Saab Interiors 2

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.

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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.

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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….

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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….

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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.

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The best seats in the business

Let me refer again to that Saab 9000 Aero image…..

9000Aeroint.jpg

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.

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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.

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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….

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The first blog I started was called Green Interior because of this…..I just loved it.

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And then there’s these seats in a GT750….

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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?

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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:

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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.

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9 Comments

  1. I was never a fan of the wood grain on the 9000 dash, maybe it’s just because I’ve never owned one that was colored to match wood grain.

    But even if Saab just added one or two more colors, I think it’d do a lot. What do they have now? Dark grey and parchment?
    This is probably too out there, but if they threw in red and blue, I wouldn’t NOT be able to buy a white 9-5 with a red interior, or a blue on blue 9-3.

  2. I honestly think those 9k aero seats are the best Saab have ever made. Sorry Swade, but viggen seats are great too, you should know.

    Your funkiness option program reminds me of how ‘scion’ has a bunch of options parts on there cars, making it very easy to differentiate your scion from the next scion. Wouldn’t it cost too much to offer such a program in Saab?

  3. There are other, even more basic things that can be added. The soft squish of a Saab button beneath your fingers when you press it (I recently sat in a first-generation Volvo S80, and was shocked by how click-clack the buttons felt, even though they looked like there were going to be squishy.)
    -The old question-mark shaped automatic gear shifter from the first generation 9-3 and all 9-5s. (It looks weird and top-heavy from some angles, but it’s so comfortable and falls right to hand.)
    -Cool cupholders have, I think, officially become a Saab thing. Whether it’s the 9-5’s aerobatic one or the 9-3’s jackknife, keep them coming.
    -Those ball socket map lights and the “Fasten Seatbelts” airline thing. It’s dorky, but hey man, it’s awesome.
    -The loud click-clack of the turn signals.
    -The cool way that the interiors used to pick up exterior cues. I always think of the C900’s interior, which had ribbed accordion edges to the center console that echoed the accordion-like self-repairing bumpers of the 80’s models.
    -Chunky, Swedish gauges. I have to say, the new 9-5’s long-needle dials that are flat at 0 mph (instead of lolling slightly down) are not very Saab-like.

  4. No dash will ever make me as happy as the one in that first photo:-)
    I like the buttons in my 04 9-3 Arc, but jeeze, cars are too complicated nowadays. I’ve read my Infotainment manual 3 times now and my mind still goes blank when I try to do something with the radio. Guess I’m just too old.

  5. Most of my experience has been with Classic Saab 900s. But my wife previously owned a 93 9000 Turbo which we regularly drove to church a couple times a week.

    I’ve never been impressed with the cockpit of the 9000. It all looked “plasticy” to me. And my 6′ 2″ body never got used to the center console cutting into my thigh.

  6. MJL, I’m gonna’ have to disagree with you on the cupholders. They do look pretty “trick” and get lots of attention at auto shows and on dealership floors. However, they’re a case of function following form and don’t fit-in with SAAB’s core ethos of form following function. If I want to see something like that I’ll go see The Transformers Movie! ;-0

    Something that’s been taken-out of SAABs but I’d like see put back is the ventilation system (on the C900) which pushed outside air through one of the center vent ducts. SAAB did this for good reason (and fit-in with another of their core ethos: Safety). They discovered that you’re more likely to stay awake at the wheel when you’re getting some fresh outside air on your face driving late at night. Your body gets very comfortable when it’s cold outside and your seat heaters and heater system are keeping you warm and cozy. That gust of outside air is just the ticket to keep you awake. How many times have you rolled down the window to get a cold burst of air in your face to wake you up a little? I know it’s happened to me. I know a lot of people didn’t like that feature, but if you don’t like it, you can shut the little shutters on that single vent duct…

    SAAB integrated the feature in the first place because they had studies that concluded that it works and keeps people alive. Then why would they ever eliminate this feature?

    This is one of the problems I have with SAAB lately. They come out with a great innovation and then eliminate it. Take the SID. It was obviously put up near the windshield to keep the driver’s eyes closer to the road (where they should be). Now it’s moved to the instrument cluster (where the driver’s eyes SHOULDN’T be). Ideally it should be part of a HUD, so we’ll see what happens in the next-gen cars.

    Why innovate if they’re just going to get these features yanked later in a cost-reduction program?

    I also agree on the cool airplane-style map light. I’d like to see that integrated into every SAAB model, not just the 9000 and 9-5, but maybe that’s one of those features that should make you want to upgrade to a 9-5.

    I don’t remember from my drive last month in the Anniversary Editions (I was a little distracted as my passenger was ERIK CARLSSON!), but if SAAB hasn’t fixed the horrid blinker/cruise control stalk it’s just criminal. Every time I push that cruise control slider switch I feel like it’s going to snap off. This was something that was carried over from the C900 and it was one of the few things that SHOULDN’T have! 🙂

    On the next-gen gauges I’d like to see a return of the little green zone on the tach which says “ECON”.

  7. SAAB does lack options but its a double edged sword. The Bimmer the wife bought could be specced up in every way. The options cost money though and if you want your car anytime soon you need to take what is in stock. Still if they give us the options we can make the decision. Maybe something like BMs Individual program, which to be fair is great if you have the money…

    I think the SID was dropped as it was a bit too downmarket (not my opinion before I am shot!) for Europe rather than cost. This type of display is popular on people carriers and small cars but was not really popular outside the faithful.

  8. Gripen, you’re absolutely right. Like the cruise control switch, the cupholder in my mom’s 9-5 makes me afraid I’m breaking the damn thing (I can’t imagine how much a replacement costs!) every time I use it. Surely SAAB is up to the challenge of figuring out a cupholder that’s both snazzy and durable?
    (I just discovered another cool feature of my mom’s 9-5 wagon the other day; a nook inside the ledge of the hatch that lets you stick your fingers in it and pull the hatch down without getting your fingers wet or dirty on the top of the hatch. Brilliant!)

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