Hello Again Saab, Welcome Back to the Party

September 4, 2010/Steve Tackett

MOTOR MATTERS NEW ON WHEELS BY BILL VISNIC

Saab is in business. No one can blame you for thinking otherwise after a long “dark” period while General Motors looked for a buyer for the Sweden-based specialty brand.
For almost a year-and-a-half, Saab dealers in the U.S. couldn’t order any new cars. It wasn’t until Netherlands company Spyker Cars bought Saab and production restarted that Saab was truly back in business. Now reaching showrooms is the handsome and technology-rich 2010 9-5 Aero XWD, and will be followed shortly by 2011 variants of the 9-5.
The 9-5 Aero XWD was developed while Saab was still a part of GM and is based on the same mechanicals as the newly launched and well-regarded Buick LaCrosse and Regal sedans. XWD is short for “cross-wheel-drive,” Saab’s all-wheel-drive system.
Saab chose to launch the new-generation 9-5 in the top-of-the-line Aero trim, which means this is not an inexpensive car, starting at $49,165. BMW’s all-new 5 Series can be had for almost $5,000 less.
What you get is a crisply styled sedan with essential and well-executed Saab styling cues. The front grille work is a recent Saab design theme and is dramatic. But the real treats in the 9-5 Aero’s sheet metal are in the sharply falling roofline, the epic zigzag C-pillar behind the rear windows and the tapered trunk and rear, all combining to remind you of Saabs of the past.
Once inside Saab’s new flagship, you’ll realize how well the styling disguises its size.

This is a midsize car on the large end of the scale, with plenty of elbow room for both front passengers and more rear legroom than we’ve come to expect.
You’ll feel refreshed by the 9-5 Aero’s uncomplicated gauges and secondary controls and the upbeat green markings for the needles and dials. The ventilation grilles are works of art and feature Saab’s brilliant rotary adjustment knob that every other automaker ought to just license from Saab and call it a day.
The brittle steering wheel would be considered downmarket in a mid-priced family sedan these days — way out of line in a car that costs $50,000. And there’s too much hard, shiny plastic swathed about in prominent places, particularly noticeable on the panel that surrounds the vibrant 8-inch screen of the optional navigation/radio in the center stack.
The 9-5 Aero XWD’s 2.8-liter V-6 is turbocharged, another hallowed Saab specialty. The 300 horsepower looks good on paper and does the 4,365-pound sedan justice, particularly when you mash the pedal for highway passing. The 0-to-60-mph yardstick is handled in under 7 seconds, which is tidy enough, but turbocharger or not, this kinda-small 2.8L V-6 doesn’t like steep grades and the 16-mpg fuel economy in city driving proves the engine’s hands are full moving this much car.
The 9-5 Aero’s ride is agreeable and you should get used to some of the stiffness to get better handling and body control — you need to accept it because this is the Aero, traditionally the sportiest of Saab’s trim levels. All 9-5 Aeros come with Saab’s new DriveSense adaptable suspension. There are three settings — Comfort, Sport or Automatic — and choosing “Comfort” does seem to smooth out the hard edges of the car’s general ride.
The 9-5 Aero is a very contemporary car to wear the Saab badge, something the company hasn’t had for far too long. The 9-5 Aero XWD also maintains one aspect of the Saab mystique that’s crucial: it’s offbeat. The 9-5 Aero is for those devoted to the Saab brand and for those who’d rather not follow the luxury-car herd. — Bill Visnic, Motor Matters

Next New On Wheels: 2011 Infiniti QX56
Next Bonus Wheels: 2011 Nissan Juke

SPECIFICATIONS
2010 SAAB 9-5 AERO XWD
VEHICLE TYPE_________________ 5-passenger AWD midsize sedan
BASE PRICE___________________ $49,165 (As tested: $49,990)
ENGINE TYPE__________________ 24-valve turbocharged V-6
DISPLACEMENT_________________ 2.8-liter
HORSEPOWER (net)_____________ 300 at 5500 rpm
TORQUE (lb.-ft.)_____________ 295 at 1850 rpm
TRANSMISSION_________________ 6-speed automatic
WHEELBASE____________________ 111.7 in.
OVERALL LENGTH_______________ 197.2 in.
TURNING CIRCLE (curb-to-curb) 37.1 ft.
FUEL CAPACITY________________ 18 gal.
EPA MILEAGE RATING___________ 16 mpg city, 27 mpg highway

Spare Parts
WHEELCHAIR-BOUND CAMPERS: Chalet RV’s first entry in the handicap-access RV market is a custom-designed version of its popular Curv lightweight trailer. An oversized door, fold-down ramp and interior arrangement suited for a wheelchair user, set this unit apart from standard-issue models. New features on this prototype trailer include an extra-wide entry door and a hydraulic-assist drop-down entry ramp. Inside, the lower-height galley and other features, such as lower-mounted light switches, were crafted while taking into account the user’s access requirements. Chalet RV is planning to make the handicap-access trailers a regular part of the company’s production. (Source: Rolling Homes, Motor Matters)
ASK AUTO DOCTOR: At 3,500 miles I did a full-synthetic oil and filter change on my Mercury Sable. At 7,100 miles the oil life monitor read 5 percent oil life left, which seems to be a short life for synthetic oil. How does the computer know when it’s time to change the oil? Answer: The oil change mileage counter works on preprogrammed information. Some oil change intervals can be changed to accompany the longer intervals with synthetic oil. However, some manufacturers will still want their oil change intervals followed, even with the use of full-synthetic oil. (Source: Ask the Auto Doctor, Motor Matters)
GROWING CAR MARKET: The fastest growing car segment is the Crossover Utility Vehicle, which now represents nearly 25 percent of new vehicle sales, according to Edmunds.com. This figure represents an astounding growth spurt, since crossovers barely existed a decade ago. The best-selling crossover is the Ford Edge. Ford has sold 400,000 since introducing the Edge in 2006. The 2011 Ford Edge gets a make-over with an upgraded interior and the addition of the award-winning EcoBoost turbocharged four-cylinder engine. (Source: FreeWheeling, Motor Matters)
Copyright, Motor Matters, 2010