2011 Saab 9-5 Auto Review

10 May 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on 2011 Saab 9-5 Auto Review

2011 Saab 9-5

The beginning of a new era

Gary Witzenburg on 08.17.2010

Back a few years, when newly appointed General Motors Design Vice President Ed Welburn was asked how he could keep each of GM’s (then) eight U.S. brands fresh, appealing and different from each other, he said each would have an icon vehicle from which its design language would be derived. Before Sweden’s Saab was sold to exotic Dutch sports-car maker Spyker early this year, it was one of those eight. What was Welburn’s icon vehicle for future Saab design? The old eccentric Saab 900.

That made sense because the first-generation 900-introduced in 1978 and built through 1993-is considered the company’s most design-iconic vehicle. But could its very unique styling be modernized to look appealing today, and beyond? Does it translate to the new 2011 Saab 9-5?

Today’s Saab 9-5

Saab 9-5 Interior

Inside its quiet, spacious cabin are more strong, simple, traditional Saab shapes echoing that exterior design. Legroom is increased front and rear vs. the previous Saab 9-5, and the interior materials, fit and finish and tactile quality of the controls all have a more premium feel.

Infotainment choices include premium Harman/Kardon surround-sound audio and GPS navigation with an eight-inch touchscreen and hard-disk storage for map data and 10 GB of music. Inside the deep center console are USB and Aux connections and a 12V power outlet. Rear passengers in a new Saab 9-5 will have their own audio and climate controls and available DVD video with foldout screens in the backs of the front seats.

Each available Saab 9-5 engine comes with its own suspension system and calibration, and each is available with a sport chassis setting. An array of state-of-the-art technologies-including what Saab calls its DriveSense adaptive chassis with driver-adjustable settings and real-time damping control, dynamic parking assist and XWD (Saab’s advanced, corner-to-corner all-wheel-drive system) with a rear electronic limited-slip differential combines to deliver a great driving character.

Other available high-tech features in the 2011 Saab 9-5 include an aircraft-like display called Pilot HUD, Bi-Xenon Smart Beam adaptive headlamps, adaptive cruise control and tri-zone air conditioning. Our only disappointment was the lack of an available rear-view camera, a major omission in this price range.

Saabs have always been fine-handling front-drive cars, and the turbo-four models are Saab’s best ever dynamically. Their steering is crisp and responsive, their braking reliably strong, and their suspensions take a set and hold on through tight and faster sweeping curves.

The addition of XWD (standard with the turbo-V6) eliminates virtually all annoying FWD understeer. The Saab 9-5‘s driver-selectable DriveSense system adjusts damping rates, steering feel, transmission shift points, throttle response and even front-to-rear torque distribution with a three-position switch. Its settings are Comfort, Sport and Intelligent (automatic).

This all-new 2011 9-5 is Saab’s most technically advanced car ever. Based on a GM architecture and powered by GM engines, it is built at Saab’s Trollhättan, Sweden home plant, where it was engineered and (mostly) developed, it is a serious contender in the premium Euro-sedan segment. Next year will come a Saab 9-5 wagon and a 9-4X, a mechanical mate to Cadillac’s strong-selling new SRX and Saab’s first crossover, then an all-new 9-3 for 2012.

This car is the start of a new era for our brand, says Saab CEO Jan Åke Jonsson, adding that the newly independent company retains a safety net in the form of technology licenses with GM. The 9-5’s Epsilon II architecture can be used through two complete lifecycles, and the powertrains can be sourced from GM for as long as Saab wants them.

The Saab brand and its Swedish maker, much-loved by a sizable cadre of loyal Saab-philes, nearly died when GM put it up for sale and early efforts to sell it failed. Then along came Spyker to save and revive it at the last possible moment. The current 9-3 is a pretty good car, but if this new 2011 Saab 9-5 is any indication, Saab should rise and prosper again.

Former automotive engineer Gary Witzenburg has been writing about the auto industry, its people and its products for major magazines, newspapers and web sites for more than 20 years.

He was invited to a Saab press preview event in Sweden where he tested all 2011 Saab 9-5 models.

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