IMPORTANT NEWS: National Electric Vehicle Sweden has agreed to buy the assets of Saab Automobile and the sale is expected to be finalized during the summer.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Winter review of the Saab 9-5 Sedan

Back in October I wrote an owner's review of my Saab 9-5 Vector 2.0 TiD4 Sedan. Now, after having the car for five months and driven 10 000 km, it's time to do a recap of my experience up to now. Most of the 10 000 km have been on winter roads and so this time I will be focusing on how the car performs in winter.

Starting in cold weather
Before winter set in I got an electric block heater and interior heater installed. So most of the time during winter I start a pre-heated car. But now and then I also start the car without having used the electric heater. The coldest temperature I have recorded when starting without pre-heating the engine, was -32 degrees Celsius (-26 Fahrenheit). The car started without any problems. I have also started the car in -30 Celsius (-22 Fahrenheit) driven for 10 minutes, parked the car for several hours and started again in -30. No problem. When starting in low temperatures the car has a raw engine noise and the transmission stick can feel sluggish, but as soon as the car warms up, it drives like normal and sounds normal.

My car came with something called QuickHeat, which is an electric heater fan that helps heat the cabin quicker. My experience is that it works very well. The cabin heats up fast and ice on the front window melts away like on any other Saab. And so far I haven't noticed any critical drain on the battery either.

Getting comfortable
Finding a comfortable sitting position is easy. The standard part leather and part textile seats in my Vector are good. The adjustment possibilities are excellent and the seats give good support and have comfortable cushions. On cold winter days the heated seats feel nice for a cold body.

Technological gadgets
I was a bit anxious to see how the technological gadgets like keyless entry would perform when the temperature was far below zero. To my delight I have not experienced any problems so far. But to lock the doors I have learned that you may have to remove your glove and use your bare finger to make it lock. The Head-Up Display also works perfect, at least when you give it time to warm up first. The traffic sign recognition system keeps on feeding me with information about speed limits (I wish I could turn it off...), and I assume the lane departure warning system also still works. But that system has been turned off for months now. And I love the harmon/kardon stereo system. The sound quality is perfect and the flexibility with USB, AUX, HD, CD, radio with time-shift function is outstanding. I haven't used the navigation system very much, but it has guided me well the times I have used it.

A few words about the size of the car
The Saab 9-5 is a large car with a length of over 5 meters and a width of about 1,9 meters. But as noted in many tests, it doesn't feel like a big car when you drive it. The cabin feels very intimate and the car seems very controllable despite the big size. Except for when you're parking the car in a cramped parking lot. And even worse when you try to back out of a cramped slot. Then you notice that this is a large car. Parking sensors front and rear are almost a necessity. And a backup camera would have been nice.

Engine and performance
When driving at low, but varying speeds (10-30km/h), the manual transmission isn’t the best choice. Then you can end up doing a lot of shifting up and down. In that kind of traffic an automatic is highly recommended. Fortunately I almost never drive in slow moving traffic and thus the manual transmission is fine. The car accelerates nicely from standstill and up to around 60 km/h, and thereafter the advantage of the diesel engine gets apparent and the car accelerates quickly and with lots of power and determination. When you get the car up to a high speed, you notice how stable the car feels and how it is unaffected by the different kinds of road surface. The car just seems to go straight forward without much effort. The road and wind noise is low and when cruising the engine noise is barely noticeable. My only complaint is that the diesel engine is a little noisy when cold and when accelerating. But I have learned that it's a good thing to do some hard accelerating to blow soot out of the engine and the particulate filter. And so I choose noise over soot :)

Driving on snow and ice covered roads
When the snow is pouring down and the road is slippery, the 9-5 reveals that it's a car set up for Nordic winters. It feels extremely safe. When driving on snow and ice, I have never before felt more safe than I do in my Saab 9-5. Even under harsh winter conditions the car feels well balanced and extremely stable. My car has only front wheel drive, but it still has an excellent grip (I got the Nokian Hakkapeliitta R studless winter tires). If the car, on a rare occasion, starts to skid, the balance of the car and the suspension immediately corrects the skid. And if the skid is more severe, then the traction control and/or the electronic stability program (ESP) keeps me on the road. I feel extremely confident (maybe even a bit too confident!) when sitting in my comfortable and quiet Saab when the snow is falling and the roads are slippery.

The car does a good job passing through loose snow. Compared to my previous car, a 2003 Saab 9-3 SportSedan, the new 9-5 seems more capable. But when driving in loose snow that whirls around the car, it packs a lot of snow in the wheel arch liner! And especially at the rear. Loose snow also packs along the inside of the rear rims and can lead to vibrations. So the 9-5 requires that you clean your wheels for snow if you want a vibration free ride.

In conclusion, I can highly endorse the new Saab 9-5. The performance during winter is second to none. The good old Saab slogan "Vinterbilen" (The Winter Car) can also be used on Saab's latest car!

Here are som links if you want to learn more about the Saab 9-5:
The development of the Saab 9-5
Ambient lighting
Head-Up Display
Electric block heater
Night Panel
Rear mud flaps
Nokian Hakkapeliitta R winter tires
Signature lights
Test driving the other engine alternatives