Saturday, October 22, 2011

2011 Saab 9-5

Specifications prices Modifications and Image 2011 Saab 9-5
Post-GM, Saab has barely been staggering forward under Spyker ownership. Yet for the first time in years, the brand's dealerships have fresh sheetmetal: both in the form of the new Cadillac SRX-based 9-4X, and the all-new flagship sedan, a completely redesigned 9-5. The 9-5 has made it to market. And for what it is, it's a shame that Saab doesn't have more marketing resources or stronger dealerships with which to promote it. This is one of the best new efforts of the model year, with an excellent, spacious interior and a great mix of supreme isolation, driver involvement, and uniquely Saab character.

Design-wise, the new 9-5 is a much more sophisticated sedan that, quite frankly, looks great from all angles. It eschews two common design traits of modern luxury sedans: all the creases and cutlines, and the high tail and high beltline, resulting in a fresh and different look, with smooth, glossy sheetmetal and a softened, somewhat rounded tail that hints to the hatchbacks and sedans of Saab's past. Inside, Saab heritage is reassured with details such as the swoopy instrument panel that cants most controls a bit toward the driver, as well as the expected ignition button located on the center console rather than the steering column or dash. The dash flows cleanly around to the doors, while the instrument panel has bright, backlit green gauge needles and a prominent turbo boost gauge, presented in that Saab-retro all-lower-case font, as other nice details for the in-crowd.

The interior of the old 9-5 wasn’t exactly what one would call technologically advanced. With outdated green backlit displays that looked liked they were out of a 1970s passenger jet, there was little one could say about the niceties of the cabin. Step inside the new 9-5 and you’ll find it hard to believe it’s a Saab.

Standard on all models is a giant eight-inch touchscreen embedded beautifully into the cabin. It has 10GB of space and comes equipped with satellite navigation. Connected to that is an 11-speaker Harman Kardon system that is sure to please even the fussiest of audiophiles. It has built-in Bluetooth phone connectivity but unfortunately misses out on Bluetooth audio streaming.

The front windscreen has a minute wrap-around effect and the whole cabin is designed with a cockpit as inspiration. The digital speedometer can even be changed to show speed in the same manner as an altimeter, which is very enjoyable to use (although if you do end up with a speeding ticket, we suspect the men in blue will not buy it as an excuse).

There is head-up display system which projects information (such as speed, temperature, time, navigation) on to the windscreen (standard across the range) while Aero and Vector petrol models are available with Saab’s DriveSense which allows the driver to pick from three different driving modes: Comfort, Intelligent and Sport.

The front seats are very spacious but will still hug you when it matters. There is plenty of room to fit a Scandinavian warrior in the back seat, and if need be you can even entertain him thanks to the optional twin eight-inch rear screen systems (which can run independently of the front screen, so each of the three systems can play different media).

During our review we got to drive the Turbo4 front-wheel drive and the Turbo6 all-wheel drive (referred to as XWD in Saab language) around the twisty mountain roads of Daylesford in Victoria (we will review the diesel soon). Despite being the same model, the Turbo4 and Turbo6 are totally different vehicles, not only because one is XWD and the other FWD, but also because their suspension set-up is unique. The diesel gets front McPherson type axle with a multi link rear axle for the most comfortable ride set-up possible. The Turbo4 has a different rear suspension (H-link) for added responsiveness while the range-topping Turbo6 gets a more sporty HiPerStrut front suspension (same as the Opel Insignia VRX). 

Firstly, we have to consider the looks. Unlike the Germans, the Saab has a very unique character to it. If there were only 100 BMW 5 Series vehicles on Australian roads, one could potentially say the same thing but given just how many are driving around, the Germans haven’t exactly got uniqueness on their side.

The 9-5′s front, although modern, is still very much Saab. According to Saab’s head designer Simon Padian, the new 9-5′s look was inspired by light and nature, luxury of space, clean uncluttered design and contrast.

The rear end sports the ‘iceblock’ style taillights that go across the entire back and create a very striking characteristic for the vehicle at night. Saab believes its customers strive for uniqueness, so offering a vehicle with character and Scandinavian design themes was a must.

Overall you’re not going to mistake a 9-5 in traffic for a A6 or an E-Class. Its unique factor is probably its biggest drawing card against the mighty Germans.

The interior of the old 9-5 wasn’t exactly what one would call technologically advanced. With outdated green backlit displays that looked liked they were out of a 1970s passenger jet, there was little one could say about the niceties of the cabin. Step inside the new 9-5 and you’ll find it hard to believe it’s a Saab.

The 2011 Saab 9-5 Turbo4 is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 that produces 220 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. Front-wheel drive is standard, along with a six-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic is optional on the base Turbo4 and standard on all other 9-5 models. EPA-estimated fuel economy with this engine has not been announced as of this writing.

The 9-5 Turbo6 XWD and Aero get a turbocharged 2.8-liter V6 that produces 300 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission and Saab's advanced all-wheel-drive system are standard. In Edmunds performance testing, the 9-5 Aero went from zero to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds ? a decent midpack time for all-wheel-drive sedans of this type. EPA-estimated fuel economy stands at 17 mpg city/27 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined ? slightly better than average for all-wheel-drive sedans with this sort of power.

Every 2011 Saab 9-5 comes standard with stability and traction control, antilock brakes, front and rear side airbags, side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. In Edmunds brake testing, the 9-5 Aero came to a stop from 60 mph in a short 113 feet. 

Driving Impressions
We have yet to drive the Turbo4 or Turbo6 models, but the 2011 Saab 9-5 Aero surprised us with its communicative steering and a very neutral balance through quick corners. Saab's all-wheel-drive system (which includes an electronic limited-slip differential) is one of the best, proportioning power seamlessly among the wheels for maximum traction and balance. We actually found the 9-5 Aero to be a more rewarding and involving driver's car than the new BMW 5 Series. We also found its adjustable drive settings (known as DriveSense) to be more adjustable and better sorted than BMW's similar system.

The 9-5 Aero's sport-tuned suspension is on the firm side for the class, especially when you engage Sport in DriveSense. The ride is far more forgiving and feels more substantial than the Infiniti M37, however, while being far from uncomfortable. We suspect the non-Aero models will be rather supple, though the Turbo4's front-wheel-drive layout is guaranteed to exhibit less impressive handling.,,

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