The external design of a car is the hook that gets people interested in it. If they’re going to buy one though, the interior is where they have to live with it. For too long, many car makers have spent way too long on the exterior and minimal time on the interior.
An article I covered yesterday shows some signs of hope that perhaps GM is starting to understand the issue. This is a good thing, and whilst it most likely won’t translate into any changes for Saab in the next 18 months or so, it’s fair to expect a major revamp of the interior for the next generation Saab 9-5.
So, I thought I’d go back and look at some of the best interior stuff I’ve seen in a Saab….and some of the not so good.
Materials, Materials, Materials….
There’s little doubt in my mind that the materials used in any environment can go a long way to creating a connection with that environment. My office has light blue walls and grey furniture. I go there to work and I don’t find it particularly pleasant. My home has timber and leather, because that’s what I like and I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to acquire and build pieces that make the place feel like home for me.
It’s a similar story with cars, too.
This is a picture from an old Saab, but take one look and you immediately feel like you could be at home there.
It’s got color, texture, character. Let’s face it, what we’re talking about here is the practice of driving a machine, but this picture makes you feel like you could care for that machine, love being in it and engaging with it.
Contrast that dashboard with the very basic one in my Saab 9000 CS and it’s like chalk and cheese. I don’t have a picture, but it’s a slab of flat black plastic at the front and flat beige plastic on top. The seats are great and the functions are all there, but there’s little that’s particularly welcoming about it.
But that’s not to say that all Saab 9000 dashboards are that way….
Again, it’s the materials.
The woodgrain dash in the 9000 transforms it into a place more like home. The same can be said of the 900 dash, though this suffers less in basic form due to the character of the design.
In recent times, base model Saabs have also received the flat black treatment, with other models getting brushed aluminium or woodgrain depending on the model chosen. Some of these can look OK too, depending on whether you’re after a sporty feel or a luxurious feel.
The brushed aluminium below is definitely more sporty than your average bear….
I’m biased, but I wish they’d continued with the carbon fibre interior that I got in my 9-3 Viggen. This takes a little getting used too, but it’s the best interior feel I’ve ever had in a car that I’ve personally owned. It’s perfectly suited to the type of car (e.g performance) and once you get used to the visual environment it’s an absolute pleasure to live in.
The best seats in the business
Let me refer again to that Saab 9000 Aero image…..
These are without doubt the most comfortable seats I’ve ever had the pleasure of sitting in. Saab have always made really comfortable seats. It’s one of their driver-focus elements and explains why they were also the first to develop heated seats and ventilated seats. Driver comfort plays a big part in driver concentration, which translates into vehicle safety.
The latest generation of Saab seats, generally speaking, live up to the reputation. I did have one uncomfortable experience in a 9-3 convertible recently, but other than that the 9-3 and 9-5 seats are excellent and with Saab’s SAHR system installed they’re amongst the safest around, too.
Whilst I’m not a huge fan of the orange inserts (preferring the blue ones in my own car), I have to give a shout out to the seats in the 9-3 Viggen too – magnificent.
The great thing about Saabs, regrdless of what model you drive, is that they’ve always had exceptionally good seating in ALL models. Event he seats in my old 99 Turbo were fantastic to sit on and left you feeling comfortable even on the longest drives.
Bring The Funk
Whilst those orange seats in the Viggen, above, aren’t my personal preference, there’s no doubting their funky nature. Saab have lost a lot of their funk in recent years, but then again so has just about every other manufacturer out there.
But check out the sort of thing Saab used to do with their interiors in the 99….
The first blog I started was called Green Interior because of this…..I just loved it.
And then there’s these seats in a GT750….
I didn’t have time to pull out a photo, but many of you may also be familiar with the headrests used in the early 1970s models of the Saab 95, 96 and 99. Total funkiness.
I can barely imagine a modern car manufacturer being this daring with an interior today. The interiors above were a product of their time and wouldn’t have looked out of place in a new car showroom.
Can I be the first to suggest a “funky options program” when the Saab 9-1 first comes out?
Form Follows Function
Of course, all of the above about materials and colors is secondary to the Saab mantra of ‘form follows function’.
Things like ergonomic design and the grouping of controls within adequate reach and according to function are also hallmarks of Saab design.
I’m really hoping that great innovations like Saab’s night panel function and green illumination will always remain as Saab trademarks. It’s also one of the reasons I’ll miss the button dash of the 9-3 SS from 2003-2006.
Talk about aircraft-inspired….And with the night panel function engaged it’s simplicity itself:
Driving a Saab, for me at least, is primarily about the great driving feel and the rush of the turbo. Owning a Saab is about the versatile nature of the car and utility and comfort it brings to your life.
Spending time in your Saab is made all the more enjoyable by the quality of the interior and I just hope that GM allow Saab to deliver something in the next generation of models that properly befits the best from their past.