Gone are the regular clear light units, replaced with dark, brooding lamps reminiscent of empty skull sockets. Shudder.
But don’t be fooled by the new face – this is not a new car. Under the Botox this is largely the same 9-5 that’s been around since 2001, which in turn was largely the same as the one that had been around since 1977.
New engines and an uprated chassis have been added to the package, but the exterior design from the A-pillars back is largely unchanged, bar the new light clusters and bumper at the back.
The result is a bit ungainly – the straight, almost boxy overall shape looks outdated and the new nose produces a weird overhang when viewed in profile.
Whatever, this is subjective stuff and seeing a dark coloured estate with the facelift treatment the other day looked a lot better than our silver saloon.
Inside, the dash is still a big slab of aircraft-inspired design.
The plastics feel flimsy – certainly nowhere near the quality as those used on the smaller, newer 9-3 models, and not a patch on the level found in the cabin of an Audi.
But on the road the Saab doesn’t show its age at all. The 9-5 drives beautifully and the 1.9-litre common rail turbodiesel TiD 150bhp engine (as found in the 9-3 and various Vauxhalls) feels bigger than it is and produces great dollops of torque (235lb-ft at 2,000rpm) all the way through the rev range. And despite only having five gears, the ratios are spread well enough to give both decent acceleration and relaxed cruising at motorway speeds.
Although a large car, the handling of the 9-5 is nimble and precise.
The new chassis has revised suspension all round, giving a much sharper feel than the previous generation. It’s comfortably soft on the straights, but there’s enough firmness to allow spirited performance through twistier sections of road.
The steering is perfectly weighted – light enough around town but with enough feel to offer decent feedback when you press on.
Downsides? Well, I would prefer a bit more give to the brake pedal as it feels unusually firm with not much travel, but that’s about it.
So despite the model’s age, the revised 9-5 feels as sharp as its rivals in driving terms.The styling lacks cohesion and modernity, though, and inside the cabin is showing its age.
But if driving dynamics are high up on your drivers’ wish lists, the Saab delivers.
Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £24,317
CO2 emissions (g/km): 174
BIK % of P11D in 2006: 24%
Graduated VED rate: £160
Insurance group: 13
Combined mpg: 44.1
CAP Monitor residual value: £7,325/30%
Depreciation: 28.32 pence per mile x 60,000 £16,992
Maintenance: 2.70 pence per mile x 60,000 £1,620
Fuel: 10.19 pence per mile x 60,000 £6,114
Wholelife cost: 41.21 pence per mile x 60,000 £24,726
Typical contract hire rate: £438
All figures based on 3yrs/60,000 miles.
Rental quote from HSBC Vehicle Finance
At a glance
THREE RIVALS TO CONSIDER
THE Saab is cheapest of the four, undercutting the Volvo by £280. However, both lack the level of equipment of the Peugeot and Audi. The 607 comes with satellite navigation, phone, CD changer, xenon lights and leather seats for £300 more. The Audi is the most expensive, but recent changes mean it comes with satellite navigation as standard, as well as a six-disc CD changer. Sat-nav is a £2,200 option on the Saab.
BOTH the Volvo and Audi match each other financially when it comes to keeping the cars running. Over three years and 60,000 miles, a fleet operator can expect to pay £1,848 in service, maintenance and repair costs. The Saab comes top again, knocking £228 off the S60 and A6 costs over the same period. The Peugeot nestles in the middle – expect to pay £1,698 in garage bills over its fleet life.
SCRATCH up a win to the Peugeot – the likely fuel cost over three years and 60,000 miles is £5,820 thanks to claimed combined fuel economy of 46.3mpg. The Audi returns 44.8mpg for a cost of £5,910 over the same period. Both Swedish cars fall behind when it comes to burning diesel. The 9-5 returns an average of 44.1mpg and will set a fleet back £6,114 in fuel, while the Volvo on 42.8mpg is the thirstiest, drinking £6,300 of diesel over 60,000 miles.
IT may be the most expensive car here, but the A6 also holds its value the best. Over three years and 60,000 miles, CAP estimates it will retain 40% of its cost new, leaving a cash lost figure of £15,150. The Volvo heads up the rest, losing £16,770 over the same period thanks to a predicted RV of 32%. The Peugeot, with an RV of 30%, will lose the most value, shedding £17,294, while the Saab, also on 30%, will drop by £16,992. None of these figures include any manufacturer discounts.
WITH a big advantage in depreciation terms, the Audi seals a convincing wholelife costs victory, undercutting the second-placed Saab by more than three pence per mile over three years and 60,000 miles. The Saab, Peugeot and Volvo are equally matched, with the 9-5 eking out a slight advantage over the 607 and S60, which are separated by just 0.01ppm over the same period.
EMISSIONS AND BIK TAX RATES
THE Peugeot makes a late surge by having the greenest car here, emitting 10g/km of CO2 less than its nearest rival, the Audi. As a result, a 40% taxpayer can expect a benefit-in-kind bill of £182 a month for the 607. The Saab is the second cheapest, with a monthly BIK bill of £195 for the same driver. The Volvo driver will pay £197 a month while the Audi is the most expensive at £200 a month. All will cost £160 a year in VED bills, except the Peugeot on £135.
SAAB’S mid-life makeover has paid dividends for the 9-5, making it a comfortable and good-to-drive executive car. It’s also competitive in company car tax terms and scores well in wholelife costs. But it’s hard to ignore the Audi’s significant running cost advantage, helped mainly by a far better residual value forecast. The Audi also feels better built inside and has more equipment as standard.