Client: Business MK
I would have to go back to the 80’s for my last performance Saab experience: the 900 Turbo. Super charging and turbo charging have been with us for decades – we were forcing air and fuel by these mediums into cars and planes all the way back in the 1930’s. By introducing the turbo to their engine line up, Saab changed the motoring public perception of them overnight. 30 years on the turbo is now synonymous with the brand. If I think of a Saab turbo it is always a black 900: the rocket ship of the era. Who needed a sports car? The turbo had arrived!
Leading exponents of the technology? Yes. More power and rapid acceleration? Yes. But turbo power in the 80’s brought with it turbo lag – an uncomfortable hole in the engines power delivery as the exhaust gasses struggled to spin up the turbine, providing increased pressure in the inlet tract of the engine. The result, a wheel spinning, steering wheel kicking crescendo of power. Exhilarating in the dry, dangerously unpredictable in the wet. How times have changed.
I am driving a Saab Aero 93 TTID supplied by Squire Furneaux in Dunstable. I’ve made the short hop along the A5 to Leighton Buzzard. And here I am only 10 minutes later drinking a coffee whilst filling my notebook and I can’t write quick enough. The Saab boasts a twin turbo diesel engine producing 180PS (that’s a similar figure in horsepower), married to a six speed automatic transmission, offering conventional selection and steering wheel shift buttons. On the road the turbo lag has disappeared, in fact the power delivery is so linear you wouldn’t know it had one … correction, 2.
A business or fleet purchase? This latest evolution diesel engine returns 45 to 50 MPG with low CO2 emissions. The interior is a comfortable mix of practicality and luxury, a key consideration if purchased for business use with the consequent time spent travelling. There is a practical air of designed simplicity to the interior. The cup holder is an engineering work of art, the glove box has a button to press to open instead of a latch.
Take a closer look. This level of detail is carried throughout the vehicle. Black hide with grey inserts and infinite adjustment, provide supportive comfortable seating. The switches operate with a positive weighted feel, indented rotational adjustments confirm the dual heating and ventilation switch positions. You need to be mobile to appreciate the level of engineering excellence lavished on the cabin isolation.
Engine running, doors shut. As expected the Aero isolates the outside world. The only way I know I’m in a diesel powered car is I can hear an acceptable light clatter to the idle hum. Once on the move, the lack of tyre boom and road noise transmitted through the chassis is surprisingly conspicuous in its absence. It took me several miles to appreciate just how quiet the ride was. It creeps up on you, irrespective of road surface or speed, the world outside seems further away than a width of door glass.
The ride is sporty, busy over bumpy surfaces, the steering a little lazy in its feel. You have to turn the wheel a little more than expected and feedback is good, although small adjustments mid corner did not produce instant recognition of the road wheels position. The brakes are inspiring: ABS and Emergency Brake Assist equipped. Manufacturers seem to be following a common theme with brake pedal sensitivity – the slightest touch and you’re given too much retardation. Not the Saab, just how I like them: easy building of stopping power as you apply more pressure to the pedal. Emergency stops are reassuring and effective.
True to its heritage the ignition key remains in a unique location, nestled down at the base of the gear lever, as the brochure reminds me that its heritage is born from the engineering excellence of the aircraft industry. So its time to prepare to land back at Dunstable and hand back the keys. And in case you’re wondering, yes I did enjoy the flight!