Mere weeks after its sale was announced as “final” but without the requisite government financing, the long-struggling Swedish automaker, Saab, will unveil what is arguably going to be the most critical new product in its history, an all-new version of the flagship 9-5 sedan.
A prototype of the 2010 Saab 9-5, bearing the unmistakable imprint of the Aero X show car, will make its debut at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show, next month, with the actual sedan due to hit showrooms late in the ’10 model-year.
Like the Aero X, the new 9-5 features wraparound glass and a gently tapered roofline. There’s also the Saab signature “hockey stick” beltline. The overall look falls somewhere between the hatchback styling the Swedish company was once known for and a more traditional “three-box” sedan.
The interior is driver-focused, with a deep center console that rises at a shallow angle, flowing into the center stack. The deep-set main gauges are aircraft-style, an appearance enhanced by the optional Head-Up Display, or HUD. In classic form, the 2010 Saab 9-5 maintains the starter on the center console, but this time, it’s a keyless system.
There’s no mistaking the Scandinavian influence on the design, unlike with some other, recent models from the Swedish brand, which were clearly hand-me-downs from parent General Motors. The low-slung look is bold, muscular and decidedly more expressive.
Good timing, considering that earlier this month GM signed a sales agreement with the small exotic automaker, Koenigsegg, which might soon take control of Saab, which was plunged into bankruptcy back in February. At the time, GM said it would either find a new owner for the Swedish carmaker or shut it down. The sale is now dependent on Swedish government loan guarantees, which officials say will not be forthcoming. So the future of Saab remains very much in doubt. Still, Saab execs and GM are pushing ahead as if it was a done deal. They have no other choice.
“This car is the start of a new era for our brand,” says Jan Åke Jonsson, Saab Automobile’s Managing Director.
The all-turbo powertrain line-up will be able to run on gasoline, E85 or diesel. There’ll be a 2.0-liter inline-four gas turbo model making 220 horsepower and a 2.0-liter turbo I-4 diesel rated at 160 hp. Saab officials have not yet disclosed if they’ll bring the diesel to the States. The performance package is a 2.8 Turbo V-6, turning out 300 hp, that will be available exclusively with Saab’s XWD, an “intelligent” all-wheel-system that can vector torque to the wheels needed to help steer through a corner.
Shortly after launch, Saab plans to add a 1.6-liter gas turbo and a 2.0-liter turbo model that will use gas or E85. All engines will be mated to six-speed automatic transmissions.
The new sedan will boast an array of high-tech features, including the aerospace-derived HUD, adaptive Bi-Xenon lighting, adaptive cruise control, Saab’s DriveSense adaptive chassis with real-time damping control, keyless entry and starting; tri-zone air conditioning; and dynamic parking assistance. Rear-seat passengers will be offered a sophisticated audio/video system with separate monitors mounted in the back of the front seats.
The new 9-5 will debut late in the 2010 model-year, which is probably nowhere as soon as Saab would like, considering the roughly 65% decline in its sales, so far this year.
After inking the purchase agreement with GM, earlier in the month, Christian von Koenigsegg, CEO of Koenigsegg Group, stated that, “Our plan is to transform Saab into a stand-alone vibrant entrepreneurial company and make it ‘sustainable’ by making it profitable. We will revive Saab’s Swedish heritage of ecological sensitivity, safety, design innovation and ‘fun to drive’ experience!”
While Koenigsegg may see opportunities for big change, it will still be dependent upon GM for quite some time. The U.S. maker, for one thing, has agreed to continue providing components and technology to Saab. And the 2010 9-5 will be just one of three new models it has developed for the Swedish automaker. A crossover, dubbed the 9-4, and closely related to the next-generation Cadillac SRX, is just going into production at GM’s assembly plant in Ramos Arizpe, Mexico. A new version of the Saab 9-3 is also on tap.
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