2011 Motor Trend Car of the Year Contender: Saab 9-5
November 12, 2010
Although the third-generation 9-5 is the first offering to be released under Spyker ownership, it was more or less a finished product by the time the Dutch took the reins. As a result, Saab's flagship enters the U.S. market with numerous GM parts, most notably a turbocharged 300-horse V-6 and Epsilon II architecture. Dubbed Aero Turbo6 AWD, the introductory 9-5, replete with Haldex all-wheel drive, starts at $48,490. Our tester came with navigation ($2395), Harman-Kardon audio ($995), and 19-inch alloys with summer tires ($750), bringing the total to $52,530.
The 9-5 enthralled a majority of our staff with an edgy, functional, and roomy interior, not to mention a contemporary façade that would not be out of place on the cover of a book highlighting great moments in Scandinavian design.
In terms of subjective dynamics, the 9-5 faltered a bit. Per technical director Frank Markus: "The Ministry of Shift Denial works overtime. For no reason, it simply will not grant a 3-2 downshift via paddles or stick when cornering. I continued to slow down, and it didn't allow a downshift until I was going 20 mph or slower." Despite all his distaste for the automatic, though, Markus savored the chassis. "Another hot Swede. Handles great, with same all-wheel-drive poise as the S60."
Saab cars have always been quirky automobiles, and they should remain quirky. That said, there's no excusing some of the 9-5's new quirks, such as the stubborn transmission or a Bluetooth phone system that pairs to your cell under the name General Motors.