New tech toys
The cross-wheel-drive system is already available on the 9-3X, but the new 9-5 does bring forth several new technologies for Saab. In addition to the aforementioned head-up display, there's a lane-departure warning system, touch-screen navigation with a 40GB music storage hard drive, swiveling bi-xenon headlamps that can automatically vary their light pattern, and a parallel-parking assist system that scans for a space then helps guide you into it (although it does not spin the wheel for you).
These are the kind of features buyers expect in the 9-5's new, ritzier neighborhood. The 9-5 will launch in the United States in July with a batch of only 500 cars, all top-spec Aero models, with the V-6 engine and all-wheel drive. The price, with destination, is $49,990. Come the 2011 model year in September, the 2.0T joins the party, bringing the price of entry down below $40,000. Even so, the new 9-5 will sticker for several thousand dollars more than the old one. About a year from now, we should see the 9-5 SportCombi (wagon).
Speaking to the faithful
Although it is undeniably the product of a failed relationship, the new 9-5 is a surprisingly strong effort and, even more surprisingly, Saab-like. If that latter quality has after all these years been watered down to the point of meaninglessness, then at least we can say that the new 9-5 is not a Buick LaCrosse with good seats and a "night panel" dash button.
Yes, the big Saab is likely to play at the margins of the luxury-car market, but the brand's new overseers have realistically modest sales expectations. The 9-5 isn't likely to steal many buyers away from Mercedes-Benz, BMW, or Lexus, it's certainly good enough to give the faithful reason to return to the showroom again, and to provide an alternative to some of the smaller luxury nameplates for the intellectuals and unconventional thinkers who look for something outside of the mainstream.
2010 Saab 9-5 Aero
Base price: $49,990 (with destination)
On sale: July 2010
Engine: 2.8-liter DOHC 24-valve turbocharged V-6
Horsepower: 300 @ 5500 rpm
Torque: 295 @ 2000-5000 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 17/27 mpg (city/highway)
L x W: 197.2 x 73.5 in
Wheelbase: 111.7 in
Cargo capacity: 18.2 cubic feet