Saab's new 9-4X crossover is big news, the first genuinely all-new Saab model in years, even though under the sheetmetal it shares a lot of hardware with Cadillac's similar-size crossover. Then there's the new 2010 9-5, based on the same Epsilon II hardware as the Opel Insignia and next-gen Saturn Aura. By the time the new 9-5 arrives, the current car will be 12 years old.
The new 9-5 was designed in GM Europe's studios in Russelsheim, Germany, rather than in Sweden, but incorporates many of the well-received new Saab design cues. The nose will bear a strong resemblance to those of the 9-4X crossover and 9-X Biohybrid concept vehicles. So will the greenhouse, with its blackout A-pillars, simple four-sided glass outline, strong C-pillars, and capped roof.
Several jewelry elements, including instruments and taillamps, will be of cloudy plastics, to evoke Swedish ice. The cockpit wraps around the driver in typical Saab style. It's a big car, with a wheelbase growing from the current 106.5 inches to 111.7 and will use high-end chassis components such as aluminum hubs and suspension arms. Options will include adaptive damping systems and 20-inch wheels. Steering is hydraulic rather than electrohydraulic.
Engines will be all-turbo, including four-cylinder L850 units and GM's high-feature V-6s, starting at 2.8 liters. E85 versions will be prominent here, while Europe gets diesels, including a 1.9-liter, 200-horse twin-turbo. Eventually the States will likely get GM's brand-new 2.9-liter V-6 diesel to be first launched in the Euro-market Cadillac CTS. It makes 240 horses and 370 pound-feet of torque. The new 9-5 is engineered to receive GM's plug 'n' play mild hybrid system, which uses lithium-ion batteries and is capable of regenerative braking. Many versions will feature AWD with electronically controlled center diff and electronic rear-diff lock, as introduced in the 9-3 Turbo X. Transmissions will be six-speed manual and six-speed automatic across the range, and GM is working on a twin-clutch automated manual.
The degree of electronic alteration, together with upgraded suspension hardware compared with the upcoming Opel Insignia/Saturn Aura, as well as different hard points for the wheelbase and cowl, shows how much brand-character engineers can now build in.
Or as Bob Lutz recently told Motor Trend, "The new Saabs will be the most Saab-like Saabs in the past 30 to 40 years."