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Saab 9-5 Aero 2.3 HOT estate auto – on sale now

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Review

Safety has become the new buzzword – who’d have thought it? Thanks in part to the Europ NCAP tests, carmakers are now falling over themselves to produce cars that achieve five star ratings.

That’s put companies like Volvo and Saab in an odd position – both are safety innovators and have enjoyed a traditional reputation for making cars that protect occupants in crashes. Now they face others muscling in on their territory.

Saab has attempted to regain the safety high ground with the 9-5 estate, promoting it as a “convincing choice for companies who want to safeguard the welfare of employees”.

Clearly aimed at the user-chooser/fleet market – 90% of the 2,800 sales this year will be to business – the 9-5 estate features Saab’s active head restraints to help prevent neck injuries in rear-end collisions, airbags that deploy according to impact severity and seat position, predictive front panel deformation irrespective of point of impact, and plenty of other attributes that will appeal to the safety conscious driver.

Not surprisingly, the 9-5 estate has the coveted five NCAP stars for frontal/side impact and is rated the safest cars on Swedish roads by Folksham insurance company following an analysis of real-life road accident injuries.

Saab is also looking to move safety to unheard of levels with the ongoing development of the Alco-key concept, a mini alcohol breath tester within the car’s remote key fob which will leave the engine immobilised if the driver is over the limit.

Safety, of course, is only one part of the sales proposition. To drive, the Saab performs well without being class leading.

The 2.3-litre 250bhp ‘HOT’ engine (line-up’s most popular choice with 30% of volume, not least because of its competitive 214g/km CO2 emissions, 240g/km for the auto) is explosive in the manual, offering 0-62mph in 6.9s, but the tardy auto gear change dampens the sprint time to 8.1s. It’s not particularly sporty through the bends, erring more on the side of comfort.

Gripes include the sat-nav screen which suffers sun glare, and engine creep that gathers pace in traffic. Plus points include an excellent driving position and superb seat fans.

Strength: Comfortable, safe, seat fans
Weaknesses: Tardy auto ’box
Opportunity: Regain the safety high ground
Threat: Everyone wants the safety high ground
The USP: Even by Saab’s standards it’s a safe car
Price: £29,085 OTR
Engine: 2.3-litre 4-cyl HOT petrol, 250bhp @ 5,500rpm
Transmission: 5sp auto, fwd
Performance: 0-62mph 8.1sec; top speed 152mph
Efficiency: 28mpg combined; 240g/km CO2
CAP RV (3yr/30k): 33% £9,950
Rivals: Volvo V70, top end Mondeo estate, E-class estate, A6 Avant

Driven: Saab 9-3 1.9 SE TTiD Sportwagon

Could this be the last time AM runs a road test on a Saab?

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