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Saab 9-5 2011 review

It wasn't so long ago that Saab was for all intents and purposes dead in the water.

Dumped by General Motors during the financial crisis, it was eventually bailed out by German sports car maker Spyker which has in turn joined with a Chinese company Hawtai Motor Group with a guarantee of substantial financial support in return for shared technology.

It's all a bit confusing really, apart from the fact that Saab is back and back with an all new resuscitated 9-5. So what? I hear you say. They couldn't get it right the first time what makes you think they'll do any better this time around?

The short answer to that question is that the new and improved 9-5 ain't half bad.

It's not going to set the world on fire but it is definitely appealing, with its long bonnet and swept back windscreen.

The 9-5 has plenty of cache for the price and is a genuine alternative to mainstream Audi's, Benzes and BMWs.

Going forward, however, Saab needs to work on putting some distance between its cars and those of the opposition.

It needs to emphasise the points of difference that make a Saab a Saab, like returning the ignition key to its rightful place between the front seats. That's what will sell cars.


Built on GM's Epsilon platform, the new 9-5 is a much larger, more substantial offering than before.

It's 172mm longer than the first generation 9-5 and, more importantly, 361mm longer its sibling the 9-3. Previously the two models were far too close in size.

Suprisingly, the 9-5 is longer and wider than the Mercedes E-Class, although the Benz boasts a longer wheelbase.

In keeping with its aircraft heritage, the car's interior features green instrumentation, with some aviation cues like the horizon-style speed gauge and the night panel button that knocks out all but essential instrument lighting at night.

Ironically the speed gauge is not necessary because the holographic head-up display projects the car's current speed in the lower part of the windscreen.

The interior is light and bright and friendly, with clean unclutterred styling and easy to read instruments.

The centre console is dominated by a large touch screen navigation screen with a an upmarket Harmon Kardon sound system and 10Gb hard drive.

Bluetooth, park assist, bi-xenon lights, automatic lights and wipers and heated front seats are all standard.


Motivation in the Vector model is provided by a 2.0-litre turbo charged petrol engine that delivers 162kW of power and 350Nm of torque from 2500 revs.

It's good for 9.4 litres/100km and will do the dash from 0-100km/h in 8.5 seconds, with a top speed of 235km/h.

The four cylinder engine is hooked up to a 6-speed Japanese Aisin transmission, with the option to change gears manually via the shifter or steering wheel mounted paddles.

For another $2500 the optional DriveSense chassis control system provides intelligent, sport and comfort modes _ but we reckon sporty doesn't feel all that sporty.


Performance is brisk but the turbocharger has trouble keeping up with the demands of the throttle. Although traction control is fitted, the front wheels tend to scramble for traction, especially in the wet.

VERDICT The 9-5 is an appealing car, but we're hoping there's better things to come yet as Saab seeks to redefine its identity. The 9-5 Turbo4 Vector sedan is priced from $75,900.

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Range and Specs

Aero 2.8T V6 XWD 2.8L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $14,000 – 19,800 2011 Saab 9-5 2011 Aero 2.8T V6 XWD Pricing and Specs
Vector 2.0T 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $10,800 – 15,840 2011 Saab 9-5 2011 Vector 2.0T Pricing and Specs
Vector 2.0TID 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $6,100 – 9,460 2011 Saab 9-5 2011 Vector 2.0TID Pricing and Specs
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