Friday, May 06, 2011

Quick review of the 2011 9-5 Turbo4

I had promised this long ago but never had a chance to get a decent drive in one of these so that I could render an opinion. Well, this morning I went for a bit of a drive, and having spent a lot of time in a 9-5 recently, it was easier to focus on the difference between the Turbo4 and the Aero version.

This Turbo4 car had an automatic, 18” wheels and otherwise was pretty basic. The differences between the Turbo4 and Aero lie in the powerplant and the suspension, and both differences were very apparent. I love the engine in the Turbo4. It has a lot of low end grunt, much like the old 2.3 in the old 9-5, and launches much better that the 2.0T in the 9-3. Throttle response is excellent and there is terrific lunge from a dead-stop. The engine is exceptionally smooth and quiet, with a nice growl under heavy load. Gone from the old 9-5 is the shudder and vibration at idle, which I no longer notice in old 9-5’s, but whose absence was discernable in the new car. The engine and transmission work very nicely together, and the transmission shifts are very smooth and require only modest pedal application when a downshift is sought. Mid-range surge is very good, perhaps better than expected. Above 50 it starts to feel a little winded, but overall I find this combination delightful. Saab drivers of old will feel very much at home. I now want to find one with a manual transmission, which I’m sure I’ll like even more.

I can’t rave as much regarding the change in suspension. The difference is significant and I noted it immediately. I liked the Aero DriveSense in comfort mode, which is what I had hoped this car would feel like. I didn’t. It’s not bad, and compared with the previous 9-5, it still feels much more buttoned-down, though not nearly as tight, refined and precise as the Aero. Handling seemed fine, it’s more the way that Aero seemed to absorb road imperfections and recover much more quickly than Turbo4 which left me wanting, as other reviewers have mentioned, that Turbo4 be fitted with the same suspension as the Aero. Again, it’s not terrible. If I had never driven the Aero and was only comparing Turbo4 with the previous car, or other contemporary cars, I’d say it acquitted itself just fine.

I won’t get into other details. I’ve written that all before. Verdict? Thumbs up from me. Given that I still like to row my own gears (pending my roadtest of a manual transmission version), and love the engine in the Turbo4, and am not prone to feeling the need for AWD, I would likely choose the Turbo4 if I were to buy a 9-5 today. I am concerned with the low mileage estimate, with the EPA giving the four cylinder only a one mpg advantage over the Aero, which I find hard to believe. I got great highway mileage on my NY trek in the Aero—28.5 mpg. Am I to believe that with two fewer cylinders, less weight and half the driveline, that I’d otherwise only have averaged 29.5?

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