Volvo S80 vs Saab 9-5

Wow!!

I just posted this idea last night and already there’s two reviews in my inbox. The idea is for you Saab people to share your experiences test driving competitor’s cars. Would you still prefer your Saab and why?

A big proportion of motoring journalists just aren’t doing their jobs properly and even if they’re trying hard, many of them just don’t “get” what a Saab offers. So it’s up to the people that know Saab the best to draw conclusions as to why Saab competes with other marques better than what the paid boffins might tell us.

Yes, it’s biased. But if you’re visiting this site whilst researching your next vehicle purchase, you should know that Saabs are a much better value proposition than the motoring rags given them credit for. Saab owners tend to passionate about their cars, and that’s for good reason: they’re the best mix of sportiness, comfort, safety and utility that your automotive dollar can buy.

Find out from the people that know Saab the best – the people that drive them every day.

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This review is from RJ in the US. He popped down to his local Volvo dealership recently and took an S80 for a spin. These are his thoughts:

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Here’s my comparison of the 2007 Volvo S80 (test drive) vs. the 2007 9-5 Aero (standard of true beauty!). (In real life I drive a 2002 9-5 Arc, and this is my best gauge.)

The point: The 2007 Volvo S80 has a high quality interior and is very comfortable, but has more safety programs than the Space Shuttle and comes at a price of at least $10,000 to $15,000 more than a new 9-5.

Price: I test drove the inline 6 3.2L with most options and packages, and it was in the high $40k range, according to the sales rep. The new V8 option is available too, and he said the sticker price of the $51,000 V8 showroom model was “neither loaded nor stripped.” Ouch.

MSRP:
2007 9-5 Aero, completely loaded (Onstar, Navigation, etc.): $44,265.
The S80 inline six completely loaded: $52,185.
The S80 V8 completely loaded: $60,580.

And Saab USA is offering $8k off MSRP. No current purchase incentives from Volvo on the 6 cylinder or V8. Total price difference for the 3.2L S80 vs. 9-5 Aero: $15,920. Total price difference for the V8 S80 vs. 9-5 Aero: $24,315.

Performance: I drove the 3.2L, not the V8, but still- with 235 hp, you’d expect good pickup. Before I entered the freeway, my conversation with the sales guy proceeded as follows:

“So you said this was a V6?”

“It’s an inline six, 235 horsepower.”

“Oh. So I’m sure it’s got a turbo, right?”

“No, it doesn’t have a turbo.”

“Oh.”

We entered onto the freeway, and I couldn’t help but think to myself, “that’s it? No wonder why it accelerates like a beefy Camry…no turbo!”

Engine Specifications:
Saab 9-5 2.3T: 2.3L Inline four; 260 hp, 258 lb/ft torque; 19/29 mpg. Max torque: 1,900 rpm-4,000 rpm
Volvo S80 inline 6: 3.2L; 235 hp, 236 lb/ft torque; 19/28 mpg. Max torque: 3200 rpm
Volvo S80 V8: 311 hp, 325 lb/ft torque; 17/25 mpg. Max torque: 3950rpm

The inline 6 was very quiet- you could hardly hear it. At first I liked the virtual silence, then began to miss the sound of a beautifully purring engine. The brake pedal also alternated between feeling mushy and somewhat normal- it’s part of their adaptive braking system. I did not like this feeling much.

Safety: The S80 has the key in the dash, optional blind spot cameras (BLIS system) and vehicle status notification including a heartbeat sensor that knows if someone is in your car. Honestly, there are more safety implements than you can shake a stick at, but the most highly touted features are for accident deterrant, and less noise is made about the overall crash safety.

Summary: Sure it provides safety. It’s very comfortable, and it’s got gizmos, too (aux in jack, start/stop button, choice of three suspension ride modes). It all comes at a price.

Subjectively, would I ever want all those extra things? No, not really. I am more concerned about getting broadsided, etc. than I am stumbling upon a burglar actually sitting in my car. I want safety and performance, but I don’t honestly think I’d pay an extra $24k for blind spot cameras, heartbeat sensors, more horsepower, and a start/stop button. The 9-5 still delivers more power for the same mileage vs. the inline six. And do you really want to shell out over $50k for the power of the V8?

I’ll take the simplicity, lower maintenance, higher mileage, better torque range, and turbo boost, for less cost.

But maybe it’s just me.

-RJ

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If you’ve driven one of Saab’s competitors recently and want to record the experience for the benefit of others, then please feel free to write up what happened and your thoughts about it and email me.

Let’s get the truth out there about how good these cars are in real world, everyday conditions.

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6 Comments

  1. It must be said, a) the S80 has nice tail lights, especially the way the brake lights illuminate in the worm-like curvy line and b) the interior is much purer and more luxurious than the Saab’s. I have no doubt the new 9-5 will stop the S80.

  2. It’s probably not fair to compare the S80 and 9-5 as they’re totally in a different class. However, it’s nice to see you put the 9-5 ranked above the S80.

    It just shows that if SAAB were to price the 9-5 a bit higher they could put a more luxurious interior into it and sell more of them, I would think.

  3. Interesting how markets can vary….in the UK and Ireland, the 9-5 and s80 compete head-to-head. the s60 is an orphan and the s40 is the 9-3 competitor. the s80 sells for between GB£25k and 37k , the 9-5 £20 and £30k (an artifical barrier for Saab in the UK I feel, which seriously undercuts BMW, Audi and Merc.

    I fear there is a point at which, in the premium market towards which Saab is aspiring, that to offer discounts and low prices is actually unsavoury and puts off the more socially aware groups who do not wish to be seen is a discount motor?

    EG Volvo UK’s recent advertising in the UK for the s40 where the point of the ad was satisfied owners ‘obscuring’ the price of their cars from advertsing billboards to pereserve for their neighbours the impression of an expensive motor!

    Not saying Saab should overprice, but need to be conscious of te ‘firesale’ impression in the USA.

  4. I have Saab tatooed on my heart, but I have also owned Volvos and I drove the new S80 last month.

    Its a damn fine car and it does handle.

    I love my 9-5 but this is an unfair comparo.

    The 9-5 against the old S80 would be more like it.

    And having witnessed the new S80 full head -on into a wall crash test at just under 46mph,(plus the 39mph offset) I can tell you it performs so well that there is crush room to spare- thus allowing a survivability ratio for harder impacts.

    The 9-5 is lovely, but facts are facts- it’s old.

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