Among the remarkable things about the new Saab 9-5 is that it’s here at all. Saab came close to death when cash-strapped GM switched off the life support while various bidders circled with varying degrees of credibility. Thanks to Victor Muller, the Dutch boss of supercar maker Spyker, Saab lives again, complete with its Trollhättan factory and a future product plan.
Now effectively independent, Saab can do what it used to do best: create cars with original solutions to common problems and sell them to buyers who shrink away from too-obvious German offerings. This 9-5 was created under GM’s ownership and is based on a stretched Insignia platform, but it’s a solid foundation. By the end of its Saab custody, even GM had worked out what Saab had to be if it were not to vanish down the corporate plughole.
Seldom, possibly never, has one car been so vital to a company’s future. Get this one wrong and Saab’s rebirth will be an infant mortality. The mix of relief and tension is tangible at Trollhättan, the enthusiasm far beyond conventional business up-talking.
That this is one great-looking car, sleek and imposing and Saab-ish in a way photographs don’t quite convey, is a good start. Inside, space abounds. The roof’s projection into the top of the windscreen, the grid-louvred dashboard with its joystick vent controls and the clean, crisp, wood-free design are typically Saab. The needles are green, and inside the speedo is a second speed display in a rotating-drum style, like an aeroplane altimeter.