The Aero X concept presented by SAAB recently has been highly appreciated and is said to represent the new design direction of the Swedish manufacturer. One of the first vehicles to benefit from a “transplant of the design” from the Aero X will be the next generation SAAB 9-5. Benefiting from the flagship status, the new 9-5 will get a special development care and will carry the mission of making SAAB profitable again. A first encounter with the new 9-5 is expected not sooner than 2008.
SAAB had had a constantly worsening financial situation since it was acquired by GM. The global platform system used by GM doesn’t seem to be much of a success. It may be reducing costs, but it also looses customers everywhere. Shared platforms between completely different brands conducts to a degradation of the individuality and specific of each manufacturer. Nowadays SAAB offers the 9-2X, as an example, which is just a rebadged Subaru Impreza. It might be an excellent Japanese rally-car, but it has nothing to do with SAAB’s aeronautical tradition.
A secret of SAAB’s success has been the close relationship in design between the automobiles and the planes produced by them. This offered an exotic and unconventional air to the vehicles with an ignition contact placed on the central tunnel, between the front seats.
This tradition of blending aeronautical and automotive design is going to be speculated by SAAB for their revival. A preview of their future design tendencies has been offered by the Aero X concept, presented this year at the Geneva Motor Show. SAAB officials have mentioned at the official launch of the concept that design details from the Aero X will be featured on new production models in the next two or three years.
The next model to be refreshed in the SAAB lineup is the flagship, large sedan, the 9-5. A few computer-generated images picturing the new SAAB were already available in the media, before the release of this article. They are closely based on the styling of the Aero X concept, simply adding two extra doors and cleaning some of “wow-factor” details. We loved the design of the Aero X ourselves, but let us not forget that is a coupe, and applying a hatchback styling at a large luxury sedan already proved a bad idea. Others have tried and failed miserably (see the discontinued Renault Vel Satis or the Opel Signum). In our opinion, a classic three-volume approach will be kept by SAAB for their large sedan and the hatchback and fastback configuration will be saved for their compact and, respectively sports vehicles.
Design elements from the Aero X will be featured on the new 9-5, but adapted to the requirements of a sedan. Our artist has prepared a couple of renderings to show you how the future SAAB will look like, in our opinion. The general shape and layout of the front elements will be inspired by those of the Aero X. The front lights will “embrace” the traditional SAAB grille, this time reinterpreted in a modern manner. The rear will get a more classical approach, required and appreciated in the large sedan class, where the car will have to compete against others like the Volvo S60, Audi A6, or Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
The technical platform used for the new 9-5 will be GM’s Epsilon 2, allowing for a size increment. The layout of this platform will allow for both front wheel drive and all wheel drive. The engines are most likely to come from GM’s line-up, but we can hope they will be “SAAB tuned” and able to offer the level of refinement expected from the Swedish manufacturer. Entry-level models will feature a 2.2-liter petrol engine; further up in the range, being available a 170 bhp 2.0-liter unit and a top of the range 250 bhp 2.8-liter V6 twin-turbo. Diesel choices will be a 150 bhp 1.9-liter four-cylinder and 3.0-litre V6 CDTI motors. No V8 engine will be offered as the American market starts to change to more fuel economic machineries.
Predictions point to late 2008 for the initial launch of the new SAAB 9-5, the price being expected to start at $35,000.
The original Saab 9-5 was launched in 1997 and offered as a sedan and station wagon. It offered plenty of utility, safety and comfortably fast driving over all sorts of roads. However, the 9-5 has Saab’s oldest design and is not as refined as some competitors are. On the other hand, it does not feel especially dated. It looks sleek and is very fast.
The Saab 9-5 Aero is well equipped with items such as automatic climate control, a power sunroof, power front heated seats, leather upholstery and cruise control. However, a 5-speed manual gearbox with a rather rubbery shifter is standard. A 5-speed automatic transmission is optional, and you also get ventilated leather upholstery, heated rear seats and an upscale sound system.
The Aero has the hottest engine, stronger brakes, special suspension with ultra-wide high-performance tires on light alloy wheels and bolstered front sport seats. Newly available for the Aero are the ventilated front seats, which make hot weather driving more comfortable. They have electric fans that draw cooling air in through perforations in the leather.
There is plenty of room for four tall adults who sit upright in the quiet, upscale interior. Gauges can be quickly read. There are lots of controls, but they are decently sized and can be sorted our fairly easily. However, the console-mounted power window switches would be more convenient if placed on the front doors. Saab has always designed cars with good utility, although it’s still surprising that the 9-5 wagon’s cargo area tops those in most compact sport-utility vehicles.
The Saab 9-5 is a wonderful car for working through freeway traffic. It’s as stable as a rock at elevated velocities and feels supremely confident in sweeping turns, taking high-speed turns like it’s on rails. Handling and steering response are terrific. It’s fun to accelerate at the apex of a turn and feel the car pull you around the rest of the way, as the chassis and suspension hug the road. Saab extensively reworked the chassis and suspension of all three models last year for sharper handling and steering response. As a result, the 9-5 offers a great degree of control and driver confidence while still providing excellent feedback.
For its part, the Aero feels firm over quick, light bumps. The chassis jounces up and down a noticeable amount. It’s not sharp, nor uncomfortable, but if you peek out the corners of your eyes to the edges of the windshield, you can see the bouncing. The steering remains very steady through this, although less so when the power is on. Torque steer is minimal but it does exist. We noticed a slight amount of road vibration coming through the steering wheel of the Aero at low speeds, but this allows the driver to better read changing road surfaces. The Michelin Pilot tires on our 9-5 Aero were superb, quiet, yet responsive for handling and threshold braking.
Click here to read more on the SAAB 9-5 Mk I.
One of the main competitors for the new SAAB will be the new benchmark in the luxury performance segment, the Audi A6 . For 2006, the successful V8 and V6 variants of the A6 are being joined by an A6 3.2 sedan with Audi’s revolutionary multitronic (CVT) transmission and FrontTrak front wheel drive. In all of its forms, the latest generation of the Audi A6 combines superior driving dynamics and sophisticated technology with exceptional comfort and equipment.
To up the ante in driving dynamics, Audi is now offering an S-Line package with appearance and hardware items for a specifically more dynamic driving experience. This package includes a number of exterior elements including a distinctive front grille with S-line badge, aluminum door sills with S-line badges, S-line front and rear bumpers and 18-inch 5-arm Quattro GmbH wheels with 245/40 R18” summer performance tires. When equipped with this package, the standard wood trim in the A6 will be replaced with an elegant gray birch wood trim. A
Powerful engines with up to eight cylinders and 335 horsepower, the most advanced transmission technologies, and a choice between Quattro permanent all-wheel drive or FrontTrak front wheel drive make Audi’s current A6 range its most comprehensive ever. Thanks to the cutting-edge suspension combined with high body rigidity, this power and performance opens up a new dimension in driving dynamics.
A new face in the business class
Already acknowledged as classic, the fundamental proportion of Audi’s sports sedan with its low-slung windows and coupe-like roofline now comes with even greater strength and energy. The contours of the shoulder line sweeping up and the movement of the dynamic line above the side sills give the entire body of the car a unique push in forward design. The distinctly curved dome on the middle of the engine compartment hood symbolizes the power and performance offered by the new Audi A6. Seen from the front, the trapezoidal design of the single-frame radiator grille reveals clearly that the A6 represents the latest generation of Audi models.
More information about the 2006 Audi A6 is available here.
Another exotic large saloon, that will compete against the SAAB 9-5 is the Alfa Romeo 166, a genuine executive class sports saloon. A unique concept, one to be enjoyed, for those who in business as in life prefer to drive, not to be driven. It is also a highly contemporary project, made even more attractive and up to date by countless improvements in terms of styling, engines, equipment and detail that only the experience gained over millions of kilometers can give.
The Alfa 166 expresses innate class, a combination of technology and elegance rooted in a tradition of innovation and competitive spirit that is unique in the history of motoring. But one that is also constantly evolving, in an effort to improve on excellence by combining both the heart and the head.
The Alfa 166 exudes elegance and character. It is a pleasure to look at, but above all a pleasure to drive. Luxurious interior comfort is matched by a structure that conveys tremendous safety, allowing the driver to concentrate on the car’s power and its control of the road.
In the best tradition of Alfa Romeo, the Alfa 166 remains at the forefront of automobile engineering, offering driving pleasure that lives up to the highest expectations.
The Alfa 166 offers four different petrol engines, plus the powerful new second generation Common Rail diesel: the 175 bhp 2.4 JTD M-Jet 20V.
The most classic Alfa Romeo stylistic features are immediately obvious on the Alfa 166. Functionality and elegance merge in a form of beauty and power, where every detail is just where it should be and nothing appears superfluous. On the restyled front, the triangular radiator grill, the symbol that has made Alfa Romeo instantly recognizable over the years, acts as the starting point for two sleek lines that radiate out over the hood, hinting at the power of the engine underneath, and that then sweep smoothly back along the entire length of the car. The line of the radiator grill extends outwards towards the side air intakes and new bi-xenon headlights, which have an even more dynamic design and more than double the brightness of traditional lights. The flush bumpers merge with the bodywork of the car. The clean, spare style created for the side conveys prestige and quality through the elegant, restrained use of chrome elements.
Click here for more information on the Alfa Romeo 166.