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2010 Saab 9-5 XWD Aero – A Scandinavian Flagship Gets Resuscitated

It was one heck of a nail biter for Saab lovers watching GM shed brands as it restructured. Fortunately Saab was cleared for a safe landing in the arms of Dutch supercar automaker Spyker. Spyker employs about 100 people and sells fewer than 50 vehicles a year – quite a departure from GM – but will carry the Saab brand forward. Even though GM will continue to provide Spyker with platforms and powertrain technology for Saab vehicles – at least in the short term.
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We did have a chance to spend some time behind the wheel of Saabs latest offering – the 9-5 XWD Aero. In a sentence the experience could be summed up as being analogous to driving a Scandinavian Audi A6 Quattro with hints of GM lurking here and there. Some traditional Saab qualities have been left in tact such as the ‘night panel’ button that shuts all interior illumination OFF except for the speedometer instrumentation. The HVAC vents are traditional Saab as is the ignition being located in the center console – only with keyless entry, it’s now a push button keyless ignition.

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The exterior styling of the new 9-5 Aero may leave some of you yawning – it is very… organic. But there are hints of the car having an ‘edge’. The faux vent at the bottom of each front quarter panel – just behind the front wheels, the steeply raked rear window and the 19″ wheels help spice things up a bit. It definitely leaves the out-going 9-5 in the dust (after it’s 13 year run).
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The interior build materials were definitely upscale and interior design is ‘clean and simple’ (read: Swedish). Interior door panel uppers and IP were very nice, (heated!) seats, headliner, and soft touch points -they all made the grade. But as could be expected some GM parts are still apparent – such as the hard plastic turn signal and windshield wiper stocks protruding out of the steering column. You’ll definitely be sure to switch your turn signal ‘off’ as the audible notification is relatively loud and a little on the crude side. We did end up appreciating the ‘head-up display’ our 9-5 was equipped with. We found ourselves using it a lot more than we anticipated – so in terms of GM influence I guess we’ll take the good with the bad. Some fit and finish blips here and there – but not many. In terms of interior features we definitely appreciate the rear seat pass-through feature/opportunity and fold down rear seats that allows for quit a lot of cargo capacity. The trunk was cavernous and had a couple cubbyholes for small knickknacks. Rear legroom was ample but rear headroom was left wanting (for those over 6ft tall).
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The inclement weather over the weekend really gave us the chance to appreciate the rain sensing windshield wipers and road gripping all-wheel-drive. We’ve got to admit the car felt very planted and secure at speed and through corners in the rain (It felt a little on the heavy side – which we appreciated). The 300-horse 2.8L V6 turbo was adequate and 9-5 Aero considerers might also appreciate Saab’s new DriveSense technology. The ‘DriveSense’ rotary knob is located at the base of the center stack and allows you to choose from 3 different settings (Comfort, Intelligent and Sport). All three choices tweak steering weight/feel, suspension damping, pedal mapping and because we had the automatic with all-wheel-drive it would also tweak shift points and torque split (% of torque (power) sent to front/rear wheels). We kept ours in ‘Intelligent’ mode most of the time – which is supposed to adapt to the driver’s particular driving style.
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Leaving the car in the parking lot this morning I felt as if I wanted the driving experience to be a little more engaging. Overall a very pleasant experience – but the 9-5 is not as much of a ‘driver’s car’ as I was hoping for. The turbocharger seemed to spool up and back off on demand but it is not a seamless experience and the turbo acts fidgety when being pushed. Maybe the turbocharger is working overtime to compensate for the relatively small displacement? We may not have used the feature but the 6-speed transmission is a shiftable automatic, which also offers paddle shifters located on the steering wheel for those who want a more aggressive driving experience.
One other thought. I wish our 9-5 XWD Aero, which had a NAV system/screen also came with a backup camera. A large sedan with rearward visibility as it was (not terrific) should offer NAV with an integrated backup camera as a standard feature. We realize backup sensors do help when backing but some prefer a backup camera – especially if a vehicle is already equipped with a NAV screen. What is the incremental cost on installing the camera and HDMI cable?
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All in all we did enjoy driving the all-new 9-5. It is a unique vehicle, not driven by the masses – it is not the typical innocuous appliance many drive to and from work each day. The Saab brand and unique ingredients set it apart from the pack and make it an appealing choice for those trying to avoid milquetoast luxury.
The base price for a 2010 9-5 Aero is $49,990.

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