THE CAR WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Thu, Jun 9, 2011
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
More than one automotive pundit was surprised to see Saab purchased by Netherlands-based boutique supercar maker Spyker in 2010. Earlier this year, the same pundits were even more surprised to see Saab with a Chinese connection in the form of China’s Pang Da Automomobile Trade Company for financing. Spyker is hopeful of obtaining even further financing from Chinese companies. With this backdrop, we test the latest and possibly greatest product to come out of Saab, the new 9-5—now the car with the (Chinese) dragon tattoo. By John-Fredrik Wright Those who follow the automotive news know that Saab is not Swedish owned any longer. Actually, it hasn’t been for quite some time. In 1989 GM acquired 50 percent of the auto manufacturer (with the other 50 percent belonging to Investor AB, a Swedish investment firm), with an option to purchase the other half within a decade. GM exercised that option, and from the year 2000 Saab was fully owned by GM. 2010 marked a year of great turmoil for the “Swedish” manufacturer, with GM threatening to kill the company and bids to acquire it coming from most parts of the world. The winning bidder/buyer turned out to be the Netherlands-based boutique supercar maker Spyker.
Th, Viggen [eng. Thunderbolt], and Gripen [[eng. Griffin]). The exterior look of it is still “born from jets”, as is the interior cockpit layout. Conveniently, during my week of driving the new 9-5 Turbo4, I had guests staying with me. Coincidentally they were Swedish, and pilots, both of them. It’s always great to have others in the car; it’s the best way to get a spontaneous comment or observation. The pick of this week is; “The back seat of this Saab is more comfortable than the front seat of the Camry (their rental)”. Naturally, we all enjoyed having a “speed strip” visible in the information screen between the RPM and the MPH dials and an airplane showing up on the head-up display (HUD) upon engine start. But, the big question is, is a Swedish car luxurious? Because to justify its hefty $40,000+ (with the options your pushing $47,000) price tag, this has got to be a pretty nice ride. The long and short of it all; it is. It might not be the same type of luxury as one would expect from some of Saabs Germanic competition, but there is that very prominent Nordic touch to this car, which to some, is exactly what signifies real luxury. The front seats with their well appointed leather, a notch above the verycomfortable rear seats, are great for a drive of any distance. To further add to the experience, the Saab rides very smoothly.
Swedish companies in general are known for their good use of technology, and Saab is no exception. The loaded 9-5 comes with the HUD, Blind-spot warning system (BLIS), Speed Limit sign reader, Park Assist, Lane Departure Warning, as well as the usual bells and whistles (or should I say, “bling”) that you expect to find on a luxury car. The one feature I am missing is the automatically opening trunk, but maybe that will only be offered on the station wagon (coming later this year). The Park Assist does a good job at parking the car; telling you exactly what to do to put the car in the desired space. A little slower than someone who knows how to park, but for the learner, or for that very tight spot, this is pretty nifty. The BLIS is great, especially in LA freeway traffic, assisting the driver by keeping track of cars in his or her blind spot and aiding in lane changes. The Lane Departure Warning gets a little annoying, since when driving on some back-country roads you will get very close to the lane markings on purpose, so it’s a good thing that the feature has an off button. For those whose attention wanders this is a great safety feature that will keep you in your lane, and out of mine. I was a little bummed when I realized that the Saab press fleet in LA only had the Turbo4, not the Aero 2.8L Turbo V6. But, seeing as I will probably have a go in that model as well, it’s a great thing I first had the chance to try the Turbo4. Saab has a tendency to squeeze a lot of power out of four cylinder engines, and once again, they do the trick. This car might not knock your socks off in the acceleration department; the 0-60 mph time being over 8 seconds. More important, though, is the power you have when passing a big-rig on the highway. A downshift is really not necessary, since the turbo will charge quickly and blast you forward, but, being an automatic, it does downshift, and it does go! The truck will whiz by before you can say “Bob’s your uncle”, but the passengers will never feel the jerk of an old-school turbo. Actually, anybody not watching the speedometer will not know how fast you are going by the time you’ve completed the pass; the ride is that smooth. Passing is usually (hopefully) done on straight roads, but the smooth ride continues regardless of whatever driving style and road curvature you may encounter. The 9-5 seems to float through windy patches and offers a fluid flow through any on and off ramps. This car really is luxurious, yet simple and refined, and with a great dose of power to back it up. A drive appreciated both by the driver and the passengers.
I mentioned in the beginning of this review that the Saab does remind one of the previous GM ownership. This applies to the interior only, as the exterior is where the Saab shines like a blue-eyed blonde. Inside, the HUD is identical to the Buick I drove a couple of weeks ago, the controls on the steering wheel identical to basically any GM product I’ve been in lately, and the touch-screen navigation screen as well. Now, this is not necessarily a bad thing. The HUD is great, and there has not been a need to change the GM design. Likewise, the steering wheel controls are intuitive and work fine, although the redesign of the actual steering wheel makes it look a little like Donald Duck’s mouth (with his tongue sticking out). Another great feature that comes from the GM heritage is of course the OnStar system, which is available on all their cars. In true Saab fashion, however, the start-button is located between the two front seats, by the gear lever. This is, as all you Saab fanatics remember, where the ignition has been on almost all models throughout Saab’s history. It will be interesting to see what Spyker has planned for the future of the Saab brand. This piece of machinery is definitely a good starting point, and the all-wheel drive (XWD in Saab-speak) 2.8T station wagon is something I am looking forward to. SUMMARY JUDGMENT No matter its country of origin, this car speaks Saab—albeit with a level of luxury heretofore unseen from the folks at Svenska Aeroplan AktieBolaget. For a historic clip of the predecessor to the 9-5, and a great Saab memorabilia, click here For more information about Saab products, go to saabusa.com/us/en/
SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2011 Saab 9-5 Price: $43,435 (base) $46,750 (and as tested with technology package) EPA fuel economy rating: 18 mpg (city) 28 mpg (highway) Engine size and type: 2.0L, Transverse, dual overhead camshafts, 16 valves, Twin-scroll turbocharger Horsepower: 220 @ 5300 Torque: 258 pound-feet @ 2500 Transmission type: Sentronic, 6-speed automatic transmission Drive configuration: Front-wheel drive Steering (type): Power-assisted (hydraulic) rack and pinion Suspension (front and rear): Front McPherson struts, coil springs, gas-hydraulic shock absorbers, anti-roll bar Rear Multi-link axle, coil springs, gas-hydraulic shock absorbers, anti-roll bar Brakes and tires: 17’’ ventilated brake system with Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Cornering Brake Control (CBC), Electronic Brake-Force Distribution (EBD), Emergency Brake Assist (EBA) Dimensions Length: 197.2 in Width: 83.2 in Height: 57.8 in