If you ask the average person what they think of when you say Scandinavia, they’ll say Volvo, SAAB, ABBA, Princess Mary and Bang and Olufsen.  You’ll also think “stylish and beautifully designed” homewares. Ditto for the cars and they have pioneered safety since before it was trendy.

We very nearly lost SAAB which would have been criminal, because we wouldn’t have tested the drop-dead-gorgeous 9-5 Aero with its 221 turbo charged kw’s of fun. The 9-5 also comes with a turbo 4 just in case you want something super frugal, but none of that nonsense here.

It has to be said that this new car has been a very long time in coming. The previous model had been out for over 12 years which in motoring terms means it was delivered by Captain Cook on the Endeavour.

Is the new car any good? In a word, it’s a cracker. For a start there are the looks. As I said a few days ago, it looks like the love child of Al Capone and Boeing. It’s just scrumptious and the test car had the lowered Aero sports suspension polished off with a set of huge 19’ wheels. It comes from the factory looking fully pimped.

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Should you find yourself on an autobahn you’ll be able to get to 100kph in 6.9 seconds and on to a mad top speed of 250kph. It’s only a little 2.8 litre V6 but its given a dose of chilli by a twin scroll turbo. That means you get thrills from down low unlike old turbos that gave you a slap in the face at 3000rpm, which was a dreadful shock. The Aero delivers power smoothly through the fabulous “SAAB XWD” road-hugging all wheel drive system. That means along with the electronic nannies (ABS, TCS, EBA, EBD, CBC), you have a vice-like grip on the road even with spirited cornering. The 3 setting variable dampers give the option of a more comfy ride, or hard sports ride, or let the car sort it out as the need arises. Of course getting it moving in the first place could trip you up if you have never seen an electric parking brake. It’s not in the floor, nor is it a big lever wasting vast amounts of real estate. It’s a discrete push pull button the size of a window control. The amazing thing was around town we averaged about 11.9 l/100k and on the highway about 7.5l/100k.

The cabin is strewn with acres of soft leather and plush carpet and the seats, being an Aero, are super sporty. That means they are firm, and wrap around you to hold you in place. It’s rather reassuring when you’re chucking a full sized executive saloon around. Most of the time you’re not aware of the 9-5 being so big. Its only when parking that it occurs to you. We must ask SAAB to put a reversing camera on the next model, as we only get the beeping thingies front and back. Amazingly the 9-5 feels like a smaller car in heavy traffic.

The good thing about buying a top model of brand is that you get lots of stuff thrown in. You get power heated seats, auto swivelling headlights, auto wipers and a very thoughtfully laid out console for your controls. i think the mark of a car is how easy it is to get in and drive. There are buttons for major functions and menus for the stuff you don’t use so much. What a good idea. The touch screen has the functions clearly displayed so touch the screen or use the controls as your heart desires. The cabin feels roomy with more than enough for 4 beefy lads but it has to be said that with 5 on board, the rear 3 would need to be rather chummy. With bucket loads of legroom short trips are fine for 5 but 4 could go all day and all night. The only drawback is the headroom in the back isn’t for the very tall amongst us so stick the short friends in the back and bobs-your-uncle.

If on the long trip there are only 2 of you, you can fold down the rear seats so you can get lots of junk in your trunk. The heads-up display (displayed in the windscreen) seems annoying at first, but becomes invaluable and you find yourself hardly hardly using the dash mounted panel. And, if you really hate it, you can turn it off.Aapart from the other info, it also gives you GPS directions so you could turn the voice off if you wanted to. Is that brilliant or what?

How about that rear end? The inspired lighting scheme is utterly unique.   SAAB pushed the design boat right out of the harbour by festooning the bootlid with high impact LED’s creating a stunning display at night. Even if it wasn’t so practical, it’s ever so pretty. The front headlights swivel when you turn the wheel, and do a funny little dance when you press the start button. With keyless entry and start, the keys need never leave you pocket so no more fumbling in the dark.

There is an awful lot of good will around SAAB. After all it was saved by a groundswell of support from around the world by people like us, not just bankers and CEO’s (who frankly usually do more harm than good).  After all wasn’t it the bankers and CEO’s who nearly ruined the western world bringing us the GFC we had to have? Can you imagine anyone doing that for GM? I think not.

People gather when you park the 9-5. They leave nose marks on your windows, and in traffic you get the “thumbs up”, especially from other SAAB drivers. Moreover, you have something that you don’t get in the other big Euro Exec saloons, the X factor. You can’t describe but it’s there, and you feel it the minute you lay eyes on it. Sure a 5 series drives beautifully, but it hasn’t yet shrugged off the Bangle-ness. Audi is nice, but it feels like a big VW, not that there is anything wrong with that.  The XF, stunning though it is, just isn’t quite the as X factor-ish and the E class tough unusual is not exactly pretty. Would I have any of these cars in my own garage? Yes I would, but not if there was a 9-5 on offer.

The ride was firm but supple, the steering was truly fabulous and the performance amazing from such a tiny engine. It felt luxurious with tasteful, elegantly designed finishes for a top drawer, up-market look. Quite simply, it’s a sensation.

The SAAB made me feel special and I looked for every excuse to take her out for a turn round the neighbourhood.

engine trans power
0-100 in secs cons l/100k CO2 price (plus dealer charges)
2.8L V6 turbo 6sp auto 221 kw 400 nm 6.9 sec 11.3 avg 262gms $99,150 inc tax