I don’t want to sound down about the future, but let’s just say the present ain’t looking all that great.
BAIC bought technology from Saab just as the company was being sold by GM in 2009. It’s four years later and their vehicle based on the Saab 9-5 – called the Senova – has just been tested by Autocar magazine in England. You would hope that with a solid working base and 4 years to remodel that things would be reasonably good. And parts of it are. Plenty of it wasn’t, though.
- The drivetrain shows its age.
- The equipment levels are great, but….
- The materials are terrible.
That drivetrain is basically the same 2.0 and 2.3 litre turbo engines that Saab used in the 9-5 back in the old days. From 1997 onwards.
It was a great engine to drive in the Saab 9-5 back in the day, but running through the same old yesteryear 5-speed auto transmission, Autocar finds it to be a little bit dated. With the 9-5’s old competition offering 7+ speeds as standard nowadays, I’m not surprised.
Electronics are cheap and ubiquitous these days so it’s no surprise that the Senova comes well equipped with touchscreen infotainment and powered everything. They’ve even kept a large number of Saab cues including active head restraints and central ignition (using a button instead of a key, of course).
It’s the materials that get the biggest panning:
Internally, BAIC have taken a top-down approach: the further you go down, the worse the quality gets. On the top of the dashboard the soft plastics are fine, but once you get down to the central console much cheaper materials are in play and the door pockets are downright flimsy. Never mind competing with European executives, this doesn’t even come up to the standards of an Avensis.
The materials and the lack of driving excitement are the biggest concerns. BAIC has had four years with this car and those familiar with the 9-5 know that they had a pretty decent base to start with. That a car company, even a Chinese car company, couldn’t take that base and improve it to any measurable degree after 4 years doesn’t bode well for those of us looking forward to see what the next Saab-based vehicle will be like.
That car’s due to come along next year, after only a couple of years development time rather than four years. It’ll roll off the production lines in Trollhattan and have a Saab name attached to it. Thankfully NEVS have got more experienced people on board than BAIC, so hopefully their 9-3 based car will fare better than BAIC’s first effort with the 9-5.
It’ll need to. NEVS can’t afford a first review like this one from Autocar.