Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Commuting in a 2010 9-5 = Joy!

Now that we have some 9-5 Aeros in loaner service (special conditions apply to these loaners—see our service advisors for details), I have had the opportunity to do a real life evaluation over the course of my substantial commute.

My initial impressions have held up. The power train is first rate. The V6 engine always feels strong, and automatic gearbox, other than some slightly odd feeling downshifts, works very well in tandem with the engine, and together they really feel "of a piece.” Steering is fabulous. Same for the Aero seats. I did experiment with the thigh extensions. As short as I am, I still benefitted from the extended support. Audio sounds great. Chassis solidity and quiet are still impressive, and I love the bias of the suspension.

I will admit that I did prefer the “Comfort” setting in Drive Sense as it diminished the thwap from expansion joints on I-93 and the banging from the potholes around Boston's suburbs. I can’t say that I ever felt any deterioration of handling in this mode, and would likely have to be driving in a really spirited (stupid?) way to realize any difference. Once in New Hampshire, where the pavement is just plain better (someone will have to explain this to me), I did switch out to “Sport,” and when I got on a twisty back road for the last ten miles of my commute, I kept switching modes and couldn’t tell any difference in the handling. Again, I wasn’t driving anywhere near the limit of the car or my sensibility.

After 120 miles in the car, I do have a few more thoughts. I do like that when the climate control is managed, that the display on the infotainment system displays the change, helping to keep your eyes high. I am not completely keen on the array of switches. Night Panel was hidden from view (a Saab tradition to hide some switches from view), and the HVAC controls were just too small. I like the HUD more than I thought I would. Steerable headlamps, on twisty, dark roads are wonderful. I like controls on the steering wheel, so that hands can be kept at 9 and 3 at all times. However, I don’t like that the information display in the center of the speedometer requires a twist on the end of the directional stalk to change screens. That said, the display is terrific. It reminds me of the display on the 9000, only better. I could do without the third speedometer, though that one will please fans of the early Toronado. I do like having a volt meter, and especially like the fuel consumption screen with both instant and average consumption displayed together.

My only ergonomic complaint is with the dead pedal. It is just too small. I have smallish, if wide, feet. Yet, I always felt like my left foot was falling off the pedal. There is plenty of room between it and the brake pedal, so I wonder why it was left so narrow. In an emergency or evasive maneuver, I wonder if I would be able to plant my left foot hard on that pedal. Perhaps Hirsch will have a fitment that will resolve this.

Lastly, my fuel consumption was reasonable. This was a complete mix of driving. Getting to and from the interstate from Charles River Saab involves heavy, slow traffic. Then thirty five miles on the interstate, followed by seventeen miles of state highway and back roads driven at moderate speeds with few stops. I averaged 25.3 miles per gallon. By comparison, the other cars in our household, all four cylinder Saabs, most with manual transmission, will average around 28 miles per gallon. Given the heft of this car, the larger engine, automatic transmission and XWD, it’s a surprisingly small penalty.

The final test was to have Mrs. Belperron sample the car. She was instantly complimentary of the seats. This is no mean feat. Having previously owned a 9000 Aero (which will spoil you—if you’ve owned one you know what I mean), she doesn’t usually get enthusiastic about seats in the cars I bring home. She’s also driven Saabs for so long that she doesn’t realize that compared to other cars, all Saab seats are wonderful. But the 2010 seat was a standout—well done. She also liked the steering wheel feel. She generally liked the car and the substance it conveyed. Having the opportunity to be a passenger at night, I noted that the door handles and foot-wells have a faint glow of green light—nice and unexpected touch. Youngest son Marcel, who has spent much time in the back seat of many Saabs, said he was very comfortable and that the size difference between our 9-5 and the 2010 was noticeable. I did try sitting there, and can state that with the exception of the outboard rear seats in a 9000 Aero, that this is the most comfortable rear seat I’ve experienced in a Saab.

Next, I must sample the 2.0 version of this car!


Unknown said...

It's been decades since I lived in Boston, but back in the day there was a newspaper story on the difference between Massachusetts and New Hampshire road building practices. Where I95 crossed from MA to NH, the road base thickness doubled, with corresponding improvements to the materials used. I'm certain it was just a value analysis at work; it couldn't possibly be because repaving contracts have any potential at all for political kickbacks or favoritism.

Anonymous said...

My 1996 9000 Silver Aero seats set the standard against which I measure all other seats in any automobile. I spent a couple hours test driving the new 9-5 and agree with the comments. I also found the dead pedal for the left foot to be inadequate. The trunk lift latches also bothered me as they ate into an otherwise large trunk. Overall a fine machine. I'll purchase when the price gets below $33,000.

Curvin O'Rielly said...

Great, very thorough review, Pierre. Can't wait to hear what you think of the 2.0.

Pierre Belperron said...

I'd be concerned if we get to the point that Saabs are being sold at fire-sale prices. That would not portend anything good. Besides, the 1996 9000 Aero had an MSRP of over $41,000, so why set the bar so low now?