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The Saab 9-5 is not the most obvious sports car. The body is big and chunky, and it looks a big, solid, heavy car. But lurking underneath is an incredibly quick and nimble car, with a ton of luxury to boot.
Saab have always been known to build very safe cars. The 9-5 is an example of this, being the car that has achieved the highest scores ever in the Euro-NCAP crash tests. Added to this impressive boast, all Saabs, including the 9-5, come with about 4 air bags and ABS, along with several other safety features.
While sitting inside, you get a sense of importance. The dashboard is styled in a wrap-around fashion, giving the driver all the controls in one area. I only had about half an hour with the car, on the Millbrook test track just north of Luton, so I didn't get a lot of time to play with the control in detail. However, all the controls seemed solid and responded well. They were all laid out quite logically, and were all easily reachable without fumbling about. The 9-5 Aero that I drove had a host of extra features that would not be found on every model, including leather seats, steering wheel, etc.
But the Saabs true merit has to lie solely in its performance. The figures speak for themselves really. It does 0 to 60mph in 6.5 seconds, and is good for almost 150mph. This is all due to the 2.3 litre turbo charges engine. All Saabs have turbo charged petrol engines, and so Saab have become very good at this. Most turbo charged cars, such as the Mondeo ST200 and Subaru Impreza, have 'turbo-lag', where it takes a while for the turbo to kick in, and when it does, it hits with a bang. However, with the 9-5 Aero, the turbo is instantaneous, and you wouldn't even know it was there were it not for the incredible power that it produces.
The 9-5 is incredibly smooth. This is partly down to the incredibly smooth power delivered from the powerplant under the bonnet, but it is also due to a very well tuned suspension and tyre package. With such a large an heavy car, you would expect a certain about of wobbliness, with the car rolling side to side as it entered the corners. But, to my surprise, the car handled very well, almost like a small car such as an Astra or Focus. The Millbrook test track is quite severe, with lots of climbs and drops, up to 21% gradients, and tight corners, so it was an ideal place to test the agility of the car. It felt composed throughout the test, with little in the way of body role, yet the ride was smooth over the bumps.
Around the high speed bowl, the acceleration was very fast. I was limited to 100mph, but the 9-5 achieved that speed very quickly, and was certainly ready for more. The gear box responds positively, with a very short distance between gears. There is also a very nice lock on the gear stick as standard. The ignition key barrel is actually located alongside (just to the bottom right, actually) of the gear stick, and to remove it, the gear stick must be in reverse, which locks it in gear, thus rendering the car useless, unless it can be unlocked. This works quite well. The advantage of having the ignition key located in the centre rather than on the steering column is two fold, though in Saabs 'official' view, just the one. Firstly, it is a lot safer, as in an accident, the ignition barrel is a very hard, non moving piece of metal that will hit your chest, so moving it to the centre console is a lot safer. Secondly, it means that if you have a lot of keys, they won't keep banging against your leg as you drive.
The car is full of driver aids. The seats are fully adjustable, as is the steering column. There is electric everything, and full climate control, rather than the standard air conditioning. Also, the car is split into zones, thus enabling you to change the temperature in different areas, though dramatic differences are obviously not possible. The noise produced from the AC is dependent on how high you turn up the fan, but you can leave it on the Low setting and it still reduces the temperature nicely. When I tested it (last Tuesday (26th June), the outside temperature was around 30 degrees centigrade, yet the temperature inside dropped quite quickly to a much more comfortable 18 degrees.
This is truly a great car, and has to be recommended 100% to anyone who can afford it. The power is just sensational, the handling solid and smooth, and the luxury unparalleled in its class. Plus, everything comes as standard, so you don't have to fork out more money to get the specs you want, unlike with BMW, Mercedes and Volvo.
this op about the 9-5 is well written. cu albertas
aljones 05.07.2001 16:16
Sorry for that omission. The price of the SAAB 9-5 2.3T Aero is £26,695 for the hatchback (which was the one I was driving), and £27,895 for the estate, which I'm told is almost as good, though provides a whole lot more luggage space. Alan
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