If you ask me, the SAAB 9-5NG SportCombi is one of the most beautiful cars ever made and when I was able to buy mine in December 2012, a dream really came true. While chief designer Simon Padian and the team in Trollhättan did an amazing job already, my aim is to get it from looking amazing to looking even more stunning. The latest additions: the factory-original navigation system and a back camera!
When I bought the car in 2012 in the auction commissioned by the SAAB Automobile AB bankruptcy estate, it needed quite some love… It had been standing still for quite some months and wasn’t in great condition. A new LED-bar, a thorough anti-rust treatment and paint conservation were the first steps, but the next big change was the Aero upgrade.
While the initial improvements had been performed by local specialists in the Stockholm area, the Vector-to-Aero-metamorphose required some extra special 9-5NG expertise and above all SAAB passion, so I headed to Kiel in Germany to get the work done by the team at Autohaus Lafrentz. Front and rear bumper upgrades, new seats, meshed metallic dashboard panels, Aero steering wheel and 19” Silver Edge rims and Aero door inlays were among the items on the list at the time. An amazing result indeed but could it get any better? Yes!
The next transformation was the Hirsch body upgrade. Again, performed in Kiel… Hirsch front spoiler, side skirts, new exhaust, Aero pedals and spacers combined with a lowering set turned the previously pretty and just friendly looking car into a forceful piece of art…
So I was done? Nope! As I wrote in an earlier article on the website dedicated to this unique model, http://9-5sc2012.com/, there were still more items on the wish list. The top of the list was marked by the navigation system, and when Markus Lafrentz called me earlier this year to tell me that “there might be a chance the navigation upgrade could work”, I obviously got very interested. Why you may ask?… well, for any owner of a regular MY10 or MY11 9-5NG SportSedan the conversion from a green screen to the original touchscreen navigation system is a viable option. It’s not trivial as the required parts aren’t easy to get and it does take some work to get it all installed, but it’s a supported option from a software configuration perspective. For my car, however this type of modification is much harder.
No Orio support
The MY12 software that can be found in the 9-5NG SportCombi however, currently lacks support from Orio. The required so-called VCI codes aren’t being supplied for MY12 cars which prevents not only upgrade scenarios to be performed, but it also essentially makes regular repairs really hard or even impossible. Something I hope (on behalf of the other 26 9-5NG SportCombi and the some 50 MY12 9-5NG SportSedan owners) will be solved in the foreseeable future.
Autohaus Lafrentz does magic
I had experienced it many times before, and also this time around the answer from the Lafrentz team to a seemingly impossible question was “aber natürlich!” (“but of course!”), so magic happened to get the factory-original navigation system fitted in my car…
I had arrived in Kiel the evening before and parked the car in front of the workshop so that the technicians could start early in the morning. When walked into the garage just after breakfast, the car looked like it had been in an accident… dashboard and door panels removed, loose cables and GPS antenna and wiring diagrams all over the place. In the middle of all this disorder I found a calm, friendly and very confident Michael Schultz, the chief technician who told me that everything was going according to plan! So with my nerves calmed down I could witness the whole process being completed within just a few hours. Green screen replaced with the colour touchscreen and to top off the excitement, the added back camera. This feature was to be available on all MY12 9-5NG’s and can be found on some of the MY12 cars as a factory-fitted option. The beauty is that the camera can be retrofitted relatively easily on all 9-5NG’s with a navigation system as the software support already is built-in.
So with an even more perfect car I could start the nearly 1000km drive home again. The new touchscreen-based system was a true pleasure to operate, if anything given the entertainment features. Instead of using CD’s and USB memory sticks to play music from, the new system has a built-in hard 20GB drive that can store thousands of songs and the touch screen interface makes it so much more intuitive to operate than the green screen radio that had come with the car originally. The navigation system also worked flawlessly, including getting the navigation instructions onto my Heads Up Display (HUD). As the VCI programming couldn’t be completed in full (again… Orio, I am hoping this can be fixed soon…), the instructions on the central dashboard display aren’t working (yet…).
Orio not HERE?
And speaking about Orio, some more help is needed on another front as well. As the maps on my new navigation system are quite outdated, new updates are not just a nice-to-have but actually a necessity as since the initial 2009 map release the world has changed quite significantly… Interestingly enough, the 9-5NG map upgrades cannot be purchased through SAAB authorised centers or Orio at this point and the several thousands of 9-5NG owners are directed to a company called HERE (previously Navteq, later acquired by Nokia and how possibly sold to a consortium of German automakers). Technically HERE doesn’t provide any support for SAAB at all, yet as the Denso-based system in the 9-5NG and 9-4X is (nearly) identical to the Opel Ampera, map updates for this car can be used in the latest generation SAAB’s as well (I actually wrote a “how-to” user guide about this some time ago). The problem however is –apart from the hefty €249 price tag- that the most recent update is from 2013 (with actual map data from 2012) and HERE is stating that they won’t be releasing further updates for this model. Rather interesting if you ask me knowing that there were more than 10,000 9-5NG’s produced and that combined with another 93,000 Ampera’s/Volt’s logically would be a decent installed base to justify the continuation of map upgrades for at least the next few years to come. Apparently the individual requests from 9-5NG owners haven’t had the required effect yet so I am hoping that Orio also in this context will live up to its promise to want to keep all SAAB’s on the road for as long as possible.
I don’t have concrete plans at this point but I still keep on dreaming… I’d love to get the tailgate motorized, Bluetooth handsfree and getting lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition and side collision warning working as well. For now I’m just very happy with this even more perfect and unique car!