I guess the natural conclusion for this short series on interiors is to look at what we’ve been talking about and measure up the latest Saab interiors to their historical forebears. That’s a particularly daunting task as it has the potential for me to upset a lot of people, especially those of you that own a 9-3 Sport Sedan or SportCombi (or convertible, too, I guess).
The Saab 9-5 interior has been around for nearly 10 years now. It’s bones were developed back when Saab still owned 50% of themselves – and it shows. The GM influence is undeniable, but the 9-5 still has what I regard as a very classy interior and one in which form really does follow function.
So, taking a look at this using the completely subjective and arbitrary TS rating system, we get the following:
The Madonna Quotient
Just like the Star herself, we live in a material world, and the 9-5 still manages to impress this little black duck when it comes to interior cabin materials.
The main reason? Dash inserts. You can still get the Saab 9-5 with dash inserts and if you’re in the second-hand market then those dash inserts will include woodgrain.
The 9-5 BioPower model I drove in January was a UK spec model and it had the most superb dash trim I think I’ve ever seen in a Saab. I’m not sure what it was called, but it was like a dark black/purple pressed metal finish. Much more black than purple and very, very cool.
Everything else about the 9-5’s interior materials are great as well. The seat leather is soft, and all the trims are just great to look at and to contact.
I love being in a 9-5 when I get the chance.
The “Baby’s Got Back” Factor
It’s the first thing you notice when you sit in a car other than a Saab? If you’re like me it’s the comfort factor in the seats. Padding, support. The Oooooh factor.
I’ve never driven a 9-5 over a long distance and ended the journey with a sore butt. Not once. Every time I’ve parked my not-inconsiderable rump in a 9-5 it’s always been an absolute pleasure.
And if you’re fortunate enough to have ventilated seats in your 9-5, then you’re even luckier. If you haven’t tried them, I’d recommend you befiend a 9-5 owner (one with a vent-equipped 9-5, of course) and take their car for a spin on a warm summer’s day. It’s the most comfort-inducing development in seats since foam.
The James Brown Index
Does the Saab 9-5 bring the funk?
I’m afraid not. It brings the comfort and the luxury, but there’s been little that’s funky about a post-2002 Saab, save for the Rinspeed 9-5 that showed up at Geneva earlier this year.
And that may be where the funk has to come from – those willing to add the funk themselves.
Somehow I just don’t see a car like the 9-5 getting some corporate funk in the foreseeable future.
The form follows function mantra is well and truly upheld in the Saab 9-5.
Whether it’s the belt-key-brake starting sequence or the operation of your controls while you’re in motion, the 9-5 delivers the goods.
Summing it up – the 9-5
The Saab 9-5 is going to be regarded as a modern classic by Saabisti in years to come, and I believe that’ll be the case with both the pre- and post-facelifted models. The cabin, where most people bond with the car, is largely similar through the years and in my experience, the driving is first class.
So the totally arbitrary TS interior grading system gives the 9-5 a pass in three out of four criteria. The interior could use some serious funk, but still manages to impress nonetheless.
Saab 9-3 coming after I play 3 games of backgammon with the Mrs…..done.
We played 6 and I won 5-1. We’ve played around 1,650 games since our last anniversary (May 06) and she’s ahead by 9 games.
The Saab 9-3
This one might hurt a little, but please remember that it’s all relative.
The Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan was introduced in MY2003 and the interior concept was a twofold one of a black-room and a white-room. All well and good in theory, but the aesthetics never grabbed me anywhere near as much as the technology.
The black room, circa 2007:
So, to the totally subjective and arbitrary TS interior rating system.
The Madonna Quotient
I think I’m preaching to the converted here when I say that the interior of the Saab 9-3 could do with a real re-vamp when it comes to materials.
The emphasis early on in the model’s life was on technology. The buttons. The fibre-optic infotainment system. The truly aircraft-inspired cockpit area. The dash-mounted SID. The fact that the dash area was a sea of black played second-fiddle to the awesome wonder of all those magnificent buttons.
With the 2007 remodelling of the dash area, I think it’s really drawn attention to the fact that the dash is a sea of plastics. The design is definitely OK and I could even get used to the dials if I had to, but at the moment there’s definitely a lot of ‘entry level’ and not enough ‘premium’ about the material content of the 9-3 dash area.
The “Baby’s got back” factor
Take one look at the 9-3 60th anniversary sport seat and you’ll want to sit right on your computer screen:
The 9-3 sports seat is another great Saab fitting. Of course, you want to make sure you get the sport seat though. I’ve had one experience with a seat in a 1.8t Convertible that left me pining for the seats in my old 99 Turbo, and I’m not sure that’s supposed to be the case.
But like I said, it’s all relative. I’d take a slightly hard 9-3 Convertible seat over anything Toyota, Holden, Ford or Mitsubishi could offer here in Australia, any day. In fact I’d take it over your basic BMW and Audi seat too.
The James Brown Index
Again, like the 9-5, there’s a death of funk in the 9-3.
It’s got a cool factor and a sporting element, but there’s no sackful of granpappys here, I’m afraid.
It can get a significant cool upgrade though, if one were to add the Hirsch leather dash kit, and there’s definitely some merit in doing so.
Again, like the 9-5, I always found little complain about in terms of functionality. The 9-3 interior layout has always exhibited everything I need and right where I thought I’d find it. Some may have found the buttons awkward, but I always found them to be logical and like the button layout in the Viggen and even the arrow-sodden heater controls on the classic 900, once you get used to it, it’s a piece of cake.
Summing it all up
Despite my petty complaints, I’ve always absolutely loved any time I’ve managed to spend in a 9-3 and I have a SportCombi on my future shopping list.
It’s just that I’ll be saving up a little extra for the Hirsch dash kit to go with it….