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Saab 9-5 saloon (2010 – 2012) expert review

By Ian Robertson, 28th November 2010

The verdict

The all-new Saab 9-5 offers acres of space inside, decent equipment levels and a top-notch safety record. Running costs are competitive too, although dynamics are disappointingly below par.

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Expert rating:

3.1

Pros

  • Low CO2 and high mpg
  • Distinctive design
  • Plenty of room

Cons

  • Interior quality disappointing
  • Outclassed by rivals
  • Holds value poorly

Full Review

1. Exterior

The new Saab 9-5 is the first all-new Saab for quite some time and despite using a stretched Vauxhall Insignia platform, it looks like a proper Saab. It features a traditional Saab nose treatment, with chrome trim fitted around the headlamps. Flagship Aero models are fitted with deeper and sportier bumpers.

Our rating: 3

2. Interior

Despite being all-new, the cabin feels quite dated. The air vent design is the same one that Saab has used again and again over the past few decades. The quality of the plastics used within the cabin really aren’t up to scratch. Most buyers will expect considerably better from an executive saloon. The cabin lacks the attention to detail and tight panel gaps of its premium rivals. The bright green displays on the instrument cluster are attractive though, and lift the otherwise sombre environment.

Our rating: 2

3. Practicality

The 9-5 is a long car with acres of space inside. Rear seats passengers can stretch out with generous levels of legroom. However headroom is impeded by the sloping roofline. The boot is large and well shaped, and compares favourably to  rivals from Mercedes-Benz and BMW. The seats are very comfortable, and a multi-adjustable steering column helps achieve a perfect driving position.

Our rating: 4

4. Ride and handling

Most 9-5s will spend the majority of their time on the motorway, and that’s exactly where the Saab is best suited. Enthusiastic drivers will need to look elsewhere to satisfy their desire for top-notch handling and ride, though. The 9-5’s handling is perfectly safe, but the steering is vague and the body rolls quite a bit in corners. The ride gets unsettled all too quickly on poor roads. With considerable wind noise and a fairly noisy diesel engine, the 9-5 isn’t as refined as it should be.

Our rating: 2

5. Performance

All of the 9-5s five engines are turbocharged, with three petrol units and two diesels on offer. Customers can also opt for a four-wheel-drive chassis. The entry-level 1.6-litre petrol engine develops 178bhp. It can accelerate to 62mph in 9.5 seconds and reach 137mph. There’s also a 217bhp 2-litre turbo engine, and a flagship 2.8-litre V6 turbo that delivers 296bhp. It can accelerate to 62mph in 6.9 seconds and has a top speed of 155mph. The lowest-powered diesel produces 158bhp, can accelerate to 62mph in 9.9 seconds and has a top speed of 134mph. The twin-turbocharged version of the same engine delivers 187bhp. It can accelerate to 62mph in 8.8 seconds and has a maximum speed of 143mph.

Our rating: 4

6. Running costs

Each of the five engines delivers competitive CO2 emissions and good fuel economy. The entry-level 158bhp 2.0-litre TiD emits just 139g/km of CO2 and returns 53.2mpg average fuel economy. The 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine delivers 178bhp and strong pulling power. It emits 179g/km of CO2, while delivering 36.2mpg average fuel economy. Insurance costs are impressively low for all models, and Saab resale values are slowly beginning to improve.

Our rating: 3

7. Reliability

Saab’s reliability record hasn’t always been the best and needs to improve enormously if the company wants to compete in the premium sector. And because many of the parts are sourced from the General Motors parts bin, it is affected by similar faults to Vauxhalls. Owners are traditionally a loyal bunch, and now that the new owner, Spyker Cars, is reinvigorating the brand, this can only be good news for the future of Saab.

Our rating: 3

8. Safety

Saab is renowned for its focus on safety, and the new 9-5 continues that tradition. When the new car was crash tested by EuroNCAP, it achieved a five-star safety rating. All models come equipped with driver, passenger, side and head airbags, as well as a passenger deactivation switch and a reminder for both passenger and driver to put their seatbelts on. There are also three Isofix child safety seat fasteners in the rear, and a display that shows whether rear seat passengers are wearing their safety belts. Electronic stability programme and traction control are standard equipment, and there’s the added reassurance of four-wheel-drive on some models. Rather surprisingly, Saab charges extra for a centre rear headrest that is standard on every other rival and rear seat side airbags cost extra too.

Our rating: 4

9. Equipment

All models are well-equipped. Vector SE models feature 17-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, front and rear parking sensors, an alarm system, rain sensor, auto-dimming rear view mirrors and Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity. Also included are cruise control, air-con, heated seats, electric windows, leather steering wheel and gearknob, half-leather seats and an MP3-compatible CD player. Sporty Aero models add electric seats, alloy pedals, leather sports seats, 19-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlights and sports bumpers. Key optional extras include sat-nav, privacy glass, a head-up display, electronically controlled suspension and a series of well-priced option packs that group popular options together to save costs.

Our rating: 4

10. Why buy?

The 9-5 is a distinctive-looking executive saloon that has acres of space, comfortable seats, low running costs and plenty of equipment. But you’ll need to be a serious Saab fan to overlook some of its shortfalls. Rivals like the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class offer a more convincing proposition.

Our rating: 2

Expert review 3.1stars

  • Exterior3
  • Interior2
  • Practicality4
  • Ride and handling2
  • Performance4
  • Running costs3
  • Reliability3
  • Safety4
  • Equipment4
  • Why buy?2

Our recommendations

Best on a budget:

9-5 Vector SE 2.0 TiD

Entry spec and frugal engine is best budget buy

Best seller:

9-5 Vector SE 2.0 TiD

Diesel engine and great specification is popular buy

Blow the budget:

9-5 Aero 2.0 TTiD XWD

Four-wheel-drive and diesel power is ultimate choice

Saab has always been well renowned for its focus on safety