DRIVEN: SAAB 9-5
How does Saab's first new car under Spyker ownership measure up?
In recent times, GMís ownership of Saab has rather diluted its appeal, with the brand becoming as associated with rehashed Vauxhall hardware as with quirky, original design. It is the new Saab 9-5ís job as the first new Saab to be launched post-GM to help redefine the firmís brand image Ė and thatís no small ask.
But the weight on the 9-5ís shoulders is even more burdensome than it might be, because it must soldier on alongside the grey-haired 9-3 as the companyís only remotely new offering until the 9-4X crossover arrives (in the US) in spring next year.
Saab's situation in Blighty isn't quite so painful - its dealer network has been able to carry on more or less intact while the company has changed ownership. Even so, sales are still pretty much on their knees. Despite the new 9-5 hitting showrooms on 8th July, the UK's 105 Saab dealers only managed to shift 356 new cars - including 9-3s. That's fewer than four cars per dealer in a month and represents just a quarter of a per cent of new registrations. Saab's new age hasn't got off to a flying start, it seems.
So is that the fault of the company's brand image or a lacklustre new product? The 9-5 certainly looks the part, with a glasshouse and tapering roofline that reminds you, if you squint, of the 1980s Saab 900. To these eyes at least, it's an elegant, interesting alternative to the conservative large exec norm.
Underneath, the 9-5 is based on a stretched version of the same platform that underpins the Vauxhall Insignia (remember that this car has been launched post-GM, but was developed during GM's tenure at Saab), although the two cars were developed concurrently, rather than Saab getting Vauxhall/Opel leftovers.
In top-spec guise it has to be said that the chassis works quite well. The H-pattern multilink rear suspension and clever 'HiPer Strut' MacPherson-esque front set-up combine with the longer wheelbase to make the big Saab feel composed and controlled through corners and over bumps. Meanwhile, the four-wheel drive helps to quell any torque steer that the 2.8-litre, 296bhp, 295lb ft twin-scroll turbo V6.
Saab's New-era saviour? To paraphrase the great Roy Walker - it's good, but it's not the one.