Fleet News

Saab 9-5 2.0t Arc estate - 4,332 miles

Review

##saabarc--right##HAVING spent two weeks behind the wheel of our latest long-term test vehicle, the Saab 9-5 2.0t estate Arc, I am rapidly having to reappraise my long-held view of the Swedish marque.

Until now, my experience of Saabs had been limited to a drive in a 9000 some years ago and a short test in a clutchless 9-3 which left me thoroughly underwhelmed.

While I admired Saabs for their huge strength and quality (look how many old ones you still see on the roads), I found them too quirky for my liking - and indeed was left with the sneaking suspicion that these cars shared more than a few parts with their big brothers from Scania.

But after a few miles in this car, I was a changed man. The 9-5 estate may lack the exterior grace of the new Renault Laguna Sport Tourer or Volvo V70, but the general driving experience is definitely what you'd expect and more from a car costing £24,795.

Build quality is superb and if the first few thousand miles are anything to go by, I can quite see this car still giving good service in 20 years' time.

Our test model has leather seats as standard and they are of the softest and squishiest kind imaginable. Normally, I like good hard seats as found in the likes of Mercedes-Benz and Audi cars, but I'm sold on these Saab ones.

Normally, too, I like suspension to be just on the light side of rock hard, but once again Saab seems to have made the damping soft without being too soggy.

The 2.0-litre engine has the benefit of a turbocharger - hence the 2.0t moniker - but it isn't one of those affairs that offers nothing up to 3,500rpm and then thumps you in the back. This is a light pressure unit that gives the car punchy performance for its size (0-60mph in 10.2 seconds and a top speed of 130mph) without ever giving the impression that the engine is working hard.

Less impressive, though, is the 9-5's fuel economy. I haven't been driving hard (honestly!) but the dashboard is telling me that at present I am achieving just 26.7mpg - that's little short of dismal in this day and age.

In the CO2 stakes, the Saab is nothing to write home about either. The 9-5 emits 223g/km, which means a driver will be charged at 26 per cent of list price in the first year of the new emissions-based tax system.

The Saab is beaten by the Volvo V70 2.4S 140bhp (205g/km/23 per cent) and the Audi A6 1.8T Avant (204g/km/22 per cent) but to be fair, it beats the BMW 520i Touring (228g/km/28 per cent) and the Mercedes-Benz E200K estate (230g/km/28 per cent).

Two things annoy me intensely about this car. One is the clicking sound which warns that the indicators are operating - it seems to have been designed to make the most irritating noise possible. The other is the fact that you have to put the car in reverse before the key can be removed from the ignition lock.

This means that come next morning, when you've forgotten all about it, the car is still in gear. So if you forget to depress the clutch before firing up (which I often do), the car lurches backwards, threatening to flatten any small furry animals, or indeed humans, who happen to be loitering behind at the time.

According to Saab, the reason for this is that in Sweden, temperatures can plummet at nights, thus slightly shrinking the width of the brake discs and risking handbrake slippage. Fair enough, but this is England, not the frozen Arctic, so maybe us Brits could do without this particular item.

These gripes apart, the Saab 9-5 is a fine executive contender for the type of driver who wants something a little different from the rest of the fleet pack.

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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