Wednesday, June 09, 2010

New 9-5, take one

On June 8, 2010 I attended the first training session on the forthcoming 2010 9-5. I had seen the car in person at the NE Autoshow last fall, but this was the first time I was able to crawl around the car and play with it. Alas, these were European models and not available for test drives. Still, we gleaned a fair amount about the car.

As has been thoroughly reported elsewhere, the 2010 9-5 will be available in one iteration: Aero, 2.8l V-6, 6-speed AT, XWD....The price tag, for a Saab guy, seems steep at $50,000-$57,000. However, the front wheel drive, 2.0l variant will arrive with a base price below $40,000, so the overall price structure of the car seems appropriate vis-a-vis the competition. The car does have a lot of presence, though in a subdued, understated manner. The optional 19" wheels, which look very much like those from the AeroX concept, are stunning. The nose of the car is a bit bland, but with the advent of European pedestrian crash safety requirements, many cars will have similar bulbous noses in the future. The rear fascia is striking. The lighting is cool without being gratuitous. The flank of the car is rather dull; the shape, overall, is too--dare I say it--Camry. The hockey-stick trim on the rear windows are a poor attempt, in my opinion, to recreate a theme. If you want to emulate the shape of the c-pillar in the 99/900, then do it. Otherwise, and including the "Nesbit Notch" (a name as yet to be explained to me) in the front lower fender, the side view leaves me wanting.

The interior is lovely. The Aero seats seem quite good. The dash has some personality and retains functionality. The overall interior effect is handsome. Some of the elements seem of decidedly better substance and quality than we found before in the 9-5. The shifter and console area come to mind. No more whiz-bang but too-delicate cup holder in the dash. A more sensible arrangement is tucked into the center console. Three-zone climate control is now available, as is a rear seat entertainment package with screens in the front see, you start with cupholders, and one day you wake up and there are DVD players in a Saab. The rear seat itself is thankfully large again, close in size to what we had in the 9000 and much more generous than in the current 9-5. The trunk is large, still has a wood floor, and has an optional U-track organization gizmo. An expandable aluminum fence is affixed to sliding mounts in the track, and the fence can be moved around to achieve the desired segmenting of the trunk, presumably to keeps parcels or grocery bags from rolling around. There is no spare tire or jack, just a can of flat-fix and a phone number for road-side assistance. We were told that a spare tire package would be offered as an accessory.

The available electronics were overwhelming. Nothing is new to the industry, I think. First, keys are now gone for good, with a remote fob which can stay in your pocket, and an on-off switch on the console to ignite the engine. Even the parking brake has become an electric switch on the console. There is adaptable and programmable DriveSense feature, which will tune the engine, steering and suspension to either comfort, sport or adaptive modes, or, it will allow you to personalize the mix of settings and save this to the remote fob you keep in your pocket or gain entry into the car. This way, every driver of the car can have their own settings stored. Do customers really want to make these sorts of adjustments? I'm not sure. The Head-Up display seemed a bit gimmicky to me, but I'd need to try it on real roads to say for certain. The multi-mode headlamps seem like fabulous. A mix of xenon and halogen lamps, they cast different light patterns based on speed and weather: short throw with coverage across both lanes and shoulders at low speed, at mid-range the beam goes further out further (only in your own lane) and the lighting to the side drops, at high speeds the lamp focus is far and narrow, and when the wipers are on, there is a rain mode, which I can't recall at the moment. All that, and they turn, too as do the current xenon lamps.

We didn't sample the audio system, but were pleased to see that it includes 10 gigs of hard drive space for downloading music, with the rest of the hard-drive reserved for the navigation system: no more DVD required. There is an input for usb for downloads, plus a plug for an iPod.

While the V6 will essentially be a carry-over from the one in the 9-3, albeit with more power, the 2.0l four cylinder will feature direct injection and have 220 hp and 258 lb/ft torque. This engine should provide excellent mileage and enough oomph to be very satisfying to drive, and I've read that the manual transmission switch-gear is the best ever in a Saab. Unfortunately, we will not enjoy the availability of the twin-turbo diesel, which recent reports out of Europe rate at 42 mpg!

I'll post again when we have the car. In the mean time, do a search for road tests on this car as the press-corp is in Sweden this week for the first bonafide road tests of the car. Opinion can also be found at .

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