Saab 9-5 Turbo 4 : 2011 - test drive

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MSRP Engine HP Manufactured
$43,435 2.0 liter DOCH L4 Turbo 220.0 n/a
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Defined and equipped by Saab as its top-of-the-line contender in the premium sedan segment, the new 9-5 is the most technically advanced car ever produced by the company.

When I heard this vehicle was coming to us I was excited to see what Saab had turned into after all of the turmoil they've been thru in recent years.

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2011 Saab 9-5 Turbo 4 Sedan.

I really want to like this car. And in some ways, there is alot to like. A few quick examples are...
1) It rides great, doesn't feel floaty or bouncy and has a very nice tight and firm perosnality.
2) The interior is quite nice (if you ignore the wall of black plastic that is the dashboard)
3) The 220hp engine has plenty of power, and it reacts with more power than the listed horsepower suggests.
4) It's a nice and elegant exterior, and the details like the lower vent on the rear of the front fender is nicely placed.

There are some very subtle but important "touch" points that make the car feel expensive and well built, like the support of the seats, and how they are stitched. The way the gearshift feels in your hand and how it glides and clicks into each position, and how the thump of the door sounds when you shut it.

But there are just a few items that make me wonder why they stopped there. Now, I am perfectly aware that all of this is a matter of opinion, and it will likely differ from other point-of-views, but one of the items that disturb me is the dashboard. As I mention above, the interior is very nice and quite attractive, but the dashboard - at least in the "Premium" model we had, which directly faces you (and therefore is seen by you almost all of the time) is made from a slab of what appears to be cheap black plastic. That said, there are other trim models that use better textures.

There other item that I do not like (and Saab is not alone here) in the real "fake-looking" wood trim.

For years this brand has been mistreated. It almost seemed that it was on purpose and even GM admited that while it onwed it for over twenty years, it lost money every year. It's no wonder. All you have to do is look at the decay in product and design craftsmanship as it slowly went down hill each and every model year. Incredibly sad when you compare and recognize the amazing and beautiful vehicles they gave us in the past.

It's not that they didn't have the talent to bring new thinking to the world stage. In fact, that was the most frustrating part of this sad evolution. It seemed like almost every year they would tease and show us a stunning concept, like the 1985 Saab EV-1, or the 2006 Saab Aero X, or the 2008 Saab 9-X "Air" BioHybrid, or the 2010 Saab 9-1, or the 2011 Saab PhoeniX, only to be shelved. Just one of these cars could have turned the brand around and perhaps even saved them from the very bumpy road they are currently on, just like the TT did for Audi back in 1998.

Do I think this car will make a difference? I don't know, but for as good as it is, I don't think so. I just don't think it's enough. There is very stiff competition out there, and price is critical.

All New Saab 9-5 Sedan.
The all new Saab 9-5 sedan signals the start of a new era for the Saab brand. Sleek, sophisticated and unmistakably Saab, it combines stand-out looks with advanced technologies and brings a fresh alternative choice to the premium sedan segment.

The clean, sculpted shape embraces the purity of Scandinavian design and its dramatic wraparound window graphic echoes Saab’s aviation heritage. With frontal styling inspired by the award-winning Aero X concept car and a muscular, low-slung stance, the new 9-5 heralds the introduction of a bold, more expressive design language.

The array of high-tech features on offer includes: an aircraft-like head-up information display (Pilot HUD); adaptive lighting (Bi-Xenon Smart Beam); adaptive cruise control; Saab DriveSense adaptive chassis with real-time damping control; keyless entry and starting; tri-zone air conditioning; dynamic parking assistance and Saab XWD with a rear eLSD, the industry-leading all-wheel-drive system.

The all-turbo powertrain line-up starts at 1.6 liters and carries forward Saab’s rightsizing engine strategy, which focuses on responsible performance through the development of highly efficient and relatively small four cylinder turbo engines. There is a choice of three fuels - gasoline, diesel and E85 bioethanol – and with diesel power, the new 9-5 offers CO2 emissions as low as 139 g/km.

“This car is the start of a new era for our brand,” says Jan Åke Jonsson, Saab Automobile’s CEO. “We have created an advanced and very distinctive product by leveraging the power of our roots in key areas, such as progressive Scandinavian design, sporty driving and responsible performance. The new 9-5 delivers in all these respects, as will every future product from Saab.”

Scandinavian Design.
Forward-looking design that doesn’t ignore where it’s coming from – that sums up the visual appeal of the all-new Saab 9-5 sedan. “We are giving a fresh, very modern expression to some of our classic brand design cues,” says Simon Padian, Saab Brand Design Chief. “We have taken visual themes in our recent concept cars, such as the Aero X, which are inspired by Scandinavian design and our brand’s aircraft heritage.”

The face of the new 9-5 is defined by a deep grille flanked with curving, ice-block headlamp units. The entire glasshouse is presented as a ‘wraparound’ mono graphic, the disguised windshield and side pillars giving the cabin Saab’s signature cockpit look. Squint slightly, and the proportions of the windshield and roof become reminiscent of the classic 900 model.

Viewed from any angle, the all new 9-5 cuts a strong and powerful stance. The ‘organic sculpture’ of the low-slung body blends clean, uncluttered lines with natural, curvaceous shapes. Brand design cues are evident in the ‘hockey stick’ belt-line, the strong rear C-pillars and the fuselage-smooth surfacing of the bodywork. The large Saab logo embossed in the center of the grille characterizes the more assertive, self-confident design language.

The car’s dynamic character is emphasized by a falling roof-line that culminates in sweeping rear pillars which buttress a slightly recessed rear screen. Latent energy is conveyed by fenders that are subtly pulled out to melt into the wheels. Below that smooth, flat rear deck, a full-width, ice-block rear light bar wraps into signature lighting.

The new 9-5’s overall proportions stretch the traditional three-box sedan silhouette, while avoiding the fastback cliché of a four-door coupé look.

Driver-focused cabin.
Inside the spacious cabin, simple forms define its architecture and echo the design purity of the exterior. Compared to its predecessor, legroom is increased both front and rear. The choice of materials, the fit and finish and the tactile quality of the controls all reflect the new 9-5’s premium appeal.

The driver-focused cockpit is traditional Saab, while its execution is all new. The deep center console sweeps up at a shallow angle around the driver into the main instrument display, which is topped by a neat ventilation zone. Deeply recessed main dials include a rolling ‘altimeter’ speed read-out, a reference to Saab’s aviation heritage from the Aero X concept. Driver displays, including the optional head-up display (Pilot HUD) in the windshield, are predominantly illuminated in signature Saab green and have a crisp, floating appearance. The car’s ignition, now a start/stop button, remains between the front seats, next to the gear shift.

Infotainment choices include a top-of-the-line harman/kardon surround sound audio system and an 8-inch touchscreen navigation system with hard disk storage for map data and 10 GB of jukebox-style music files. A large center console provides stowage and connections for several portable devices through USB and Aux ports alongside a 12V power outlet.

Rear passengers can access their own audio or watch a DVD. The rear seat entertainment unit in the back of the center console accommodates audio controls and fold-out viewing screens are installed in the front seat-backs. Wired and wireless headphones are provided for listening and viewing. The rear seat entertainment unit also includes twin air vents and an independent temperature/fan speed control for the rear cabin, in addition to the dual zone air conditioning up front.

On the road.
An array of chassis technologies is focused on delivering a sporty, rewarding driving experience that belies the 9-5’s size.

Saab XWD, the industry-leading all-wheel-drive system, already available on the Saab 9-3, is offered with all engines except the 1.6-liter gasoline and 160 hp turbo diesel.

Available throughout the range is adaptive chassis control with driver settings selection through Saab DriveSense, Bi-Xenon Smart Beam adaptive lighting and intelligent cruise control. Three different suspension combinations are factory-fitted according to engine power and are also available with a sport chassis setting.
Saab has some 30 years experience in turbocharging engines and the all-turbo powertrain line-up in the new 9-5 further develops Saab’s rightsizing engine strategy. At launch, the four cylinder choice comprises a 160 hp, 2.0-liter turbo diesel with CO2 emissions of just 139 gm/km and a 2.0-liter gasoline turbo developing 220 hp. A top-of-the-line 2.8V6 turbo, generating 300 hp and 400 Nm of torque, is offered exclusively with Saab XWD.

Shortly after launch, a small, 1.6-liter gasoline turbo with 180 hp will be introduced, together with a 2.0-liter BioPower E85-capable engine. A powerful 190 hp, 2.0-liter two-stage turbo diesel, generating 400 Nm of torque, will complete the powertrain line-up. All transmissions are six-speed.

The 9-5 is being built at Saab’s home plant in Trollhättan, where it has been engineered and chiefly developed. Available in Linear, Vector or Aero specification, the all new 9-5 heralds the start of a new era for Saab. Scandinavian simplicity was never this advanced!

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2011 Saab 9-5 Turbo 4 Sedan.

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2011 Saab 9-5 Turbo 4 Sedan.

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2011 Saab 9-5 Turbo 4 Sedan.

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2011 Saab 9-5 Turbo 4 Sedan.

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2011 Saab 9-5 Turbo 4 Sedan interior.

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2011 Saab 9-5 Turbo 4 Sedan interior.

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2011 Saab 9-5 Turbo 4 Sedan gauge cluster.

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Saab logo.


2011 Saab 9-5 Turbo 4 review.

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