Fleet News

Saab 9-5 estate

Review

##sa9-5est.jpg --Right##SAAB has an unenviable task in the luxury car market. It does not have tradition and history like Jaguar and Rover, nor the long-enjoyed prestige of the German brands like Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, plus Volvo in the estate sector. It also sells itself in an unusual way. The Swedish manufacturer's ad campaigns are still based on its links with its jet aircraft such as the Viggen, which is decidedly long in the tooth and not exactly a family name. It also insists on calling the new 9-5 a 'wagon', which hardly conjures images of style and grace.

Saab has done all it can to banish the idea that an estate is a saloon with a box added on the back. The 9-5 is, in my opinion, the best looking estate. Its smooth lines flow from a low rounded front and rearwards up to the B-pillar, from which everything has been redesigned, down to the gently sloping boot and protruding bumper. It exudes class and practicality, with excellent build quality.

The 2.3-litre Turbo SE test car was practically faultless in all respects. The driving position was endlessly alterable with steering wheel adjustments, adjustable seat position and back support. I defy anyone to be uncomfortable. This adjustability means that the headrest actually becomes - at last - an integral part of the driving position rather than something you're aware of, but not really sure what it can do.

Both front seats are also heated. The overall comfort quota is further boosted by an electronic digital ventilation system allowing control of fan speed and temperature adjustable to one degree centigrade.

In the back the seats are as well finished and as firm as the front, although with front seats back leg room is tight.

The test track was a 110km circuit that took in the extremes of Barcelona motorways and narrow winding hill tracks and despite the rigors of the latter - and the stress of the former - it was an incredibly comfortable journey belying the three-hour-plus journey time.

Saab has made great play of the 9-5's load carrying capabilities. Once unlocked from the driver's compartment the boot opens with a flick of the finger revealing a generous amount of carpeted space. The boot features aircraft innovation - a pair of cargo tracks hidden by removable plastic strips. Four small hoops are pushed into these and with belts attached aim to prevent any cargo movement during emergency braking or an accident. The hoops are so strong that, Saab says, the car can be lifted off the ground by them.

Another innovation is a sliding boot floor. It can be rolled out to about half a metre from the rear and will support 200kg. The test car was not fitted with this feature, but had a cargo net with its own housing behind the rear seats. These fold forward in a 60/40 divide and the cargo net can be adjusted to fix behind the front seats. A foldable parcel shelf offers ease of access and a roof rack is standard. On the downside, the fascia is decked in light grey plastic, which makes it look like an unfinished model kit, combined with pieces of wood-effect to produce an ugly appearance. The estate is a joy to drive. I had the manual version and on a clear motorway it cruised almost silently. Steering was sensitive without being light and the brakes were instant and smooth particularly when going from about 80mph to a dead stop.

Acceleration is impressive on a clear straight. While quiet at cruising speeds, on winding mountain roads with rapid slowing and acceleration there is a sporty growl from the engine. If an estate car can be exhilarating and luxurious to drive, easy on the eye and a workhorse then Saab has produced it.

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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