What's Next for the Swedes

Saab 9-5

The new 9-5 is Saab's miracle baby. Labor and delivery dragged on for years, the parent company almost died, and for a while it looked as if the 9-5 would be stillborn. At the car's public debut last fall, Saab had just been taken through a Chapter 11 reorganization, and Saab's parent, General Motors, had itself declared bankruptcy and was actively seeking to sell off the Swedish brand. The 9-5 wasn't born under a cloud, it was born during a hurricane.

But the skies in Saab's hometown of Trollhättan, Sweden, were almost preternaturally blue and the sunshine was intense when we finally were able to drive the new 9-5 in June. Saab, which had begun the process of liquidation in the dark days of January (see sidebar), had been saved, purchased by the tiny Dutch exotic carmaker Spyker. Production had restarted, and Saab's new flagship sedan was on the road.

Where the old 9-5 was uncomfortably close to the 9-3 in size, price, and purpose, the new one creates some separation between the two. It's considerably larger-by 6.8 inches in length, 2.8 inches in width, and 5.3 inches in wheelbase. It's a big sedan, with a roomy back seat and a sizable trunk. It's also more expensive: $49,990 for the V-6-powered, all-wheel-drive Aero, which is the only version being imported for the new 9-5's abbreviated 2010 model year. For the 2011 model year, which starts this fall, the 2.0T joins the Aero and brings the entry price down to less than $40,000. But even so, this new 9-5 is notably more expensive than the model it replaces.

Because it was developed during the GM era, the new 9-5 uses common GM components and is built on the Epsilon architecture, making it kin to the Opel Insignia and the Buick LaCrosse, among others. We all know how badly General Motors mismanaged and neglected its Swedish ward, but what's ironic is that GM was forced to sell it off just when the first successfully GM/Saab joint-engineered offering was complete.

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