LOOKS . Expensive
AMBIANCE . New/Old World
COMFORT . Superb
STEREO . Boomy
GADGET FACTOR . Electronoia
CACHET . Early Retirement


Sticker . $42,020.
Power . 210 horsepower
0 to 60 . 8 to 9 sec.
Test Mileage . 21.6 mpg.
Seating . 5
Trunk . 23.5/56.4 cu. ft.
Parking . Stately


The CSE is a car for a north country baron, the last step up the corporate ladder. A mature design for mature individuals. Large, luxurious, gadgeted to the max and tailored to the tastes of the executive set. They should call this one he CEO instead. Expensive, well trimmed and very classy in a tasteful European idiom.

The 9000 is nearing the end of its design life cycle and by now the bugs have been squashed and the fine points polished to a razor edge. The lean original hatchback has evolved into a larger less graceful form as the 9000 became the status symbol of the range. For 1997 the 4 doors + trunk version is gone and all 9000's now feaure the 5 door hatchback body. The styling does not emphasise the hatch feature and few will suspect that this discreet sedan can accomodate cargo volumes approaching mini van levels. With all the rear seats folded, the practically shaped cargo hold can swallow 56.4 cubic feet of stuff! That's more room than any current station wagon and most sport utility vehicles.

The base CS comes with a 170 hosepower light pressure turbo four, and the CSE can be had with a 200 hp high pressure turbo or a GM Europe designed V-6 rated at 210 ponies. Our test car had the V-6. A smooth but not particularly excitng engine, it goes but not without conscious urging.

Luxury touches abound and the huge interior is very impressively trimmed. The unique dash is a vast expanse of burled walnut impression and the leather is of an obviously superior grade. This feels like a country estate sitting room. Regrettably, they keep adding gadgets to provide an air of state of the art that the chassis can no longer supply. On the road the big SAAB rolls along with a fairly stiff ride, well damped handling and a relaxed stride, but it is not a very spirited car.

The electronics baffle and bewilder with no particular attribute to offset the complexity. Automatic climate control has a mind of its own and a taste for weather different from mine. The boomy Harmon Kardon stereo proves that more is less; delivering mediocre sound from a jillion speakers, amps, indecipherable and unworkable tiny buttons and obscure control modes. Tune it at home or take a Walkman.

SAABs are unique and desirable motorcars, but this one is not to my taste. The CSE may be perfect for the golden years of a marquee loyalist, but I'd prefer the compact zest of a 900 or the full on sport of the 225 horsepower Aero version of the 9000.