At long last
The new Saab 9-5 might not be the most-anticipated new car this year, but it is perhaps the longest anticipated. It replaces a model that had lingered for thirteen years, a glaring testament to Saab parent company General Motors' fecklessness with regards to its Swedish ward. "Saab was at the bottom of the food chain at GM," says the brand's new CEO, Victor Muller, he of tiny exotic carmaker Spyker, which pulled off an eleventh-hour purchase/rescue of Saab in February.
The 9-5 is the first new Saab to arrive in the post-GM era, but of course it was engineered under the old regime. It uses the largest version of GM's Epsilon architecture, which also forms the basis of the European Opel Insignia and the Buick LaCrosse.
My, how you've grown
Still, you really don't think Buick when you approach this new sedan. It looks very much like a Saab, its design growing out of the Aero-X show car from 2006. The front is a modern execution of the Saab face; its rather upright windshield wraps around to the sides; and the sloped backlight echoes the old hatchbacks even though this car has a conventional trunk. The form hasn't compromised function, as the whole business ends up with a commendably slippery 0.28 coefficient of drag.
The car looks quite large in person, and compared with its predecessor it is: 6.8 inches longer, 2.9 inches wider, and an extra 5.3 inches in wheelbase. The increased size creates some psychic space between the 9-5 and the 9-3, and at the same time creates lots of physical space inside the cabin. Rear-seat passengers sit on pleasantly chair-high seats; knee- and legroom are plentiful and head room is adequate. Only foot room under the front seats is tight. A DVD entertainment system, with dual screens, is an option.