Saab sales in North America dropped 35 percent between 2007 and 2008, with total ’08 sales hitting just barely over 20,000. Then 2009 hit together with GM’s overly excited announcement that Saab was history, and Saab’s North American sales plunged a further 59 percent to just 8,680 vehicles. Not good for a market that should be buying at least 50,000 of your cars per annum. It is to be noticed that this 9-5 is a fully loaded Aero trim with the 296-horsepower, Holden-supplied, 2.8-liter V-6 as pumped up by a Borg Warner turbocharger, and fitted with the company’s outstanding XWD that combines an electric limited slip rear differential, together with the Haldex all-wheel traction. Nice package. The 9-5 Aero interior is an honestly solid execution in taking the recent Opel/Buick/Cadillac high quality and making it Saab’s own.
The dominant color, apart from the soothing grays in the leather and dash of this tester on this cloudy Dutch day, is a vibrant, antifreeze green.
All instrument needles, some touch-screen sat-nav buttons, and several ambient lighting trim bits around the cabin shine with this traditional Saab hue.
There is no longer a standard key insert for the ignition by the driver’s inboard thigh–let’s just call it “that heritage anchor.” It has been suitably updated to a push-button StartStop with tiny light slots that glow green, too. The old-time, space-hogging handbrake lever is gone as well, all 9-5s now being fitted with a discreet electro-hydraulic handbrake. Looking straight through the three-spoke Aero-design steering wheel, inspired by recent show cars like 2006’s Aero X, you see a digital onboard data dial. Among other things, this little disc can show an airplane altimeter-style speedometer readout, which struck us as sufficiently cool. As we’ve always felt in Saabs, the full leather and its stitching can still be made to be more upmarket.
Not long after the midsummer North American launch of the 9-5, in fact, there will be a premium-level personalization program offered in part to help solve the puckered-leatherette feeling of the current material. The Aero sport seats could be more sporting as well, as regards their overall support especially at the sides. Any improvements to the outgoing 9-5’s exterior looks are going to be better than what Saab’s larger car was forced to live with in recent years. This 9-5 at least starts to rediscover formerly shunned airplane fuselage-style sleekness and angles. The shape of the car is very clean, and looks good in this lighter silvery gray. All of the lighting elements deliberately take on a chilly feeling, particularly up front where the term “ice block” is being used by Saab to describe the slight blue tint.
In back, a new look that will be part of all future Saabs is the bar of light running the width of the trunk—it’s a distinctive touch we like. Particular to the Aero look are the much meaner and larger front air intakes, nineteen-inch “turbine” wheels dressed in aggressive Goodyear Eagle F1 tires, adaptive cornering LED headlights, and the dual rectangular exhaust tips visible through the fascia. This exact car we got to drive, in fact, is the only model of the 9-5 initially arriving in North America. The 217-horsepower, turbocharged, 2.0T four-cylinder will arrive later in 2010, and the XWD and eLSD will be available as options for that motor, too. In a really evolved move, the new 9-5 Saabs for North America will all come available only with the 6-speed Tiptronic automatic. The manual shift linkage we’ve tried on European 9-5s and 9-3s is the worst we have ever had to live with in this century.
Get this worthy head of steam going, introduce long overdue improvements, and then the price can start creeping up to Audi territory.
2011 Saab 9-5 Aero Turbo6 XWD Specifications:
Engine: Turbocharged V-6, 2.8 liters, 24v
Output: 296 hp / 295 lb-ft
Top Speed: 150 mph
Weight: 4630 lb
0-60 MPH (est.): 6.7 sec
Base Price (est.): $49,000
Price as Tested (est.): $55,000