2011 9-5 New Car Test Drive
The 2011 Saab 9-5 is all new, representing the first full re-design of Saab's large sedan in 14 years. Measured by features, interior finish, space and smoothness, this 9-5 is the best Saab ever.
The new 2011 Saab 9-5 is built to go head to head with the Audi A6, which offers similarly sized engines and front- or-all-wheel drive, like the 9-5. Other 2011 Saab 9-5 competitors include the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes E-Class, Lexus GS and ES, and Volvo S80. To a lesser extent, the 9-5 competes with more mainstream sedans like the Toyota Avalon, Ford Taurus and GM's closely related Buick LaCrosse.
The Saab 9-5 probably isn't the most thrilling car in that set, in a visceral, seat-of the pants sense, but it's well designed and executed in nearly every respect. Its body structure is as solid as the proverbial brick outhouse, and our appreciation for the 9-5's strengths increased the more we drove it over winter-slick, beat-up roads during heavy commuting hours around Detroit.
This sedan was created when Saab was a wholly owned subsidiary of General Motors, and was ready to launch when financially strapped GM began negotiations to divest itself of the Saab brand. And while Saab is once again independent, the 9-5 carries a GM legacy. It's built on GM's Epsilon platform, which provides the foundation for sedans such as the Buick Regal, and its engines and transmissions and are drawn from GM's global inventory. Experts who drive lots of cars will notice the 9-5's similarities with some recent GM models, but consumers probably won't. Old-time Saab enthusiasts will certainly see familiar Saab traits in the new 9-5, both inside and out.
Think of the Saab 9-5 as a big car. It's roomier than most of its European competitors, providing interior space on par with the full-size Toyota Avalon and Ford Taurus. Yet it's a bit more responsive in terms of driving dynamics than either of those cars. We found the interior straightforward and nicely finished. It offers one of the largest trunks in its class, with folding rear seats that increase cargo volume.
The new 9-5 comes well equipped, with leather standard along with seat heaters and driver-seat memory. It has more standard safety features than the federal government requires, including side-impact airbags for rear passengers. Options include a fine-sounding audio upgrade, rear-seat DVD and climate controls, and safety features such as lane-departure warning. Saab's bi-xenon Smart Beam headlights might be the best we experienced. 17/27 mpg.
The 9-5's turbocharged engines are powerful for their size, more powerful than many larger ones, and they can run on E85 ethanol. The 9-5 offers four-cylinder and V6 engines. The turbocharged V6 comes with all-wheel drive.
The Saab 9-5 Turbo4 is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 generating 220 horsepower and 258 pound feet of torque. The Turbo4 is front-wheel drive. A 6-speed manual transmission comes standard, a 6-speed automatic is optional. We found the 9-5 Turbo4 delivers sufficient thrust with either transmission, and excellent fuel economy: 20 mpg city, 33 highway, according to the EPA.
The Saab 9-5 Turbo6 XWD is powered by a turbocharged 2.8-liter V6 and comes standard with all-wheel drive. The engine delivers 300 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. Saab's full-time variable XWD is pronounced cross drive. V6 models are offered only with the automatic. We found the V6 models add horsepower and all-wheel drive to the equation, delivering fabulous all-season capability and a greater potential to thrill.
We like the new 9-5. It's different enough to satisfy the different-drummer vibe that has characterized Saab through its history, but close enough to the mainstream to deliver the interior finish, features and trimmings that premium sedan buyers have come to expect. And we liked it more the more we drove it. Bottom line, the new 2011 Saab 9-5 is a good car by virtually any measure.
The 2011 Saab 9-5 Turbo4 ($38,525) is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4. A 6-speed manual transmission comes standard, a 6-speed automatic ($1,350) is optional. It comes with front-wheel drive. Standard features include leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats with driver memory, power everything, pushbutton start, 17-inch alloy wheels and nine-speaker audio with single CD, a USB input, XM satellite radio receiver and Bluetooth connectivity for hand-held devices. Options include a panoramic sunroof ($1,105) and Saab's U-Rail trunk organizing system ($250). The 9-5 Turbo4 Premium ($43,435) adds the sunroof, headlight washers, front and rear parking assist, 18-inch wheels, power-folding, auto-dimming outside mirrors, and other features.
The 9-5 Turbo6 XWD ($48,030) is equipped identically to the Turbo4 Premium, except that it's powered by a turbocharged 2.8-liter V6 and comes standard with all-wheel drive. V6 models are offered only with the automatic.
The 9-5 Aero XWD ($49,565) is powered by the V6. Additional functional equipment includes variable-dampening suspension with Saab's DriveSense driver-adjustable electronic controls, and active bi-xenon headlights that automatically adjust in a range of conditions. Appearance features include dark titanium metal trim inside, unique wheels and other exterior tweaks.
The optional navigation package ($2,395) adds a GPS system with eight-inch screen, voice activation and a 10-gigabyte storage drive. The harman/kardon audio package ($995) adds amplifier power, speakers and surround-sound processing. The rear passenger package ($2,130) includes rear automatic climate control and two DVD video screens with auxiliary jacks, remote control and wireless headsets. The only stand-alone options are ventilated front seats ($695) and 19-inch wheels with summer performance tires ($750).
Safety features exceed federal mandates by adding rear passenger side-impact airbags to the required array of front-impact airbags, front passenger side-impact airbags and curtain-style head protection airbags for all outboard seats. Other crash-protection features include a rollover sensor and active front head restraints. All 9-5s are equipped with electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist, OnStar automatic crash response and a tire-pressure monitor. The optional Technology Package adds an adjustable head-up display and lane departure warning to all models (and the active bi-xenon headlights to non-Aero models). Optional all-wheel drive improves stability in slippery conditions.