BMW has responded to powerful new rivals with updates for the M5 and M6 - including a racy new 575hp Competition Package option
Back from the brink, Saab's all-new 9-5 represents the rebirth of a company many thought was consigned to history
We like - A break from the German norm, a return to Saab core values, distinctive styling inside and out, comfort, chassis tech
We don't like - A bit stodgy, plasticky dashboard, best chassis features are optional, rear headroom, rough diesel
Gallery: Saab 9-5
Cancel the obituary, Saab is very much alive. And there's an all-new 9-5 to prove it! Although development started long before the GM divorce the new Saab 9-5 is the first of the firm's new, independent era.
Conceived as part of the GM family the 9-5, like many recent Saabs, shares many generic parts with Vauxhalls and others. In this case there's plenty of Insignia in the mix, even if the 9-5 operates in a class above.
As such it's up against the very best of Audi, Mercedes and BMW in the shape of the A6, E-Class and 5 Series respectively. And the Teutonic trio pretty much has a lock-down on this sector.
The fact it's not German is one of the things in the 9-5's favour though, its confident, blocky styling modern and distinctive while remaining true to Saab's aeroplane-inspired heritage.
Compare rivals to the Saab 9-5 side-by-side with Car Guide
Saab was a true turbo pioneer, its 99 Turbo of the late 70s a landmark car and packed with the quirky, Swedish design features generations of loyal fans have come to love over the years.
GM's ownership steadily eroded these character traits, to the point where many later Saabs were little more than rebadged Vauxhalls, or worse in the case of the Chevy Trailblazer-derived 9-7X SUV launched in the States.
Saab's rebirth heralds a return to turbo power, all 9-5s gaining a forced induction boost, even if the distinctive whistle of older turbo Saabs is no longer present.
The range will eventually kick off with a 180hp 1.6 turbo petrol but for now makes do with a 220hp 2.0 and a 300hp 2.8 V6. The 160hp 2.0 TiD diesel will later be joined by a 190hp twin-turbo TTiD version too.
Ride and handling
There's a big divide in the 9-5 range between basic front-driven entry-level models with the smaller, less powerful engines and all-singing, all-dancing four-wheel drive (XWD in Saab speak) versions with the HyPer Strut front suspension seen on the Insignia VXR.
The flagship 2.8 T and 2.0 TTiD get the full works and you can pick and choose the various chassis options on the other models depending on how you want your 9-5 to drive.
The front-drive versions with the smaller engines are nothing out of the ordinary, Saab's engineers at least able to eke a degree of steering feel out of the Insignia-based architecture. Which is more than can be said for their former colleagues at Vauxhall.
For all its 300hp the 2.8 T doesn't feel quite as punchy as you might want it to meanwhile, this flagship model's auto-only transmission also prone to hunting around the ratios somewhat.
It does at least have enough power to give the XWD chassis a bit of a work out, the three-way DriveSense switch on this model offering Comfort, Intelligent and Sport settings.
These make a big difference to the way it drives and in Sport the firmer steering, suspension and sharper throttle response are all noticeable. Not that the 9-5 ever strays from the path of solid, safe grip and go.
Traditional Saab quirks like the old ignition key between the seats get a modern twist (it's now a starter button, natch) and the bulky dashboard wraps around the driver to give that 'cockpit' feel of cars like the old 99 and 900.
The aircraft influence continues with an optional head-up display projecting speed, revs and navigation info onto the windscreen and the options sheet is packed with all manner of gadgets and gizmos.
So it looks like a Saab and, thanks to the typically comfy seats, feels like one too. It's just a shame the acres of black plastic fail to live up to the premium pretensions. Audi can rest easy on this score.
Those sleek looks also rob rear headroom and make rear visibility somewhat limited. Best spec parking sensors then. The boot is usefully big though and an optional divider on floor-mounted rails keeps things from rattling about.
Economy and safety
As you'd expect, the 2.8 T will be pricey to run and tax at 26.9mpg and 244g/km. The smaller four-cylinder petrols look a smarter bet, the 180hp 1.6 coming next year offering 179g/km and 37.2mpg.
Company buyers will inevitably be drawn to the diesels, the entry-level 2.0 TiD offering respectable 53.2mpg and 139g/km. Be warned if you fancy an auto though - CO2 climbs to 179g/km and mpg drops to 41.5.
Swedish cars always major on safety of course, Saab perhaps lagging Volvo on the gadget count but after the embarrassment of the S60's auto braking system failing at a press demonstration perhaps that's for the best.
Crash structures are among the 9-5's in-house developed features and there's a first to the market roll-over safety system that deploys side bags and pre-tensions seatbelts to keep you safe if the world goes topsy turvy.
MSN Cars verdict
Saabs have a loyal fanbase and the 9-5 should go a long way to winning them back to the brand. Which, says the new boss, is enough for the company to prevail. But will the 9-5 tempt customers from the big German three?
It's certainly something different and it's a decent, if unadventurous, steer. Badge snobs probably won't change their allegiances but the given the turmoil prevailing during its development the 9-5 heralds a return to form for a much-loved brand.
|Need to know|
|Engines - petrol||1.6-litre 4-cyl turbo, 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo, 2.8-litre V6 turbo|
|Engines - diesel||2.0-litre 4-cyl (two versions)|
|Torque (lb ft)||170-295|
|Top speed (mph)||130-155|
|CO2 (g/km)/Tax (%)||244-139/35-19|
|Rating||Saab 9-5 2.8T Aero|
|Ride and handling||****|
|MSN Cars verdict||****|
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