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More than just a 9 to 5 job

By Wells Journal  |  Posted: September 19, 2012

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On the face of it, buying a used car built by a company that no longer exists seems a recipe for disaster. Especially if you're ploughing a not insignificant sum into a complex vehicle that was built to compete with the likes of the BMW 5 Series and the Audi A6.

What if some of those complicated electronics go on the blink? Where would you go to get the thing repaired? Fortunately for clued-in used buyers, a healthy network of Saab specialists has built up over the years and they're fanatical about these cars. Saab owners are a singular crew and like to consider themselves a breed apart from the usual automotive thoroughfare.

The fact that most casual buyers will be further discouraged from choosing a used Saab, if anything adds to the marque's cachet for the true believers.

Here's what to look for when sizing up a late 9-5.

Few other manufacturers share Saab's reputation for longevity. A well maintained 9-5 should be good for at least a quarter of a million miles, so don't be afraid of higher mileage cars. One area which is worth checking, especially on the Aero models, is front tyre wear.

As with any powerful car that directs all or some of its drive to the front wheels, expecting the front tyres to cope with the demands of steering such a weighty beast and transmitting that horsepower to the ground is a serious task. A heavy right foot can see front tyres waving the white flag within 5,000 miles, dependent upon make. There aren't many surprises brewing in the 9-5 engine range, at least not for those with a passing knowledge of Saab's form. Every unit is turbocharged, the more powerful ones have a lively turn of speed and all have been seen before in the UK powering Saab and/or Vauxhall products.

More interesting is the 9-5's method for making the most of its power. The car comes in either front-wheel-drive guise or with Saab's acclaimed XWD all-wheel-drive system but there's also three different suspension arrangements and Saab's DriveSense adaptive damping control system to consider. The entry-level 180bhp 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine and the 160bhp 2.0-litre common-rail diesel have MacPherson strut front suspension and a multi-link arrangement at the rear.

Where things break with convention is in the 220bhp 2.0T petrol and the variants fitted with XWD. These have an innovative Linked H-arm rear suspension which is said to enhance ride comfort, refinement and road holding.

At the top of the range, the 300bhp V6 2.8-litre turbo models match this Linked H-arm rear suspension with a HiPer Strut system at the front which reduces weight while improving steering feel.

For diesel buyers, there's the 160bhp TiD or torquier and more powerful190bhp TTiD option.

But in line with the mood of the times, Saab fine-tuned its GM-derived four- and six-cylinder engines to deliver an average 4.7 per cent improvement in economy and emissions.

The base 2.0TiD diesel offers 125g/km CO2 emissions in the saloon, 128g/km in the Sportwagon, down from 139g/km in the current 9-5 saloon.

The chassis settings also came in for a rethink after almost universal criticism of the 9-5's ride on UK roads.

Buyers of the more powerful 9-5 models could also specify the DriveSense system that allowed them to select Sport, Comfort or Intelligent setting for the car's adaptive dampers.

In Intelligent mode, the system monitors the way in which the 9-5 is being driven and acts to stiffen the dampers under hard cornering or soften them up for a smoother ride at lower speeds.

The technology also sharpens throttle and steering responses in line with driving conditions.

The Saab 9-5 was never the most obvious choice in its sector when new and is even more of a left-field option when used.

Andy Enright

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