The last few days have been a whirlwind of activity for everyone at Saab.
This is possibly the most important vehicle launch since the Saab 92, right at the beginnings of the Saab story. Back then, it was a matter of creating a company that could be viable and provide a car that customers in Sweden would want.
Earlier this year, General Motors stated that they would sell or close Saab at the end of 2009. Thankfully a buyer has been found in the form of Koenigsegg Group but the situation is remarkably similar to 1947. Saab have a new product but their situation is tenuous and they need that new product to find a place in the market in order to ensure their viability in the future.
That product is the 2010 Saab 9-5 and in the last few days I’ve been fortunate enough to see it in person, sit in the car, feel the interior and perhaps a little more lucky than most, I’ve also managed to drive one around Saab’s headquarters in Trollhattan.
Within hours of first seeing the car at the Frankfurt Motor Show, I posted my initial impressions online. In short, I told you all that you MUST come and see this car for yourself. That sentiment hasn’t changed, but I guess I’ve a few days now to process what I’ve seen and put it together with some information from Saab’s product people.
What I’d like to do now, over the course of several entries, is take a closer look at the 2010 Saab 9-5 and share those thoughts with you here.
The first we saw of the 2010 Saab 9-5 was via pictures released prior to the car’s release. Some of those pictures weren’t of the best quality or on the best angles and at the end of the day, they’re only a two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional object.
I maintain my initial thoughts here that this is a car you must see for yourself. The latest pictures we’ve seen are of much better quality, but as with most Saab designs, this is a car that will grow on you.
In person, it has a very deliberate and confident appearance. It is definitely conservative rather than racy, which is exactly the market that Saab are positioning it for. Those who like to personalise their cars won’t be disappointed, however, as the 9-5 will make a great starting point for someone looking to make their car more purposeful in appearance.
As someone who prefers a racier style of car myself, I see this and I see something I’d be very happy living with straight from the showroom, but I also something I’d happily look forward to customising in the future.
Photo from the excellent collection by Olaf Becker
This car may not appear as instantly Saaby to those to whom any Saab must look like a classic Saab 900. Saab have freuqently been an evolutionary company, however, taking cues from previous cars and applying them to new ones. This car is no exception.
They are right in that the main attribution is due more to a concept car than to a road car. The Aero-X dominates the front fascia of this car and the application of the look in this instance is fantastic. The controversial intrusion of the front grille into the hood of the car is controversy no more. See it on the production car and there’s no doubt about the fact that it works.
The classic Saab hockey stick is there, though in a less pronounced way via a metallic trim around the rear window.
The most pronounced cue for me as an old Saab fan, however, is in the rear. The connection of the rear window and the rear deck of the car reminded me instantly of a two-door Saab 99 and the image comes back to me every time I see it. Combine that cue with what have become instantly classic tail lights on the 9-5 and I could stare at the back of this car all day.
Like most Saab designs, this one will take a little while to grow on some people. The car is large, which hasn’t always been a Saab trait, though it doesn’t feel overwhelmingly large when you see it in person. It feels more like a definite presence than an overpowering one.
Maybe the best way to see it is in motion? We can’t put a live car in front of you, but this video that Eggs found earlier (and is part of the press kit from Saab) shows the car off pretty nicely.
The 2010 Saab 9-5 has an engine range that’s bigger than any range Saab have had at launch for any car in the past. Whilst that’s exciting enough as it is, I can tell you that there’s more to come in time, too.
As you can see in the tech specs, above, there’s a range of engines and drivetrains available at launch that should ensure that Saab get good exposure in the most important sales areas.
Now, we’re an enthusiast community here at Saabs United, which means that we may not typically be looking for what the average consumer is looking for. Please bear this in mind.
I know there have been some comments about no XWD with diesel and no manual with the V6 Aero, but before you gnash your teeth a little more and curse Saab’s product people into next week, have a think for a moment.
Saab are a car company that are literally on the brink. They have what is truly an excellent product in the 9-5 but they also have some constraints on what they can do. let’s explore those for a minute.
The first constraint is resources. Yes, they have other engine and transmission combinations that should hopefully become available in the future, but those combinations take money to configure, market and source and some of those combinations may not lead to significantly higher sales straight away.
The second constraint is the law. Saab’s single biggest market is in the United States but their biggest collective market is in Europe. In Europe, emissions are king and they are what car companies will live and die by. That’s why BMW’s marketing message is now all about Efficient Dynamics rather than performance. Saab have to concentrate their limited resources on meeting the emissions regulations that will be prevalent in Europe in years to come and being successful in that context has to be their #1 priority at this time.
I believe this why we have the engine range that we have at launch. There is some definite excitement in that engine range, but performance and excitement is not at the core of what Saab are doing here.
At the forefront of Saab’s engine offerings are economical and emissions-friendly engines in the form of the 2 litre diesel and 1.6 litre turbo gasoline engine. A large part of Saab’s sales for this car are going to be to fleet markets in the UK etc, and those engines are going to be tax-friendly and appealing offerings in those markets.
If I’ve got my facts straight on emissions, all companies are going to have to maintain a fleet average of under 130g/kg by 2012. That’s why Saab are concentrating their initial efforts at gaining exposure for these emissions and tax-friendly options.
Saab reps told me that they do have plans to get a performance diesel released (and that implies XWD) but they need to establish these tax-friendly offerings first, which is a good strategy in my books.
For those who want a bit more zing, there are the 2.0turbo BioPower and V6 Aero options. The BioPower engine is a new evolution of the Saab four cylinder turbo and it’s the first Saab gasoline engine to (finally) get Direct Injection. I drove a Saab 9-5 mule a few days ago fitted with this engine and I can tell you first hand that it will please a great number of people. More on that later.
And for even more zing, there’s the V6 Aero option. Some will decry the lack of a manual gearbox with this car, but once again you have to think in terms of Saab maximising their returns from limited resources. This engine’s main market will be the United States, where auto transmissions with the option of driving the car in a manual mode are by far the larger sellers. Hopefully a manual option can be added in the future, but in the meantime there will be plenty of happy customers driving V6s.
This concludes Part 1, the introduction to what will likely be a three or four part review.
I can give you the ending now, though – this is a cracker of a car and it’s going to make a lot of Saab enthusiasts happy, as well ask making a heck of a lot of other people take a look at a Saab as a viable option to other European cars.
Check back in for more later….
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