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First Drive: Saab 9-5. Image by Charlie Magee.

First Drive: Saab 9-5
Bjorn Again Saab introduces its new 9-5, a car that's tasked with saving the Swedish firm.


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| First Drive | Sweden | 2010 Saab 9-5 |

Saved at the last minute by Dutch sportscar company Spyker, Saab has won a reprieve. Usefully this new 9-5 was waiting in the wings to be launched, the big saloon replacing a 13-year old model. Saab is promising big things in the coming years, and the 9-5 is the starting point. It's a promising one, too.

In the Metal

It's big; the 9-5 now fits more comfortably into the size category where it's meant to compete. Specifically that's the area dominated by the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Audi A6. Saab sees the 9-5's most obvious rival among that three as the A6, Saab considering the 9-5 a more individual, understated choice compared to its German rivals. The styling reflects this, with the 9-5 being a relatively restrained looker. Some of the details have been exaggerated over its predecessor, with the front grille and air intakes in particular giving the big saloon a strong presence when you spot it in the rear-view mirror, but otherwise it's an elegant, flowing shape.

Its size does mean lots of space inside and in the boot, while the cabin is pure Saab, with quirks like the cool 'nightpanel' instrument dimming button and transmission tunnel mounted ignition present and correct. That ignition is now a button push - all 9-5s come with keyless start. Thanks to great seats and all that space the cabin is comfortable, but the materials and layout of the controls lack the more substantial feel and look of the 9-5's best premium rivals. It's a cut above the mainstream inside, but it doesn't quite exude the quality of its German adversaries.

What you get for your Money

Saab realises it's going to have to work hard to convince buyers out of the more obvious German cars, which means a relatively generous standard kit list. There's keyless start, Bluetooth telephony, automatic headlamps, dual-zone climate control, leather seats, MP3/iPod integration, heated seats, cruise control and parking sensors. Three engines will be initially offered: a 2.0-litre turbo petrol, a 2.0-litre turbodiesel and a turbocharged 3.0-litre V6. The flagship gets an automatic and four-wheel drive as standard, these available optionally elsewhere in the range.

Driving it

Taking on and beating the established sporting benchmark of BMW's 5 Series isn't really what the 9-5 is about. At least, that's what Saab is saying, though the option of an adaptive suspension system with three settings does suggest that the Swedes recognise that buyers in this market want some driver appeal. And the 9-5 delivers it, in the relaxed, refined and unfussy way that the Swedes seem to excel at. The 9-5 feels big, but it's wieldy, the suspension providing good ride comfort and control. There's not much in the way of steering feel, but the 9-5 does get down the road with fluidity that'll suit its intended audience.

The engines (all turbocharged) provide decent if not scintillating performance. The diesels will be the biggest sellers, with the 157bhp 2.0-litre TiD providing respectable pace combined with tax-friendly emissions and good economy - 62mph arrives in 9.9 seconds and the combined consumption and emissions figures of 53.2mpg and 139g/km are very competitive in its class.

The turbocharged petrol 2.0-litre engine feels livelier, but that's at odds with the otherwise relaxed gait of the 9-5. The 296bhp 2.8-litre V6 all-wheel drive flagship feels quick, but there's little incentive to push it hard, the engine note not particularly rousing, nor the drive particularly involving. Underlining that is an automatic gearbox that might feature paddle-shifters but doesn't allow you to override the transmission when it's in automatic mode. It's a busy gearbox too, the shifts themselves not always particularly smooth.

Worth Noting

The 9-5 will be introduced in the UK in July with three engines. Two more will follow in 2011: a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol with 177bhp and a more powerful 2.0-litre turbodiesel with 187bhp. Only offered as a four-door this year, a 9-5 estate will join the saloon next year. Four-wheel drive is available on all but the entry-level 1.6T, it bringing additional traction but at the expense of economy and emissions.


Best in its smaller, more economical, front-wheel drive derivatives, the new 9-5 is a capable competitor in the premium market. It is generously proportioned, equipped and priced and looks great. It's been a long time coming, but the Saab 9-5 seems to have been worth the wait.

Kyle Fortune - 3 Jun 2010

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2010 Saab 9-5. Image by Saab.2010 Saab 9-5. Image by Saab.2010 Saab 9-5. Image by Charlie Magee.2010 Saab 9-5. Image by Charlie Magee.2010 Saab 9-5. Image by Charlie Magee.

2010 Saab 9-5. Image by Charlie Magee.2010 Saab 9-5. Image by Charlie Magee.2010 Saab 9-5. Image by Charlie Magee.2010 Saab 9-5. Image by Charlie Magee.2010 Saab 9-5. Image by Charlie Magee.

2010 Saab 9-5. Image by Charlie Magee.

2010 Saab 9-5. Image by Charlie Magee.

2010 Saab 9-5. Image by Charlie Magee.

2010 Saab 9-5. Image by Charlie Magee.

2010 Saab 9-5. Image by Charlie Magee.


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