2011 Saab 9-5 Aero XWD Sedan

2010/2011 Saab 9-5 First Drive

It's rather surreal to be able to drive a car that, nine months prior, I assumed would be stillborn during GM's worldwide financial upheaval. I'm no Saab enthusiast, but I was a little dismayed over the possibility that such a good looking sedan would never actually make its way to customers' hands.

Thankfully, months of international business drama and a last-minute bid not only saved Saab, but the new 9-5 -- the company's first all-new large sedan in roughly two decades. Is it worth the wait?

In several ways, yes. This is certainly a long car, as my colleagues note, but it does prove pretty agile. Steering is sharp and well weighted, particularly when dialed into sport mode when in sport mode. The Haldex-sourced all-wheel-drive system provides great grip in wintry weather, but when pushed hard, is also capable of vectoring torque across the rear axle. Saab's turbocharged 2.8-liter V-6 is a little slow to build boost, but once it does, it's an absolute rocket. Speed builds deceptively quickly, thanks to a cabin that's nicely isolated from both wind and engine noise.

That cabin itself, however, isn't anything to write home about. The arched dash panel, mesh vents, and a number of the so-called Saab touches feel quite dated, and the understated gray-on-gray color scheme infuses no life, no spark into the interior. I'm on the fence about the obvious GM-derived switchgear -- although they don't necessarily feel cheap, they certainly don't infuse any additional style or sophistication into what is supposed to be a premium luxury vehicle.

And that's the problem. Although this may appease the die-hard Saab fans who've been waiting for the new 9-5 with bated breath, it doesn't exude the same presence, the same polish, and same finesse found by other $50,000 premium luxury vehicles. Saab may have been given a second lease on life, but if they expect to convince non-enthusiast buyers that the 9-5 is truly a competitor to the all-new Audi A6 and the BMW 5-Series, the Swedes certainly have their work cut out for them.
- Evan McCausland, Web Producer

"but does that make any sense without a physical key?"When you start your car, there are several activities that frequently takes place:1) Check parking brake2) Fiddle with the transmission3) Fiddle with the ignitionGuess what... Having these grouped together in one spot makes perfect sense."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 bet the FWD version would be just as competent on snow and ice.With a 9-5 (or any Saab) I am able to pass a great many cars when the winter turns a bit "ugly". When they have only plowed one lane of the highway, it doesn't matter that I am in the lane with 3-5 inches of snow and the other cars are in the lane where all the snow has been removed; I am still passing them, often going faster than 65 mph.The limit is not the car, but rather how much I am willing to break the legal speed limit.German cars rarely look good in the snow or on ice. The word "Bambi" springs to mind.

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