It's been 13 years since Saab introduced the 9-5. At the time, it was a hugely desirable piece of automotive engineering, made all the more desirable thanks to Saab's penchant for also manufacturing fighter planes. Sadly, the global economic meltdown meant Saab was slowly starved of cash, which saw it concede ground to its German rivals.
There is hope, though. The Swedish manufacturer was recently acquired by Dutch supercar company Spyker, and the subsequent cash injection has led to a brand-new 2010 edition of the iconic 9-5. In celebration of its relaunch, we jumped behind the wheel to see whether this old man still has what it takes.
If looks could kill... the mood
With the new 9-5 saloon, Saab says it wanted to deliver a "fresh, very modern expression" of its classic design. It's succeeded -- the car does indeed look like an up-to-date version of previous designs.
Sadly, that doesn't mean it's particularly attractive. It has plenty of eye-catching details -- the deep front grille, chrome-lined quadrilaterals below the headlamps and gorgeous rear-light clusters all look great individually. It's just that the overall design isn't very well balanced. The car, in profile especially, looks slightly wrong, although we suspect it'll appeal to anyone who likes a touch of quirkiness.
Go, go, gadget stuff
Saab made a name for itself as a technological pioneer a long time ago, so it's no surprise to see that the 9-5 is packed to the gills with fun automotive gizmos. The first one we noticed was the fighter-jet-inspired head-up display.
The system, which uses a projector mounted in the dashboard, beams graphics showing the vehicle's current speed, engine revs and navigation data into the driver's line of sight on the windscreen. The system works extremely well and the image never appeared to be drowned out by the sun, despite us using it in broad daylight.
Radio for back-up
The 9-5's stereo is fairly upmarket and certainly good enough to keep you entertained on epic journeys. Most of its functions are accessible via a 152mm (6-inch), capacitive touchscreen display, although there are a suitable number of mechanical buttons and knobs to appease the fighter pilot inside all of us.
Sources include an FM/AM radio, devices connected by an auxiliary cable, CDs and DVDs. The car also comes with a 40GB hard-disk drive, 10GB of which is dedicated to storing MP3 files. Simply insert your disc, hit the 'rec' button, and it'll rip tracks directly to the car for your future listening pleasure.
There's plenty of hi-tech happenings in the rear, too. Saab offers a rear-seat entertainment system in the back of the centre console. There you'll find audio controls, fold-out screens and a pair of wireless headphones, so those in the rear needn't disturb those in the front with the soundtrack of whatever film they're watching. That's probably just as well, because the car's Harman/Kardon speakers are a tad rubbish compared to the optional Bowers & Wilkins audio set-up in the Jaguar XJ.
On the road
The 9-5 features adaptive-chassis technology, known as Saab DriveSense, that continuously monitors the road surface and your driving habits to deliver the best blend of sportiness and comfort. We didn't spend enough time with our test car to uncover its sporty side, but the ride when plodding about town was superb, particularly in the rear, where there's a ludicrous amount of legroom.
The car will come with four engine types, including a 160bhp, 2-litre turbo diesel, spewing a respectable 139g/km of CO2; a 2-litre petrol model pushing 220bhp; and a top-of-the-line 2.8-litre V6 turbo that generates 300bhp and a very healthy 400Nm of torque. Shortly after launch, Saab will release a 1.6-litre petrol turbo engine pushing 180bhp, and a 190bhp, 2-litre twin turbo diesel, with the same amount of torque as the 2.8-litre V6.
With the new 9-5, Saab appears to have made enough tweaks to appease its core fan base. We don't think it's particularly attractive, but it's a comfortable car with some excellent, space-age gadgets. We reckon it at least warrants a test drive. Stay tuned for our full review.
Edited by Charles Kloet