Saab’s corporate woes continue to fill the media columns but all is not bad news – in the exciting new 9-5 they have a car that could set the Swedish flag flying proudly once more.
Like Citroën and Alfa Romeo, Saab cars have always been a bit quirky but like those equally leftfield French and Italian rivals they have commanded a fiercely loyal following through the years. It would, indeed, be a great shame if any of these three badges should disappear.
I was lucky enough to be invited on the 9-5 launch in Hampshire and have to admit that, on initial impressions, I was rather disappointed. Though distinctively shaped, it seemed a rather ordinary offering.
It didn’t help that the route was rather boring and congested.
However, having now lived with the car for a full week of mixed motoring, I have to say I have been fully seduced by its qualities. It's a first-rate executive express.
The boldly expressive styling is low-slung and muscular, inspired by the company’s acclaimed Aero X concept car.
“We have gone for a more assertive design language to give what we feel is a fresh and very modern expression to some of our classic design cues,” comments Saab’s design chief, Simon Padian.
The 9-5’s array of high-tech features includes an aircraft-style head-up information display; Bi-Xenon smart beam adaptive e lighting; adaptive cruise control; a Drive-Sense adaptive chassis with real-time damping control; keyless entry and starting; tri-zone air-conditioning, dynamic parking assistance and, available with all engines except the 1.6 petrol and 2.0 TiD turbo diesel versions, superbly engineered four-wheel drive.
The all-turbo powertrain line-up starts with a 1.6-litre petrol version. Saab’s strategy relies on strong performance from small but potent four-cylinder turbo engines. Other petrol-driven options are a 2.0-litre and the superb range-topping 2.8 version, whose engine is a V6 that can sprint to 62 mph in 6.9 seconds and reach 155 mph.
Two diesels are available, both of two-litre capacity, one developing 160 hp, the other 190 hp. All versions come with a six-speed transmission and Vectra SE and Aero trim levels are available.
There’s a premium feel to the cabin, with very clear deeply recessed main dials, including an aircraft-instrument style speed read-out.
While it’s all very much driver-focused, it is a cosseting place for passengers too, with abundant leg, head and shoulder room for everyone onboard.
Among the infotainment options is a top-of-the-line Harman/Kardon surround-sound audio system and an eight-inch touch-screen navigation system, with hard disc storage for map data and 10 GB for MP3 music files.
Rear passengers can listen to their own audio or watch a DVD on fold-out screens set into the front seat-backs.
Out on the road, comfort levels are high despite the car’s sporting demeanour. It’s a fine alternative to competing Audi, BMW and Mercedes models, with prices ranging from £27,000 to £38,625.