The Saab 9-5 hasn’t exactly been met with rapturous applause. In fact it's come in for harsh criticism for its even harsher ride quality, particularly from the UK press, and Saab is keen to put that right. So we’ve been invited to spend the day driving with Saab’s chassis engineers as they carry out testing of the new Saab 9-5 Sportwagon estate variant on UK roads.
Is the Saab 9-5 Sportwagon the car that eliminates the 9-5 saloon's flaws and boosts Saab's chances of survival? Read on for our first drive review of the Saab 9-5 Sportwagon to find out...
This isn’t Saab’s first chassis sortie to the UK’s peculiarly bumpy roads. In fact it used to test here regularly. But cost-conscious former parent, GM, put the kybosh on that, instead insisting that Saab focus on perfecting high-speed stability on German autobahns, with the result that comfort and composure at normal speeds suffered.
Now independent, Saab is back on GB soil. ‘The UK is an important market for us,’ says Anders Knutsson, Saab’s Vehicle Chassis Performance Manager. ‘But any changes we make to improve the car in the UK will also improve the way the cars drive in the rest of Europe.’
Saab says its 527 litres seats-up, 1600 litres seats-down, cargo bay is on a par with rivals for space. It’s certainly better than the last 9-5’s 416/1490 litre boot, but most competitors are slightly larger. The Saab’s fifth door is good value though, adding just £1200 to the price, almost half of what BMW charges.
As an option, the tailgate can be fully opened and closed remotely from the keyfob or a knob on the driver’s door. But while the load cover retracts with a nudge of the elbow, it doesn’t automatically glide up and down the D pillar as you open and close the tailgate, a trick German rivals manage.
On balance, the estate bit of the Saab 9-5 is a success. Given the tiny price differential, you’d be mad to even consider the saloon. But what about the rest of the car? Saab has two Sportwagons for us to try today. They’re both work in progress 2012 model year cars, which means they benefit from new springs, dampers and top mounts, but not the torque-steer-minimising Focus RS-style fixed strut suspension that will be standard on all but the most basic cars come September.
- On sale in the UK: September 2011.
- Engine: 1956cc 16v 4cyl, 158bhp@4000rpm, 258lb ft@1750rpm.
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic, front-wheel drive.
- Performance: 10.1sec 0-62mph, 130mph, 42mpg,179g/km.