Frankfurt 2009: 2010 Saab 9-5 is proof there's still some flight left in the ol' Griffin

2010 Saab 9-5 - Click above for high-res image gallery

To be honest, there have been points at which it felt like this new Saab 9-5 would never see the light of day. To say that the outgoing model had grown long in the tooth would be a colossal understatement, and in the hyper-competitive market that is the globe's entry-level premium segment, the 9-5 had become something of a placeholder, playing second fiddle to the automaker's newer, more dynamic 9-3. So with its own cheaper sibling playing the role of upstager and parent General Motors in the throes of bankruptcy, we didn't exactly have faith that Saab would ever launch this new sedan. But after an arduous development process and a new owner in the form of supercar maker Koenigsegg, the future looks – if not bright – at least markedly less dim.

If we sound like we're damning the 2010 9-5 with faint praise, we're not – after sitting in the car today at the Frankfurt Motor Show and talking extensively with members of Saab's team, we're actually rather optimistic that the perennially underweight automaker may yet emerge from its funk and put some rouge back in the 'ol Griffin. But until we drive it, we're going to reserve judgment before we break out the akvavit and reindeer steaks – we've been here before.

One thing's for sure – this new, larger 9-5 looks incredibly crisp in the metal. With clean flanks, a distinctive, cantilevered roofline paired with wraparound-look glass and handsome head- and tail lamp detailing, this is an attractive, cohesive design sans adornment – no gaping ducts, fender vents, or protruding aero addenda are in evidence anywhere. Very much in the Scandinavian mold, the 9-5 pulls design elements from the showstopping Saab Aero-X concept coupe and puts them in a real-world package. Similarly, like Scandinavian furniture, the design won't be to everyone's tastes.

Inside, there's gobs more space than in the outgoing car both front and rear, and the design has been tastefully updated in a driver-centric way that honors the marque's quirkiness (Night Panel button, eggcrate grid air vents, etc.) without becoming a caricature of Saabs past. Reinforcing the aeronautically-minded "Born From Jets" theme that had become something of a punchline with distractions like the 9-7x SUV, Saab has adopted new features like an optional heads-up display and a novel altimeter-like digital speedometer readout in case you aren't interested making use of the clear analogue gauges.

Click on the jump for more impressions and the official press release.

Another reason for quiet optimism: Thanks to new technologies and refinements, the world's markets are finally waking up to the joys of smaller displacement engines paired with turbocharging – a development that suits Saab just fine, as blowers have been a steady part of Saab's diet for the better part of 30 years. As such, the 9-5's engine lineup will be all turbo, all the time. Global choices will range from a 220-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo to a force-fed, 300-horsepower 2.8-liter V6 paired exclusively with Saab's lauded cross-wheel drive (XWD) system). A 160 hp, 2.0-liter diesel engine will also make the scene from launch, although we don't expect to see that motor, nor are we optimistic that the planned 180 hp 1.6-liter gas turbo or 2.0-liter E85-friendly BioPower powertrains will reach American shores. Whether fitted with a stir-it-yourself gearbox or an automatic transmission, all 9-5s will be equipped with six forward ratios.

Saab officials tell us they need a total of 50,000 units globally out of the new 9-5 (in both sedan and Sport Combi form) in order to be in the black on the model. While that's theoretically a modest goal, Saab is going to need more than the trickle of 9-5 sales that the U.S. has added to the books for the past few years if it is to make good on its international projections. To our eyes, the 2010 9-5 looks good enough, but given its front-drove roots (it's got GM's Epsilon II platform underneath), will it drive well enough? Perhaps every bit as importantly, will it be marketed effectively enough in order justify Koenigsegg's leap of faith? The jury's out – but with a new Swedish foreman running the show again and a distinctive new entry, we'll give them the benefit of the doubt... if only for a while.


All New Saab 9-5 Sedan: Start of a New Era for Saab

* Public debut for Saab's all new premium sedan
* Progressive Scandinavian design inspired by Aero X and Saab heritage
* Engineered with driver in focus for segment leading sporty driving experience
* Excels in responsible performance for safety and environmental concern
* Most technically advanced Saab with an array of 'high-tech' features

Making its public debut at the IAA in Frankfurt, the all new Saab 9-5 sedan signals the start of a new era for the Saab brand. Sleek, sophisticated and unmistakably Saab, it combines stand-out looks with advanced technologies and will bring a fresh alternative choice to the premium sedan segment when sales start later in model year 2010.

The clean, sculpted shape embraces the purity of Scandinavian design and its dramatic wraparound window graphic echoes Saab's aviation heritage. With frontal styling inspired by the award-winning Aero X concept car and a muscular, low-slung stance, the new 9-5 heralds the introduction of a bold, more expressive design language.

The array of high-tech features on offer includes: an aircraft-like head-up information display (Pilot HUD); adaptive lighting (Bi-Xenon Smart Beam); adaptive cruise control; Saab DriveSense adaptive chassis with real-time damping control; keyless entry and starting; tri-zone air conditioning; dynamic parking assistance and Saab XWD with a rear eLSD, the industry-leading all-wheel-drive system.

The all-turbo powertrain line-up starts at 1.6 liters and carries forward Saab's rightsizing engine strategy, which focuses on responsible performance through the development of highly efficient and relatively small four cylinder turbo engines. There is a choice of three fuels - gasoline, diesel and E85 bioethanol – and with diesel power, the new 9-5 offers CO2 emissions as low asn139 g/km.

"This car is the start of a new era for our brand," says Jan Åke Jonsson, Saab Automobile's Managing Director. "We have created an advanced and very distinctive product by leveraging the power of our roots in key areas, such as progressive Scandinavian design, sporty driving and responsible performance. The new 9-5 delivers in all these respects, as will every future product from Saab."

Scandinavian Design

Forward-looking design that doesn't ignore where it's coming from – that sums up the visual appeal of the all-new Saab 9-5 sedan. "We are giving a fresh, very modern expression to some of our classic brand design cues," says Simon Padian, Saab Brand Design Chief. "We have taken visual themes in our recent concept cars, such as the Aero X, which are inspired by Scandinavian design and our brand's aircraft heritage."

The face of the new 9-5 is defined by a deep grille flanked with curving, ice-block headlamp units. The entire glasshouse is presented as a 'wraparound' mono graphic, the disguised windshield and side pillars giving the cabin Saab's signature cockpit look. Squint slightly, and the proportions of the windshield and roof become reminiscent of the classic 900 model.

Viewed from any angle, the all new 9-5 cuts a strong and powerful stance. The 'organic sculpture' of the low-slung body blends clean, uncluttered lines with natural, curvaceous shapes. Brand design cues are evident in the 'hockey stick' belt-line, the strong rear C-pillars and the fuselage-smooth surfacing of the bodywork. The large Saab logo embossed in the center of the grille characterizes the more assertive, self-confident design language.

The car's dynamic character is emphasized by a falling roof-line that culminates in sweeping rear pillars which buttress a slightly recessed rear screen. Latent energy is conveyed by fenders that are subtly pulled out to melt into the wheels. Below that smooth, flat rear deck, a full-width, ice-block rear light bar wraps into signature lighting.

The new 9-5's overall proportions stretch the traditional three-box sedan silhouette, while avoiding the fastback cliché of a four-door coupé look.

Driver-focused cabin

Inside the spacious cabin, simple forms define its architecture and echo the design purity of the exterior. Compared to its predecessor, legroom is increased both front and rear. The choice of materials, the fit and finish and the tactile quality of the controls all reflect the new 9-5's premium appeal.

The driver-focused cockpit is traditional Saab, while its execution is all new. The deep center console sweeps up at a shallow angle around the driver into the main instrument display, which is topped by a neat ventilation zone. Deeply recessed main dials include a rolling 'altimeter' speed read-out, a reference to Saab's aviation heritage from the Aero X concept. Driver displays, including the optional head-up display (Pilot HUD) in the windshield, are predominantly illuminated in signature Saab green and have a crisp, floating appearance. The car's ignition, now a start/stop button, remains between the front seats, next to the gear shift.

Infotainment choices include a top-of-the-line harman/kardon surround sound audio system and an
8-inch touchscreen navigation system with hard disk storage for map data and 10 GB of jukebox-style music files. A large center console provides stowage and connections for several portable devices through USB and Aux ports alongside a 12V power outlet.

Rear passengers can access their own audio or watch a DVD. The rear seat entertainment unit in the back of the center console accommodates audio controls and fold-out viewing screens are installed in the front seat-backs. Wired and wireless headphones are provided for listening and viewing. The rear seat entertainment unit also includes twin air vents and an independent temperature control for the rear cabin, in addition to the dual zone air conditioning up front.

On the road

An array of chassis technologies is focused on delivering a sporty, rewarding driving experience that belies the 9-5's size. Saab XWD, the industry-leading all-wheel-drive system already available on the Saab 9-3, is offered with the 2.0-liter gasoline, BioPower and 2.8V6 turbo engines. Available throughout the range is adaptive chassis control with driver settings selection through Saab DriveSense, Bi-Xenon Smart Beam adaptive lighting and intelligent cruise control. Two different suspension layouts are factory-fitted according to engine power and both are available with a sport chassis setting.

Saab has some 30 years experience in turbocharging engines and the all-turbo powertrain line-up in the new 9-5 further develops Saab's rightsizing engine strategy. At launch, the four cylinder choice comprises a 160 hp, 2.0-liter turbo diesel with CO2 emissions of just 139 gm/km and a 2.0-liter gasoline turbo developing 220 hp. A top-of-the-line 2.8V6 turbo, generating 300 hp and 400 Nm of torque, is offered exclusively with Saab XWD.

Shortly after launch, a small, 1.6-liter gasoline turbo with 180 hp will be introduced, together with a 2.0-liter BioPower E85-capable engine. All transmissions will be six-speed.

New era

Defined and equipped by Saab as its top-of-the-line contender in the premium sedan segment, the new 9-5 is the most technically advanced car ever produced by the company. It will be built at Saab's home plant in Trollhättan, where it has been engineered and chiefly developed.

Available in Linear, Vector or Aero specification, the all new 9-5 heralds the start of a new era for Saab. Scandinavian simplicity was never this advanced!

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