2011 Saab 9-5

NEW YORK — After suffering a near-death experience at the hands of General Motors, the vaunted Saab brand has been given new life at the hands of Spyker Cars. Its first vehicle is the 9-5.

Retaining the name is about all that’s the same in this vehicle. It resembles a Saab alright…but it’s not like any Saab we’ve ever driven.

The 2011 is the first new vehicle from Saab in seven years. Always considered a good road car the new 9-5 far surpasses that. It’s more of a high-performance rocket that will carry you and your family for a lot of years with a plethora of built-in safety.

There are four trim levels for the 2011 9-5; the Turbo4, Turbo4Premium, Turbo6 XWD and the top-of-the-line Aero. Horsepower ranges from 220 for the four-cylinder model to 300 horsepower for the V6. Transmissions are a six-speed manual (only available in the Turbo4) or a six-speed automatic w/manual shift mode (paddle shifters are found on the Aero).

Suspension is tight without giving a rough ride. Wind and road noise is practically non-existent. A large B-pillar causes some blind spots, however. There’s plenty of room for passenger comfort as well as a goodly-amount of trunk space. The layout of the instrumentation is akin to that of an aircraft cockpit — which is probably no accident because Saab began as an aircraft company. Instruments are extremely legible because of excellent color contrasting.

All models have keyless ignition with the button located at the base of the center console. (An ignition switch on the floor is a Saab signature.)

OnStar, a very good navigation system, and an excellent audio system, are some of the better legacies GM left the brand.  9-5 is going to have to have some strong attributes because it has targeted BMW’s 5-Series and Audi’s A6 as its main competitors.

The U.S. constitutes 20%-25% of Saab’s sales — its largest market. As the brand ramps up production it has very aggressive plans to expand its offerings. It has already signed a financing arrangement with Ally Financial (formerly GMAC).

If the 9-5 is any indication Saab is coming back with a vengeance; although, it remains to be seen what’s in store for the brand after the last vestiges of GM go by the wayside.

-— Al Vinikour