Poll: If you could change one thing about today’s Saabs, what would it be?

A few weeks ago we gave you a magic wand and asked what Saab from the past you’d recreate today, brand new from the factory, if you had the chance. The Saab 900 was the overwhelming winner.

Today we’re asking you what particular area of today’s Saab vehicles would you improve if you could break out the magic wand once again. You can only choose one area, so pick carefully.

Yes, we could theoretically have an interior lined with the fur of bear cubs who are certified 100% happy to give their skins for Saab motorists, but then someone would have to pay for the bear psychologist, the certification program, the bear farm and the costs of fighting the various court challenges that would arise from such a program. That’s a rather extreme example, but the purpose is to illustrate that anything’s possible, at the right price.

At Saab, we take all the steps we reasonably can to produce a total vehicle package that will satisfy all of our customers needs and expectations, one that will fulfill the requirements of our brand pillars at the expected price range.

We always look for ways to improve, though. This is an opportunity for you to indicate which would be the first priority for you. The poll is open.

[poll id=”7″]

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  1. Saab should never depart from its excellence in safety.  After that, practicality and performance come next.  Saabs can’t be too expensive or nobody will buy it.  Saab shouldn’t have too many frills that it has to charge more.

    1. Yes, safety must always remain a core value.  Walking away from my destroyed 2000 9-3 after a head on into a Toyota Highlander made me appreciate Saab in a whole new light.  I’m a committed Saab enthusiast and driver for life now.  Even the first responders were impressed at the way it took the impact.  I probably could have sold a few from the side of the intersection 🙂

      I replaced that car with a 2001 9-3 (thank you for standard TCS in 2001)because I love the design and practicality of a large hatchback.  I’m surprised no one is rallying for the return of the hatchback in this thread.  When I first discovered the brand in the 80s, Saab and hatchback were synonymous.  I know the combis fill that gap now, but to me, the fast back 9000s and 900s/old 9-3 have a certain flair missing from the wagon shape.

      How about a 5-door 9-5 in the spirit of the 9000 Aero?

      Electric drive is the future, and I look forward to the ePower drive train.  I’d gladly take one of the white 9-3 combis of the test fleet now, rather than wait for my dream ePower next gen 9-3 hatch.

  2. Why not move forward and adopt a more advance gearbox like the 9 speed ZF ? The germans are always one step ahead on this for no good reason ?

    1. Pretty sure bad gearboxes are one of Saab’s pillars. Sorry.

      Ok, but seriously Marty is right. I test drove a 2010 9-5 Aero with the 6-speed automatic and it was…. sad. Quite sad. Very slow shifts, and very delayed, even in sport mode. It was very nice to drive, very pleasant. But the gearbox seemed like it should have been in my mom’s van, not a Saab. I’ve also test-driven a 2012 Fiat 500 Sport with a 6-speed automatic and sport mode. THAT was fun! The transmission shifted very quickly and stayed in high revs (when in auto mode) and had much less delay (in manual mode). Saab need to fix that issue.

      1. If I can (and yes, I’m about to anyway) I’d like to invite some perspective with regard to the vehicles you’re assessing there.  

        A Fiat 500 Sport is always going to feel like a more ‘fun’ car than the 9-5.  It’s made with that sort of scenario in mind.  My non-Saab back in Australia is an Alfa 33 16-valve and it’s a similar thing.  It feels like a go-kart and you feel like you’re racing when you’re only doing 60kph.  

        That feeling isn’t necessarily a measure of the whole car, however.  It’s the car’s suitability for a particular purpose.  Last weekend I did 2,000km in two days.  I’d much rather do that in a 9-5 than the cinqcento.  And whilst the 9-5 we drove was a manual, I don’t retain any bad memories from my time in the auto.  It may not be super-slick like a car with deliberate sporting claims, but in combination with the lighter 4-cylinder engine it certainly delivered a very nimble and fun driving experience (and if you were in a 2010 Aero in the US, the V6 might just be what made it feel more cumbersome – the V6 is a great cruiser, the 2.0T feels like more fun to me).

        1. Too bad that in the US to get the best engine(2.0T) they penalize you by refusing to also offer it combined with Aero trim and XWD. I want the lighter weight and better fuel economy that come with the 2.0 but I still want my car to look and feel superb. No offense meant to the lower trim levels in case they are listening;)

        2. I just bought a 2010 95 Aero here in Atlanta, GA, USA.  Before I bought it, I test drove a Mercedes E class quite a lot.  The Merc is a great car, but in the end, the price was above my self appointed limit I was going to spend.  The 95 was available from a local dealer at a fantastic savings, and I love Saabs, so I bought it. The topper is that  Fjord Blue is a stunning  color.  People stop and stare at it.

          I find the transmission works like silk.  Now, I have not done any hero driving ’cause it has only a few miles on it, but it has a very good feel to it on winding roads around here.  Seamless shifting, what’s not to like?
          You are right though, it is a cruiser.  Traffic around here is pretty bad, so an automatic is the only way to go in stop and go traffic.
          All in all, I am very pleased I bought this wonderful car, auto tranny and all. No, it’s not a sports car, but I already have one of those.

      2. I  like the way the Saab automatic works, but, I dont like the higher fuel consumption comperd to manuel, that I wana see som work don to.

      3. Is not that Saab gearboxes or drivetrains are “bad”, they’re not ! But a more advanced gearbox will provide better performance and fuel savings just to start with ! Based on my experience with my Aero that single piece of hardware will make a serious difference….

  3. Priority no. 1 – do away with the “Premium 70” sound system in the 9-3 and the green LED filler for the nav screen in the 9-5

    Priority no. 2 – reduce weight like what Mazda did, there is a lot of fat left out there by GM to shed!

    PS. Safari user here, I apparently can’t vote, already see the results.

    1. Safari user here as well. I can vote. Guess it’s not the webbrowser that’s the problem. Someone sharing the IP-number with that perhaps have cast a vote already?

      1. I voted for more diverse colors.. even if I do think that the interior material is more crucial and important to fix first. 

  4. Third-row seating with excellent occupant (legroom, headroom, etc.) space and storage space would be phenomenal!  I understand that the safety equation of a third-row seat has been a contention for Saab in the past…but if anybody can make it safe, Saab can!  We’re the community taxi service and would welcome something like this with big open arms!

  5. I voted for interior materials as that is the most pressing of the options listed.

    However, I see some other strategic moves that should be considered. SAAB could, as Suzuki does with AWD, deliver Hybrid as standard on all cars, enabling them to market themselves as the first carcompany delivering Hybrid-drive cars only. Probably in combination with the eAAM-system.

    Weight reduction should also be a main priority. It should, for the clever technicians at SAAB, be relatively easy to reduce the weight of the 9-5 with around 200 kg (its a very heavy car). Hopefully that could be done without increasing the costs of production (less materials could possibly add up for the lighter and more rigid materials). 

    SAAB should also impose a press-car strategy when it comes to the interior colors. We all know that car journalists prefer light interior over dark. Yet, still we see markets where the press is delivered cars with dark interiors. It doesn’t at all give the same feeling of exclusivity and luxury.  The personal priorities of the importer and / or cardealer can not rule in this sense. 

  6. Great idea this poll:  here my 0.02$

    1. Be the first manufacturer to offer different levels of sound insulation:

    Already the new 9-5 is a remarkably quiet car, but add 3 levels of extra sound reducing/enhancing ability.  Reduce vibration in doors to improve sound quality of the Audio system, provide a package that focuses on high speed quietness, one that reduces road noise, a liner on the roof that makes standing in the rain quieter (great when you’re on a handsfree call)  When you select the sport mode, that you hear the engine more.  I want a quiet ventilation system, even on hot summer days with the AC running fully, not just quiet at normal operating parameters. (think VW Phaeton quiet)

    2. Interior materials:  After all once we are drawn in by the swoopy, sexy curves of our cars, guess what we sit INSIDE…. The design is good, the materials are visibly lacking, when I look at something that says ‘Hey that looks like aluminium, it better be’.  The insignia steering wheel, while functional is the one thing I hold in my hands the whole time and it’s a constant GM reminder, it doesn’t ooze SAABiness.

    3. Please please get the Android based infotainment on board, that is just revolutionary, here you can make a stand vis a vis the competition, superior electronics concept, but make sure you give it that cool scandinavian design and simplicity.  High tech, but elegant and conceptually simple to use.  Innovate and capture the market.

    Cheers, William

  7. I voted for interior design. We have a 2001 9-3 and a 2003 9-5 Combi in the family, and we’re all big fans of the somewhat understated, extremely functional design of this dashboard. We were angry with you when the chrome rings around the meters were introduced, they take one’s eyes away from what’s important. Please get the cognitive scientists that found the pleasant green lighting back on the design team.

    I’m unsure about the dashboard design in the new 9-5, but it doesn’t feel quite right when looking at the pictures. Too much bloat, if you understand what I mean. I want a design that speaks business, that gets the job done in the best possible way – that be a car, a computer or a kitchen knife. Just about anything is a tool with a purpose, and a really purposeful design always looks good even though it doesn’t really stand out until you examine it carefully.

    The driver is the user of the car, and the most important design aspect of any tool is the interaction between the user and the tool. The car needs to feel good in the drivers hands, it needs to be operated with ease, nothing to distract from the task of driving the car. This is what makes for a joyful experience when driving.

    Night panel is the single most important feature in a SAAB for me. And it is one that no other car has. It is also the very essence of purposeful engineering quirks, the things that makes these cars SAAB, the things that make me love these cars. Please take this thinking to the next level, and introduce more stuff like this. Stuff that make the cars stand out, but not by looks. They already do that 🙂

    1. O8h7w, you should sit in the 9-5 yourself, not just look at the pretty pictures. 😉

      I had a 2008 9-3 for 18 months, and the chrome around the dashboard did not bother me. From my angle there were no reflections in the windshield and I never gave it a second thought. But I did not miss it either when switching to other Saabs. YMMV obviously.

      I am with Arild on this question. I have great expectations of eXWD and the advantages this brings for us in snow and on ice.

      1. I will drive one of those as soon as the possibility pops up. I’m in Sweden, surrounded by SAAB nuts, so I don’t think it will be very long 🙂

    2. Absolutely agree. I love the green backlit gauges on my 2005 9-5 (and my old 1996 900SE) with the mittelschrift font. You know a lot of thought went into that gauge design using the same (or similar) font that they use on the autobahn along combined with acknowledging that the sensitivity of the dark-adapted human eye is greatest at about 507 nm (green).

    3. Agree! “Chrome” and “aluminum” rings and trims distract and look cheap. The MY03 9-5 was done right. MY06 spoiled and cheapened the design.

  8. I first put down interior design, as I think it looks a bit cheap in the 93 at the moment. However, I would probably put one item down that wasn’t on your list: financing. Apart from the fact I couldn’t buy a Saab the last time I tried (because of lack of cars in the US), the bigger problem was financing. We got a Tiguan for 1.9% over 66 months, which is a very attractive offer. At the time (if Saab had any cars), the best offer was around 5-6%. How you could actually offer that sort of financing I don’t know, but it must be cheaper than offering the huge discounts on the old models…(I should point out I am still planning to replace my wife’s car with a Saab at the first opportunity. Probably a 95 wagon which I can then drive :->).

  9. I only answered “handling” because I’m a strong advocate for a smaller, lighter Saab. And handling I think was the best fit for that.

  10. I voted interior materials. I believe Saab can and should rival the interiors of Jaguar. The default black plastics are dark and gloomy. Why not try some real woods, cream leather and different metals, after all we spend most our time in our car, not looking at the outside.

  11. Get better interior quality. Hirsch has many good ideas to do just that with those leather covers for the plastics. Could these be integrated to SAABs car builder online? Maybe introduce new cool materials too. Thin stiff and hard plastics is cheap, drop that. Make sure rubberized plastic buttons or covers stays the same for years and doesn’t wear off, or simply choose another material. Get rid of materials which scratches easily.

    Drop small simple lcd’s with giant pixels. It looks CHEAP.

    You should get better sound systems. Don’t choose Harman or Bose. When they can deliver such crap with their name on it degenerates their brand so much I wouldn’t buy anything with their name on. I’m sure SAAB made it clear to keep the cost down to xxxx SEK, but when they still choose to deliver that says it all. No pride there. If you want to use brands use Dynaudio or someone else who delivers quality.

    Cover up screws. I read a review of the 9-3 I think and there was screws uncovered visible in the trunk. It was long screws drilled through the parcel shelf to fasten the speakers. That must not happen again!

    Get better sound insulation. Volvo is very good with this and SAAB must be better.

    Get removable rubber or fabric in the door pockets to remove rattles. Maybe even use this in the glove compartment.

    But the most important you must do is to keep SAAB to be the safest cars on the road. Develop new safety technology and driver aids. I’m sure the rest will be fixed.

  12. In virtually every review there are 2 aspects that always get criticised. Handling (i.e. road noise, lack of steering feedback and crashing over bumps) the second is material quality or maybe better put perceived quality. Where as I see it interesting that interior quality is a big issue (nearly 50% of votes) a poor riding vehicle is not something people are prepared to put up with in a vehicle sold at a higher price point. 

  13. I agree with what most of the comments below say – although perhaps I’m not as strident as some. Nevertheless, I really want to see Saab continue with its design and engineering direction but add some of the easier stuff (interiors/NVH) to complement it.  After all, whats the difference between a Toyota and a Lexus? Some extra soundproofing.

    However, I do think there is one area of engineering where they can tread some new ground and thats performance/handling/steering. Particularly steering.  Having owned a BMW and  RenaultSport, I can say that the one area my 93 feels inadequate in comparison is the feel of the steering.  Its like there is something loose/marshmellow-y between the wheel and the front wheels.  And both BMW/RenaultSport know that steering feel is addictive once you get it right.  It inspires confidence in the driver and keeps them coming back for more.   I don’t mean hard/crashy suspension and ride BTW – its more about steering feel. 

    1. I agree to this, this makes for a lot more fun behind the steering wheel. Our old, slow, og 900 with tire dimensions from another time completely outclassed our newer SAABs in terms of fun, and all the difference was in the connection between the steering wheel and the road.

      Our og 9-3 Aero is particularly bad at this, but on the other hand offers excellent feedback through the seat. Our 2003 9-5 SC Aero has it the other way round, with steering wheel feedback better than the 9000 that is somewhere in between the two. There are obvious differences in the construction to be seen whenever you shift wheels…

  14. Topping my list would be a return of the brilliant little analogue dashboard clock I had in my 1994 900S.  It was round with moving hands — in the twentieth century these gadgets were surprisingly commonplace — and perfectly suited to the time-telling task.  It did the job and felt like zen.  The digital LCD clock integrated with the radio in my 2007 9-3 SC 2.0T is hard to see (especially through sunglasses or with bright sunlight shining on it), hard to set, and often pre-empted entirely by the radio and CD displays and by the hands-free telephone-minutes-remaining displays.  This new clock’s utter lameness demonstrates everyday just how handy it is to know the time of day, because I so often can’t know it without looking at my wrist, which is not where I want to look while driving.  I’m sure General Motors saved a few bucks by removing it.  But I’d like to have it back — whether or not I have a heads-up-display option.  Thank you very much for asking.

  15. I am not quite surprised the interior materials came up first, because even a few questionable elements can spoil a good whole in that department. Plus the 1990s Saabs really excelled in that department, so those who know the brand longer have grown to expect more.

    I am quite surprised performance is listed as second, as I don’t think any comments pertain to that, except perhaps for the (surprising to me) discussions regarding the automatic (all the 9-5 automatics I’ve driven shifted silky-smoothly for me and were VERY responsive to the point I actually want an auto in a 9-5, and I was always fiercely anti-automatic). I believe Saab still excels in that department, and shall further seeing what’s down the line.

    I think there is an overwhelming majority of 9-3 users here since interior design got only that few votes. The 9-5 obviously needs help there, and some lessons from the original 9-5. A few big buttons > a sea of small buttons. With a standard huge colour screen, one doesn’t need 75% of those buttons anyway, they’re accessible via various menus. And put the hazard lights button somewhere visible, it’s a car known for safety!

  16. I voted for more paint finishes, because Saab has already done some work on the interior materials for MY 12, and before I can’t see them IRL I won’t be able to know if they should further invest in that sector.

    That said the 2013 9-3 should have good interior material from the first day.

  17. I think this is quite spot-on. Make all electronic gizmos and conveniences standard and charge extra for fine interior finishes and perhaps special paints (give Saab’s semi-manual build process, it should not be that hard to go Lancia here), so that fleet buyers and those on a budget still get all the Saab greatness and not an “80% Saab”, and those with money to splurge will still end up leaving all that they can with Saab 😀

    I also believe a minimalistic design theme can help make the dash and interior light enough while giving a nice designerish feel. With the Germans and Jaguar loading their cabins with wood and whatnot, Saab can make a difference by putting light weight and simplicity first.

    1. Actually, this whole thread got me thinking after some consideration I believe the MY2003 9-5 Vector interior (http://static.cargurus.com/images/site/2008/07/22/23/21/2002_saab_9-5_aero-pic-40641.jpeg) is thus far the paragon of a perfect Saab interior.

      The brushed-metal-look panels are very unique in this class, give a very classy yet minimalistic and unpretentious feel. This kind of decor is also quite “technical”, emphasizing Saab’s focus on engineering as the source of excellence. It corresponds well with the contemporary funcionalist architecture. The light, recessed dash also creates an impression of roominess.

      What is also important is that this kind of interior can be made quite
      lightweight. The decor can indeed be very thin and light. There is a
      minimum of buttons, which can be further reduced if a big screen
      replaced the SID and most radio controls. As much as I like the window
      controls on the doors, their central placement saves door weight, much
      like the particular door panel and handle design.

      Moreover, the large, logically arranged buttons make a statement compared to the current fashion of using controls as decorations (and the new 9-5’s dash might blush now!) The cupholder, which is an engineering statement in itself, is the appropriate flourish.

      I also very much long for the simple, green+orange gauges. In a contemporary Saab, this can be even achieved with a digital display, like in the (pardon the word) Mercedes S-Class, where it works really fine. I might be wrong, but the digital readout would probably actually be lighter, and provide many interesting possibilities for displaying SID messages et al. and focusing the driver’s attention on what is the most important at a given moment (diagnostic warning, ESP warning, navigation turn prompt, incoming phone call readout etc.) Not to mention the possibilities of personalization 🙂

      Frankly, I could imagine this design making a comeback – if not in the 9-5, then in the next 9-3.

  18. I voted for interior materials too. I’d vote for interior design, but it is more difficult to change, and it is good except for some GM-reminder details like gearbox lever, rear vents, base stereo head unit, fat headrests and steering wheel. I’d also would like to see green-orange lighting on dashboard, and more interesting and unique features like cupholder, Night Panel, “fasten belts”, elegant headrests etc. They really make the interior character. Also, why make the same start button like other manufacturers? Add some imagination blended with aviation heritage! Like aircraft-shaped “key” or some kind aviation-inspired “Turn to start” switch. Give us something to turn or to switch, people like it so much more than pressing plastic buttons.
    But the quickest and the most valuable fix are, of course, interior materials and color choices. That should be priority #1. Look at Jaguar XF level. More _real_ leather (not gray! cream, brown, tan, etc.), light-coloured scandinavian wood (not fake aluminum or carbon! Saab is not a “racing” car!), ice-plastic on dashboard. And yes, some bear fur will do, just give us options, please! 🙂
    Also, give top-interior (in some great colours) cars to press (remember, press photos sell!) , and make an option to have the best interior with base engines. 

  19. I was a little confused about the poll.  If the poll was about the current Saabs  (aka 9-3) then one will get votes about the interior.   Indeed I’ll admit I drive a 9-5 because when I was looking at very early 9-3’s the consensus was that the buttons and knobs on the dash peeled.  I just couldn’t bring myself to buy one..that would drive me bonkers.   The current interior seems much better to me.  Its a shame because I think I missed out a on good car.  (not that I don’t like my 9-5).

    If your asking future improvements on future cars or the current 9-3  I’d have to vote for
    fuel economy, followed by handling.

    One category I saw missing was durability or quality.

  20. I don’t agree Saab need to rival Jaguar (as one commenter mentioned below), but they DO need to up the game on interior quality.  My ’08 9-3 is not a patch on the quality of my old ’99 9-5!   

    Also, the diesel engine (1.9) really needs more sound proofing.  Compared to
    rivals, it’s a loud, clattery engine and in a convertible it just doesn’t FEEL rignt!

    1. Barry, I only meant Saab should aim at the comparable level of materials and design as Jaguar (that does not mean the same character or customers) – and without changing anything else they it could justify the price much better. Not directly rival Jaguar. For now, Jaguar interiors are the benchmark both in terms of materials and, what’s important, state-of-art design. Both much better than Audi’s. And state-of-art contemporary design can be scandinavian, which means it is lighter, more natural and more minimalistic, but still elegant and built of top quality materials. Where are wood and leather and clever little things?

  21. I’d change one thing – price. I strongly feel that Saab needs an accessible entry-level vehicle to introduce new young buyers to the brand. It could be a stripped-down 9-3, or better, a new 9-1 (Funding willing!).

  22. Went for interior as well. As an owner of a new 9-5 2.8T XWD the only niggle I have is the quality of the interior fitting especially the grade of plastic used for the dash and the fake aluminium inlays on the doors, dash and in particular the key / cupholder in the centre console. Its been mentioned by review after review that this is a failing of the car especially agaisnt its German competitors. Hopefully as the GM DNA is replaced by SAAB DNA this will change for the better in future moddel years. Sadly as the owner of a RHD 9-5 I can’t get the Hirsch leather dash cover as a stop gap to the next one (its for LHD only).

  23. I voted for Interiors. I’ve been driving my “new” 2008 1.9 TiD Vector Sport for the past week. I traded in my 200 Saab 95 2.0 auto estate. My initial observations are:

    1. The quality of plastics in the dash is poor. The indicator stalk feels hollow and cheap yet this one item which gets constant use as does the wiper stalk. A Happy Meal toy has better plastic .

    2. I have a manual drive and miss having a proper left foot rest when in cruise control. Feels like I ‘m resting on a lump of carpet.

    3. I actually like the simplicity of the radio and the info (SID) under the speedo. But the stereos pixel display would be better if it matched the SID.

    4. The reflection from the silver on the dash trim onto the windscreen and driver’s wing mirror (in certain lighting conditions) is an appalling quality oversight by Saab engineers. I’d hazard it would effect safety because you eyes can get drawn to the reflection.

    7. At certain speeds I hear squeaks from the A/C dials or somewhere. Again I put this down to the quality of materials. My 11 year old Saab was squeak free with 110K miles.

    8. Asides: Would like a setting to disable auto lock of doors. The window controls which are better having been moved to the door  could be positioned a bit more forward.

    9. Overall Saab needs to have its base trim at a level which reflects its design heritage and badge status.  I’ve wondered who in Saab signs off on the interior materials before it goes into production? Surely they must find the feel of materials is step backwards for Saab.

    Having said that, love driving Saabs and the external design beats Audi A4 and BMW3 hands down!