function can be controlled by voice activation (or by touchscreen or button as well). You want to control the air conditioning? Say “change temperature, driver, 68 degrees” or something like that. Don’t like the radio station? Say, “change station, 89.9 FM, volume up” or something like that (there are pre-set phrases you must learn to use). This seems very safe and SAABy to me.

    “K.I.T.T., activate turbo boost!”

  4. I have currently a big issue with my 9-3SS, and it’s ironically in the area recognised as Saab’s stronghold. The seat.

    The seat cushion has different level of hardness, with a softer area right under the buttocks, and a harder area towards the front. Someone said it’s to avoid “submarining” during a crash. Maybe, but this creates a noticeable edge, best noticed after a while behind the wheel. Actually rather uncomfortable…

  5. 1985 Gripen, except I still remember the fun when my stepdaughter showed off the voice recognition in her new Acura TL. When she said “Station 22” (XM radio?), it replied “Temperature 82 degrees”. On the next try, it replied “Air conditioning off”. I prefer knobs or buttons–fewer misunderstandings.

  6. Agreed on all counts. The seats are amazing, the green is perfect, the design is smart, and the quirks give personality in a world of clones.

  7. Here, here!

    Funky: On my 900(s), funky is very few parallel lines — mostly organically inspired. It’s also an incredibly simple and useful center storage area in the console — it’s just an open box! It’s also the more upright seating position.

    These things don’t have to be there, they are just examples of the subtle nature of ‘funky’ in this context. Nothing purple or oddly misshapen required. Just different.

    I just returned my rental PT Cruiser today. Now, I wouldn’t want the PT Cruiser as a daily driver, but I wouldn’t dislike it, either. A part of its charm is the metallic-finish dashboard that echoes the interior of a 1950’s Chrysler, complete with round rocket-inspired instruments. It has a certain coolness that sets it apart. Perhaps Saab can dip into the aeronautical history for some inspiration??

  8. ctm, I have read plenty of reviews where BMW and Audi have been knocked for too many buttons, so SAAB is not alone here.
    It is a taste thing but I just think rotrary switches are so much better than a + , – and then digital display.
    One of the problems I have found is that when you switch cars a lot – as journalists do – it is frustrating to have to either adjust or learn everything. One of the many things I love about my SAAB is that when my wife has been driving my car is that I can get my set up back in 10 seconds -it seems to take forever to get the Bimmer set up to suit me.
    I also love the eary 99s is the interior simplicity and I would love the 9-1 to have that kind of interior – soild but simple. I do agree with with Gripen on voice control though – I have used it both on my moblie phone and in a Jaguar and it still understood my Belfast Accent perfectly – not easy! Maybe a system similar to the Jag touch screen could be used on the 9-1 – it was one of the things I really miss about the car.

  9. I asked the Acura dealer what happens if I have some weird accent and he told me that the car is designed to look for different features in speech, such as the highs and lows so accents don’t affect it.

    Ted Y: was your stepdaughter using the proper phrases for the voice recognition system? They gave my mom some laminated spiral-bound booklets and one of them had the required phrases to use when “speaking” to the car.

    I’m not saying the system works great, I don’t know because my mom just bought the car two days ago and hansn’t even tried the voice activation yet.

    Jon: I too like rotary knobs better than pushbuttons. There’s something about the tactile feel of a knob. If I want the stereo louder I turn it one way, if I want it quieter I turn the other. If I want to access multiple functionality of the knob I push it in to access a menu, then scroll through the menu with a knob. That’s one of the things I like about my mom’s new Acura. The knobs are aluminum. Actual aluminum. Not silver or black plastic. I especially like when knobs have a soft rubberized texturized ring around the outside for your fingers to grip and when the switch connected to the knob is “notchy” so you get that clicking feedback in your fingers instead of just free-wheeling. Okay, enough about knobs! :-0

  10. Second memo to GM – never, ever change the illumination from green.
    You could also bring back the fabulous Aero seats from the 9000, although the new 9-5 sport seats are great.
    Again, get rid of the stupid silver lining around the new 9-3 instrument cluster.
    While we are dreaming, I hope the next 9-5 dash is inspired by the AeroXconcept.

  11. I had a friend of mine from Belfast, Ireland who was a volunteer teacher in the north of the country. At that stage and still today, there are only 4 9-5 Aero, of which I have two.

    We met up in Swakopmund at the coast and she could hardly believe a Saab and a 9-5 at that in a remote African country as Namibia. She went straight for the seats – programmed ’em as she was the driver and figured the remote releases and multi-function steering boss in a flash. When I had my car returned – a simple flick of the switch on the memory seat was all I had to do and presto: my ideal seating position including the mirrors. Also, that nifty button on the mirror switch in reverse when it tilts the mirror to be able to see the kerb clearly – that is form and function – simple, effective and actually useful as you do not want to scrape your mag wheels.

    The volume button has small minute indents in it and the volume settings are clearly visible thru your fingers – it cascades thru different levels – nifty and functional – no freewheeling. What is wrong with that? Those seats are simply fabulous – I just came back on Monday from a round trip of 1,200km visiting a buddy and I covered 3/4 of the journey at night and the simplicity with which the Aero covered those miles will take anything else to lure me away. Call me simply brainwashed but it will take a very good solid convincing to get me to liquidate my two Aeros unless if GM puts in the wedge…

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