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Saab 9-5 1.6T review (2010 onwards)
Model: Saab 9-5 1.6T Vector SE
Bodystyle: four-door saloon
Engine: 1.6-litre turbo petrol
Transmission: six-speed manual
GALLERY: Saab 9-5 1.6 Turbo
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What is it?
The fact that I'm writing about the Saab 9-5 at all is a miracle. After a tough few years which culminated in General Motors ditching its quirky Swedish brand, it was saved at the last hour by Dutch supercar-maker Spyker. The first product from this relationship is the car we test here, the curiously-styled Saab 9-5.
However, the prognosis for the Spyker-Saab relationship isn't fruitful yet; Spyker has recently filed a massive multi-million dollar loss for the first-quarter and a lack of cash has meant some Saab suppliers failed to deliver, bringing production to a stop. Good news yesterday came in the form of China's Hawtai Motor Group investing €150m in return for 29.9% of shares. However, the only real way to get Saab back on track is to tempt people out of their Mercedes E-Classes and BMW 5 Series'. But is the 9-5 good enough to do that?
Where does it fit?
A whole raft of exciting new Saab models are planned including the 9-5 Sportwagon estate, 9-4 X SUV, a new Saab 93 and the Saab 92, a compact Mini-rival. So the Saab-Spyker deal is ambitious, but it's the success - or lack thereof - of the 9-5 that will determine whether we see any of these cars coming to market.
The Saab 9-5 1.6T we test starts at £27,275. The cheapest Mercedes E-Class starts at £28,920, the BMW 5 Series at £29,430 and the new Audi A6 at £30,145. Sadly, the only area the Saab beats these rivals is in styling. It takes a back seat when it comes to residuals, driving experience and quality.
Is it for you?
You'll have to be a die-hard Saab-ophile or desperate for a break from the monotonous norm to spend the best part of thirty grand on the 9-5. In isolation, the big Saab doesn't do much wrong; it's spacious, relatively well screwed together and even competent - if not dazzling - to drive. Comparatively, running costs are also less than the other premium rivals previously mentioned.
What does it do well?
The 1.6 turbocharged petrol is a fine engine with 180hp and a 0-62mph time of 9.0 seconds. It is long-geared to aid fuel economy, the engine sounds relatively pleasing to the ear, and it does an acceptable job of hauling the 9-5's considerable bulk around. There's even enough oomph to swiftly overtake slower traffic.
What doesn't it do well?
With long gearing the 1.6T isn't very flexible so you'll be stirring the gearbox like a risotto chef if you want to make brisk progress. This wouldn't be such a chore if the six-speed manual was less notchy.
As a driver's car then, it fails to deliver. That's made worse by the soft suspension of our front-wheel-drive model, which causes the body to pitch over excessively when you change direction. The steering doesn't provide enough feedback to the driver either. Yet despite this soft suspension set-up, the ride is lumpy and unsettled and you can feel the changes in the surface.
The interior plastics aren't as solid or robust as those of rivals and you get the overall feeling it has been created on a budget. The steering wheel, for example, is uncomfortable to hold because of the harsh stitching and some of the panels have gaps.
What's it like to live with?
The number one concern for any Saab 9-5 buyer will be resale values. However, you can off-set this by haggling for a big discount with your dealer.
The 9-5 also comes with a lot more kit as standard than you get with its German rivals, making it very good value for money. This includes a heads-up display showing speed and sat-nav info and clever headlights which not only swivel to illuminate around corners, but can vary their intensity depending on the weather conditions.
Inside, the driving position is perfect, with loads of wheel and seat adjustment, and the seats are soft and comfortable. The layout of the controls is a little scattered in these days of iDrive-style systems, but it's old-school Saab in a modern suit. And for that you have to admire it.
How green is it?
Carbon dioxide emissions of 179g/km keeps company car and road tax bills low while average fuel figures of 36.2mpg mean this Saab will suit those who don't travel huge mileages and so will save in the difference between the price to buy the diesel version, and the cost to fuel it at the pump.
Would we buy it?
Sadly not. After Saab's tumultuous recent history, it's a miracle that this car even made it this far, but it's still a long way off being even average in the premium class. You will pay more to put an Audi, BMW or Mercedes on your driveway, but in the long run it will be worth the extra expense.
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