Since the Saab brand was ditched by General Motors, many people didn’t expect a new 9-5 to ever hit the streets. But, following the company’s purchase by Swedish supercar manufacturer Koenigsegg, there’s finally a new one. And it’s about time, too. The original 9-5 started production way back in 1997 to replace the Saab 9000, and it hasn’t been significantly upgraded at all since that time. Yep, 12 years with no generation update. That seems almost inconceivable in today’s market, so let’s hope this new one is worth it.
Now, this isn’t to say that the 9-5 on the market right now is junk. There have been a few smaller updates that, over those twelve years, have retained the model’s reputation as a decent sedan. But, considering the success of the company’s 9-3, and all the features it had, the 9-5 was a bit of a joke. One of the main gripes against the original 9-5 was a lack of interior space. The car was considered an “Executive Sedan,” along the lines of a BMW 3-Series, but the 9-3 was actually a bit more comfortable and roomy despite its smaller dimensions. The 2010 9-5 remedies this and introduces modern interior design to the larger body, resulting in a very roomy and luxurious cabin.
The outside has also seen significant improvements over the outgoing model. As with all Saab’s, the new 9-5′s styling won’t be for everybody. But for those who appreciate the Swede’s aesthetic taste, the 9-5 is quite the looker. It doesn’t have any needlessly flashy elements, with the most extreme feature being the faux-wraparound style glass, which was meant to give the windshield and windows the look of an airplane’s cockpit. The roof line isn’t quite what you would expect, as its gradual rear slope is made much more noticeable by a sharper decline at the tops of the rear windows. These are minor qualms, however, as otherwise the 9-5 conveys the exact message its supposed to: “this is a responsible, practical sedan.”
Over the twelve years of the 9-5′s first generation, there were oodle’s of engine options, but the 2010 model will keep it simple. The starting trim will have a 2.0-liter turbocharged four that puts out 220 horsepower, and the higher trim will have a 2.8-liter turbocharged V6 that will produce 300 horsepower and will have the option of being paired with Saab’s cross-wheel drive (XWD) system. There will also be a 1.6-liter diesel engine, and later on a 1.6-liter gasoline engine, but both of those options are unlikely to hit the United States and will probably be exclusive to European markets.
Up until this point, the new 9-5 is looking like a pretty good car. But now we come to the bad news. Because Saab was owned by General Motors for so long, a lot of GM technology is underpinning the new 9-5, most notably the company’s Epsilon II chassis platform. The Epsilon II isn’t attached to too many models right now, but it will be the future platform of the Buick Regal, Chevrolet Impala, and (in a modified form) Chevrolet Malibu. These are not cars that you want your model associate with if you’re going to market it as a smart, European sedan. However, there aren’t really any Epsilon II-derived cars on the road right now, so it’s nearly impossible to draw any conclusions about the potential handling of the new 9-5. So, let’s just leave it at the fact that the original Epsilon platform didn’t exactly deliver an inspired driving experience, so let’s hope its successor does a better job.
The gripe about the chassis platform may not even be a factor for many potential buyers, though. The 2010 Saab 9-5 will largely appeal to those who need a reliable sedan for a daily work commute. If you’re a performance junkie, this is not the car to consider. But there’s a reason that the old 9-5 was able to last twelve years without any significant improvements: Saab knows how to build a practical, reliable car. And that fact alone is probably worth more, in the long run, than a bit of odd styling and questionable handling.