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2011 Saab 9-5 AWD Review

2011 Saab 9-5 AWD (select to view enlarged photo)
2011 Saab 9-5 AWD

SEE ALSO: Saab Buyers Guide



Model: 2011 Saab 9-5 AWD
Engine: 2.8-liter turbocharged V6
Horsepower/Torque: 300 hp @ 5,300 rpm/295 lb.-ft. @ 2,000 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic with manual mode
Wheelbase: 111.7 in.
Length/Width/Height: 197.2 x 73.3 x 57.8 in.
Tires: P225/55R17
Cargo volume: 18.2 cu. ft.
Fuel economy: 27 mpg. (est.)
Fuel capacity: 18.5 gal.
Curb weight: 4,250 lbs. (est.)
Sticker: $40,000 (est.)

The Bottom Line: The new Saab 9-5, while basically designed and developed under GM's aegis, is a wonderful, more American car than the previous edition. It still retains its Saab-ness, which is Saab's unique character. The production of the 9-5 is a strong indication of Saab's health under Spyker and its prospects for the future.

Fear not, Saab lovers, Saab is not dead. Although abandoned by government-owned GM, it survived not being bought by Koenisgburg, lay in purgatory for a couple of months, and was revived when Anthony Muller of Spyker put together a financial package and bought Saab at a bargain-basement price. The future is surprisingly rosy for the once almost-dead company, which is acting more like a skunk works for the near future, but with a GM-modernized factory to build its cars.

The 9-5, Saab's new flagship, has grown to nearly mid-size, with a 111.7-inch wheelbase. It's built on the same platform as the Chevrolet Malibu, with almost an identical wheelbase. It has a wider track, however, which creates additional shoulder space.

Styling is pure Saab with a short nose section and longer rear overhang. The design was inspired by the Aero X concept car. There's a new trapezoidal grille design that resembles an old Chrysler (modernized) and a new rear light cluster using LEDs. In addition, at night there's a light bar that sweeps the entire width of the car, so you'll know when you're following a 9-5.

Under the hood is a turbocharged 2.8-liter V6 that delivers a healthy 300 horsepower. Saab has more than 30 years experience with turbocharging, and the engine doesn't exhibit any of the dreaded turbo steer that can be found in other cars.

Handling is superb. We had an opportunity to drive the 9-5 on the wonderful Monticello Motor Club track and it handled like a dream.

As a full-size car, it's surprising how well the 9-5 handles on the track. The 6-speed automatic transmission can be manually shifted, and in track mode we kept it in third or second most of the time. I had no feeling of pushing the 9-5, yet I knew my times were decent. On the highway, however, we kept it in automatic.

One advantage we had on the track is that the AWD system shift power to the wheels that need it the most. Therefore, in turns, the wheel with the most weight gets the most power. In slippery conditions, the slipping wheel gets the attention.

The 9-5 is a very compliant car to drive over most road surfaces. We had an opportunity to drive it over a wide variety of roads and enjoyed every mile. It's a large sedan that knows how to handle itself.

Front seat comfort is incredible. The easy-chair style seats give excellent side and lower lumbar support, so you can "race" the 9-5 with security, or simply enjoy the comfort on a long ride. Our test route took us along the upper Delaware River, with some interesting winding roads. We also took a quick turn to explore the Roebling Aqueduct, and there was no feeling of panic thanks to quick steering. Thanks to excellent four-wheel disc brakes, we could make quick maneuvers.

The rear seats are also excellent with side support and tremendous leg room. The rear seat backs fold flat to extend the trunk. there's also a pass-through, if you have four passengers and skis, for example.

Even though it's a Saab, there's no transmission-mounted ignition key. Yes, I know that's the 9-3, but I had to get a dig in. The 9-5 has a "standard" start/stop button to replace the ignition switch. It is located on the center console.

We also found the navigation system to be clear. It uses a wide blue line to show you where to go, then reverts back to "normal" mode when you have traversed that part of the road.

The 9-5 came equipped with a Pilot head-up display, that indicated speed and turn signals, among others.

I think you'll find the new Saab 9-5 to be a car worthy of consideration. It arrives in dealers in the fall of 2010. If you prefer something different,. Saab will be introducing three other new cars within the next year.

2010 The Auto Page Syndicate