Poor, poor Saab. The entire time I was behind the wheel of the 9-5, I thought I was in a reskinned Buick. It's just way too long and wide to feel like a real Saab. I really dislike the way the interior feels so much like a typical General Motors interior with a few concessions to the vehicles I'd really consider to be Saabs. Why is the nightpanel button (a signature Saab item) in almost exactly the same place as every push-to-start button on "normal" cars? I know Saab has always done the console ignition, but does that make any sense without a physical key? I spent a week with the car and that still wasn't enough time to train myself to not push the nightpanel button when I wanted ignition.
Luckily the 9-5 uses an authentic Saab powertrain. I enjoy the 2.8-liter turbo six-cylinder, and it feels stronger than the 300 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque that are advertised. Especially considering the ridiculous 4354-pound curb weight. All-wheel drive and a set of winter tires made the 9-5 a delight to drive on the snowy country roads near my in-laws' house. I was able to get the car to slide only during a full ABS stop on ice, which I did on purpose.
Objectively the 2011 Saab 9-5 is a much better car than the last 9-5, but it's lost that Saab feel that I used to enjoy so much. It's a little ironic that the best integration of GM technology into a Saab happened to come to market months after GM and Saab parted ways. Spyker has a lot of work to do to bring the upcoming Saab models up to the standards of a modern luxury car while retaining the fun, quirky nature of the Saabs that enthusiasts cherished.
- Phil Floraday, Senior Web Producer